DeWine Calls for ‘Repeal and Replace’ of House Bill 6

Updated- 4:15 p.m.- Comments from Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on the new legislation and Dan McCarthy.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine has announced his support for repealing and replacing House Bill 6, changing course from what he said Wednesday.

The bill, which gave a ratepayer bailout to FirstEnergy Corp. for its two nuclear power plants in Ohio, is at the center of a $60 million bribery scandal involving Speaker of the House Larry Householder and four associates.

“I’ve made very clear for a long time that I think our energy policy in Ohio must include nuclear. Plants here should continue to function and 1,500 jobs are at stake,” DeWine said Thursday during a press conference. “It is also clear, as I think about this, that no matter how good the policy is, the process by which this bill was passed is simply not acceptable. That process has forever tainted this bill and now the law.”

Earlier Thursday, DeWine said, he met with legislators and asked for the bill to be repealed and replaced through “a process that the public can have full confidence in.

“I believed it’s important that these two things go hand in hand so that nuclear power plants can be preserved, that jobs can be preserved and the environmental benefits can be maintained,” DeWine said. 

“My preference is certainly to revisit it, go through that normal process and come back with an alternative,” he continued. “This is something that needs to happen in the open and it needs to happen very quickly.”

The announcement came a day after DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted voiced their support of H.B. 6 in the wake of Householder’s arrest. The two said that keeping the nuclear power plants operational were “part of a balanced policy” and DeWine decried Householder’s actions as “a disgusting story.”

Husted said that while the law has benefits – he said representatives of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio had said the bill meant more in-state power was being provided to Ohioans and prices were stabilized – the process by which the bill was created was unacceptable.

“No policy is bigger than public trust,” he said. “The process just undermines public trust and you can’t have a law on the books that was done in a way that the public can’t trust. It has to be done the right way.” 

On Wednesday, local representatives in Columbus – including state Sen. Sean O’Brien and state Reps. Michael O’Brien, Gil Blair and Michele Lepore-Hagan – called for the repeal of the bill.

“It erodes public confidence. It casts a shadow on the thousands of elected public officials going to work to make lives better for every Ohioan” Sean O’Brien. “It’s really not a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s a right and wrong issue.”

Although the replacement bill for H.B. 6 will be drafted largely by the same assembly that passed it, Husted said the fact that Householder isn’t involved this time around is “a huge factor.”

“Everyone who the U.S. Attorney identified in this corrupt scheme will be gone and we’ll start the process with a new speaker and a new day with all this in the open,” he said. “While the legislators will be same, I think that the process behind it – the policy was acceptable but the process was not, including the voters’ right to referendum – will be the big difference.”

Still around, however, may be the recipients of campaign funds through the scheme. Some of the funds, according to the FBI’s criminal complaint, were spent and targeting open seats in the legislature during the 2018 election cycle, especially for candidates who supported the bill and Householder’s election as speaker.

DeWine also downplayed the role of legislative aide Dan McCarthy, who previously led one of the pass-through organization’s used by Company A – believed to be FirstEnergy. The complaint does not accuse McCarthy or any other members of DeWine’s administration of any wrongdoing.

“Dan McCartthy is someone who’s done an excellent job for the people of Ohio since I took office,” DeWine said. “Neither Dan nor anyone else in my administration that I’m aware of has been contacted by the FBI or by the Justice Department. We have a great deal of confidence in him and have no indication that he did anything wrong at all.”

In 2017, prior to joining the administration, McCarthy was principal of Partners for Progress Inc., which received a $5 million transfer from FirstEnergy. Under his leadership, Partners for Progress was a top lobbyist for The Success Group, which helped push the nuclear plant bailout. Later, Partners for Progress also sent a total of $1.2 million to Generation Now, the organization the federal complaint says Householder led and used to pass H.B. 6.

“Organizations like the one Dan was in charge of are very common. They’re out there all the time and they’re perfectly legal. There’s nothing wrong with them. They’re legal pursuant to Supreme Court decisions and Ohio law. I am for as much disclosure as the Supreme Court decisions allow,” the governor said, referring to the 2010 Citizens United ruling that allows corporations to spend money on political communications.

 

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.