SUDDES: Amnesia is the biggest pal a Statehouse politician has



No sooner had a jury convicted Republican former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder on a federal corruption charge than an epidemic of selective memory flared up — among Democrats.

Fact One: Larry Householder only regained the House speakership in January 2019 because 26 of the 38 Democrats then in Ohio’s House voted for him.

Fact Two: House Bill 6, the 2019 sellout of electricity consumers in favor of Akron’s FirstEnergy Corp., only became law because enough Democrats voted for it.

Householder, from Perry County’s Glenford, was elected House speaker in a 52-46 roll call in 2019, with 50 votes required.

The 26 pro-Householder-speakership votes from House Democrats were decisive in electing Householder because just 26 Republicans (including Householder) among the House’s then-60 GOP members (one GOP-held seat was vacant) backed him. Those GOP votes were nowhere near the 50 votes required to win the gavel.

Among House Democrats supporting Householder for speaker in 2019 was then-state Rep. Emilia Sykes, of Akron, now in Congress. She became the Ohio House’s minority leader just after Householder won the Ohio House’s speakership.

The speakership matters big-time for a range of historical reasons. One is the 1975-94 speakership of Scioto County Democrat Vern Riffe, who made sure that, often as not, he — not governors or Senate presidents — was seen as the Statehouse decider.

A central issue in Householder’s federal conviction was what a jury judged his corrupt machinations to pass HB 6 of 2019, which forced Ohio electricity consumers to bail out two financially faltering nuclear power plants then owned by a unit of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp., which spent millions of dollars to pass (and prevent repeal of) HB 6.

The Ohio House’s final vote on HB 6, in the summer of 2019, was 51-38. That was just one vote more than the 50 votes required to pass a bill in the House. And among the 51 House “yes” votes on HB 6, Democrats cast nine votes. Without at least eight of the nine “yes” votes from House Democrats, HB 6 couldn’t have reached DeWine’s desk.

In the state Senate, the vote was 19-12, just two votes more than the 17-vote minimum required there. Of those 19 Senate “yes” votes, Democrats cast three. Without at least one of those Democratic votes, HB 6 would have failed to pass.

Amnesia is the biggest pal a Statehouse politician has. That’s especially so of House Bill 6. Larry Householder may have done most of the heavy lifting. But the bill only passed because just enough Democrats voted for it — in case anyone forgot.

MEANWHILE: If there’s one thing Ohio gets right, it’s the funding of the state’s great public libraries, the result of a bipartisan mechanism worked out in the 1980s under the aegis of Democratic then-Gov. Richard F. Celeste.

Ohio’s library funding set-up is a combination of state money and locally approved real estate taxes. But both streams of library funding may be throttled by a bill pending in Ohio’s House, House Bill 1. Its ostensible aim is to convert Ohio’s graduated income tax to a flat tax — and to change how Ohio taxes real estate. State aid and local real estate taxes help fund Ohio’s renowned libraries. That’s why various analyses show that some changes that HB 1 proposes could squeeze public library budgets both on the state and local fronts.

It’s hard to imagine anything more short-sighted than messing with one of Ohio’s public-service gems. The many friends of Ohio’s public libraries need to be on guard — and speak up.

Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at

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