SUDDES: Legislature displays Oscar-worthy portrayal of hypocrisy



The state Senate displayed an Oscar-worthy portrayal of hypocrisy last week, and that’s saying something in a Statehouse full of cardboard personalities and junior-varsity phonies.

Purportedly to protect the health of young Ohioans, GOP senators overrode the veto, by Gov. Mike DeWine, a fellow Republican, of Substitute House Bill 68.

The vote was 24-8, with 20 votes required for an override. All Republicans present voted for that override except Sen. Nathan Manning, of North Ridgeville; Sen. Sandra O’Brien, an Ashtabula Republican, was absent.

The House, also GOP-run, has already overridden DeWine’s veto of HB 68, which forbids physicians to provide certain gender-transition services to Ohio minors who are questioning their gender identity.

On the other hand, in a move that clearly would endanger the health of all Ohioans, not just the state’s younger residents, the House has overridden, as the Senate did Thursday, DeWine’s veto of another measure that deals indirectly but pertinently with younger Ohioans.

That proposal, slipped by the state Senate into the 2023-24 state budget bill, forbids the regulation, by local governments, of tobacco products. That was an evident reaction to the Columbus City Council’s passage of an ordinance banning the sale in the city of flavored tobacco products.

The Senate overthrew that veto 24-8; all Republicans present supported the veto override except Sen. Louis Blessing III, of suburban Cincinnati. Ashtabula Republican O’Brien was also absent on that vote.

In December, reported that Rep. Jon Cross, a Findlay Republican, told the House its veto override of municipal tobacco regulation was about saving jobs. For whom? Morgue attendants?

Bottom line: The same legislature that claims to be protecting young transgender Ohioans from medical “experimentation” couldn’t care less about protecting young Ohioans’ lungs.


National bystanders say former President Donald Trump’s victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire presidential likely signals his capture of the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination.

Still, Ohio’s March 19 primary election – as to state offices – remains relevant, at least among the state’s Republicans.

There’s the GOP race to challenge the re-election of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat. The three Republicans vying for the GOP’s nomination are state Sen. Matt Dolan, of Chagrin Falls; Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose, of Upper Arlington; and Greater Cleveland entrepreneur Bernie Moreno, of Westlake. Trump has endorsed Moreno.

Meanwhile, also central to Ohio are primary election contests for General Assembly seats, especially GOP seats in the Ohio House of Representatives.

Republican Speaker Jason Stephens, of Lawrence County’s Kitts Hill, leads the House’s Republicans. But guerrilla war – at least low-intensity skirmishing – has wracked the House GOP caucus because Stephens was elected in a GOP split.

With 50 votes required to win, Stephens became speaker with the votes of just 22 of the House’s 67 Republicans but all 32 of the House’s Democrats. The Republican who was seen, pre-election, as likely 2023-24 speaker was Rep. Derek Merrin, of suburban Toledo, who drew 43 House GOP votes. (Two Republicans were absent.) Merrin is now running for the U.S. House in the Toledo area.

Bad blood has spilled over from the Stephens coup, with two complicating factors: The push by retiring Senate President Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, to win a House seat and sooner or later pry the House gavel from Stephens (which would require Huffman allies to be nominated in March), and second, quests by Flat Earth Republicans to deny renomination to House Republicans who didn’t back Merrin for speaker.

Fear of right-wing challenges to GOP members helped muster a unanimous vote by House Republicans present to override DeWine’s veto of HB 68. That’s what ambition and fear do to occasionally respectable people.

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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