Welcome back to the Ohio Capital Journal Mailbag, the political column that eight out of 10 doctors say is a perfect cure for winter boredom. Let’s get to it:
Got a question about Ohio politics/government? Send them by email to [email protected] or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.
Where are they on Larry Householder’s status? Can he be removed?
– Duane Daniel, on Twitter.
Answer: Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, can be removed from office. The status of his possible removal is, well … complicated.
This is a topic I’ve explored in numerous Mailbag columns. I’m exploring it again, because it has been seven months since Householder was arrested for his alleged involvement in a massive political bribery scandal, yet he remains in office.
Ohio law prohibits someone convicted of a felony from holding public office. With Householder still on trial — he has pleaded not guilty — the other option is for members of the Ohio House of Representatives to expel him from the chamber.
That option has been on the table for seven months. The Republican supermajority, led by House Speaker Bob Cupp of Lima, has not taken action.
I thought it would be helpful to lay out the timeline from the past seven months, showing all of Cupp’s statements regarding Householder in context with what has happened.
July 21, 2020:
Speaker Householder and four political operatives are arrested and charged with racketeering. Householder is alleged to have been involved in a $61 million bribery scheme to get a $1.3 billion nuclear bailout bill (House Bill 6) enacted in 2019.
David M. DeVillers, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, calls this “likely the largest bribery and money-laundering scheme ever in the state of Ohio.”
In the days after Householder’s arrest, a wide array of public officials call for Householder to resign. This includes at least two-dozen Republicans serving in the Ohio Statehouse, along with Gov. Mike DeWine, Attorney General Dave Yost, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and then-Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken.
July 30, 2020:
In a unanimous vote, the Ohio House removes Householder as speaker.
Rep. Jeffrey Crossman, D-Parma, offers a motion to expel Householder from the chamber. Republicans table the motion.
Cupp is voted in as the new speaker. He addresses the issue of expelling Householder with reporters after the House session.
With Householder up for reelection in November 2020, Cupp suggests an effort to expel him should wait until 2021.
“Well, as you may know, in the (Ohio) Constitution, it says an individual can be removed once, but not twice, and as you know, he is on the ballot unopposed. So, I think maybe we don’t want to use all our options at one time,” Spectrum News quotes Cupp as saying.
Aug. 21, 2020:
Crossman and fellow Democratic Rep. Gil Blair introduce legislation that would make a person ineligible to serve in the Ohio General Assembly if they face a criminal charge of public corruption. Crossman says this would solve the constitutional issues raised by Cupp.
Tired of seeing Speaker Cupp argue that they can only expel Householder once when @repGilBlair & I have offered a legislative solution. If you want the people to trust the legislature you need to rid it of its corrupt elements without delay.
— Jeffrey A. Crossman (@JeffaCrossman) September 6, 2020
The bill dies in committee without receiving a single hearing the rest of 2020. (Crossman recently announced plans to reintroduce the bill.)
Sept. 1, 2020:
The House meets for the first time since the July 30 session. Householder is present.
Cupp says it is “offensive” that Householder returned to the chamber, adding his presence “brought disrepute upon the House,” The Associated Press reports.
Cupp calls for Householder to resign from his seat. He again notes the issue of not being able to remove a member twice and again suggests a vote to expel should wait until 2021.
“If we need to use it in the beginning of the next session, we have something that we can do it rather than now having our hands tied,” NBC4 quotes Cupp as saying.
Nov. 3, 2020:
Householder is reelected to a third term.
Dec. 29, 2020:
The Lima News publishes an interview with Cupp, who refers to Householder’s electoral victory as “unsettling.”
Cupp again says that Householder should resign and notes that lawmakers are taking a wait and see approach to removing him from office.
Dec. 30, 2020:
The Statehouse News Bureau publishes an interview with Cupp, who says expelling Householder is now a possibility following his reelection.
“There’s an expulsion the House could do if a majority agree,” Cupp says, adding that his caucus will “develop a consensus” in 2021 on what should happen with Householder.
Jan. 4, 2021:
The 134th Ohio General Assembly meets for the first time and Householder is sworn-in to his third term.
Cupp is elected to continue serving as speaker. He tells reporters that it is not yet time to remove Householder.
“We have 20 new members of the legislature. We have not discussed it yet. We will be discussing it, and we will go from there,” The Columbus Dispatch quotes him as saying.
Jan. 7, 2021:
Cupp’s office privately sends a request to the Legislative Service Commission asking for two resolutions to be drafted — one being a floor resolution to expel a member, the other being a floor resolution to create a committee to investigate. The request does not identify the lawmaker in question, nor what would be investigated.
This request is obtained exclusively by the Ohio Capital Journal, which reports this news the next day. Cupp’s office does not respond to an OCJ request for more information about these resolutions and if they involve plans to expel Householder.
Jan. 29, 2021:
Cupp’s office releases the House committee assignments for the two-year term. Householder is not assigned to any committees.
Feb. 10, 2021:
Local elected officials from Householder’s district write a letter to Cupp asking that Householder be removed from office. The letter is signed by Coshocton County officials from both political parties, The Coshocton Tribune reports.
“These are very serious allegations that cast a shadow on the institution of the House and Representative Householder’s integrity. The United States Constitution guarantees citizens a fair trial and a presumption of innocence until proven guilty. This is a key pillar of our judicial system,” the letter states. “That said, holding an elective office is not a right, it is a privilege and a sacred trust. The State of Ohio deserves to proceed with the work of the people and it is clear to us that Representative Householder cannot effectively serve the interests of Coshocton County while the criminal charges are ongoing.”
Feb. 18, 2021:
The House meets for a floor session. Afterward, Cupp has this exchange with Dayton Daily News reporter Laura Bischoff during a question and answer session with reporters:
Bischoff: “I’ll go ahead and ask the question I asked last time, what’s the plan for holding an expulsion vote on Larry Householder?”
Cupp: “No change from the last time you asked the question.”
Bischoff: “The last time you were asked, you said you were taking the temperature of the caucus. Why is it taking so long?”
Cupp: “We have 64 members. It takes a long time.”
Bischoff: “Do you have enough votes?”
Cupp: “We’re taking the temperature of the caucus.”
* * *
Got a question about Ohio politics? Send them to [email protected] or tweet them to @tylerjoelb.
Here are some important and interesting Ohio Capital Journal articles you may have missed:
Along with health department, state auditor missed 4,000 COVID-19 deaths during probe – This scoop from reporter Jake Zuckerman details how State Auditor Keith Faber’s office failed to detect thousands of COVID-19 deaths in late 2020.
Census data delays may significantly impact Ohio redistricting process – I wrote about the U.S. Census Bureau’s announcement that population data would be delayed in getting to the 50 states, and how that will affect the 2021 redistricting process. I included handy flow charts explaining how redistricting in Ohio works.
DeWine refuses to explain aide’s role in bailout scandal – Reporter Marty Schladen connects the dots involving the governor’s top lobbyist and his connections to the scandal.
DeWine wants students back in classrooms by March 1. Will vaccines happen fast enough? – Reporter Susan Tebben outlines the latest showdown between the governor and concerned school districts.