Across the political spectrum, Ohioans agree it’s time to repeal HB 6

Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station with electricity pylons, Ohio

When the controversial nuclear bailout bill known as HB 6 first reached the Ohio House floor in 2019, only a handful of Ohioans truly knew what it was and what was in it. This “handful of Ohioans” — as we would later find out — was a group of Republican lawmakers and lobbyists who had cooked up a historic alleged pay-to-play bribery scheme, all funded by various energy companies and predominantly led by FirstEnergy. 

The plan was relatively simple: The companies intended to spend $60 million on lobbyists and Statehouse races to ultimately secure a $1.5 billion bailout from the Ohio state legislature. Of course, that $1.5 billion was to be paid for by consumers through increasing energy rates on Ohio households, while also cutting energy-saving programs that would have saved them $4 billion. While the bill was falsely sold as an “Ohio Clean Air Program,” its coal and nuclear plant bailouts made Ohio the first state to move backwards from its renewable energy goals. So overall, HB 6 was a terrible bill to begin with and comes off even worse now. HB 6 barely passed the Ohio legislature to make its way to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk and all subsequent attempts to repeal or negate it via the ballot were beaten back with questionable and xenophobic tactics.

While it certainly caught the attention of Columbus’ savvy statehouse reporters — plus the influx of dark money spent on pro-HB 6 ads earned the national spotlight — Ohio voters wouldn’t know the full extent of the corruption behind HB 6 until the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced they were tracking the energy companies’ money and trailing the perpetrators the entire time. The five primary suspects were charged at the end of July, including now-former speaker of the House Larry Householder, former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges and three other political operatives. It seemed like justice had been served and the bad guys were busted.

However, not everything has been magically fixed since the historic HB 6 scandal was exposed — more specifically, HB 6 still exists on the books exactly as it was passed. This is because most of the money stemming from Householder, Borges and their HB 6 cohorts still touches a majority of legislators in the Ohio Statehouse. This is obviously why the bill passed in the first place, but now it’s taken them even longer to repeal HB 6 than it took for them to approve it. Why could that be?

For starters, as Cleveland.com has reported, the Republicans who currently dominate the Ohio state legislature are “all over the place” — some want to take action, but aren’t exactly sure what to do, while other Republicans don’t want to act at all. According to state Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, “You’ve got people who want to do something, but they’re not sure what they want to do. And then you’ve got a speaker who doesn’t know what he wants to do. It’s a multi-faceted problem for the Republican caucus.” 

While some plans to repeal or replace HB 6 have been proposed, it is Ohio’s newly-elected speaker that Leland refers to who remains a wild card in the equation. Rep. Bob Cupp, R-Lima, was chosen by his fellow Republicans because of his veteran status in Ohio politics, but he voted for HB 6 as well. Cupp quickly formed a study committee to look into whether or not HB 6 should be repealed or replaced, but the committee has nothing else planned until after Nov. 3, kicking any potential action on HB 6 to a brief lame duck session following the election. Now Ohioans are getting restless.

Thankfully, some state legislators on both sides of the aisle are trying to right the wrong. House Majority Whip Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, bucked Householder’s demands for supporting HB 6 and voted against the bill in 2019. Lanese has since been leading the charge among House Republicans to repeal HB 6, while Democrats like Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, and Rep. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, have introduced a bill to repeal HB 6 as well. Together, the two bills have 54 cosponsors, with some legislators signing on to both, including Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, who also sponsored Lanese’s bill. However, so far no proposal has made it past the initial committee hearings and now it’s clear that if the majority of Ohioans want to see HB 6 repealed, they must make their voices heard for action to be taken.

After all, across the political spectrum, Ohioans are ready to see HB 6 get repealed. Thanks to the work of the FBI and individuals committed to transparency, voters are now fully aware of FirstEnergy and Larry Householder’s alleged conspiracy to siphon $1.5 billion in taxpayer dollars into failing energy companies in and outside of Ohio. Ohioans deserve to have corrective action taken by their elected leaders as soon as possible, as an immediate repeal of HB 6 on its face is a no-brainer. For now, it’s just time for Republicans and Democrats in the Statehouse to have the guts and political will to do it.

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Rachael Belz
Rachael Belz is the Executive Director of Ohio Citizen Action, Director of the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance and a proud Cincinnatian.
Tyler Fehrman
Tyler Fehrman is a veteran Republican political strategist who managed the ground efforts for the Repeal HB 6 Campaign in 2019. He now serves as Policy Director for Clean Fuels Ohio.
Travis Irvine
Travis Irvine is the former Libertarian candidate for Governor of Ohio. A Bexley native, he is also somehow a graduate of Columbia Journalism School.