SUDDES: Ohio consumers are still paying for HB 6

Amazing thing about the House Bill 6 scandal, a Statehouse scheme to benefit the giant Akron electric company, FirstEnergy by nicking ratepayers to bail out two nuclear power plants the utility then owned:

The HB 6 affair has been called the biggest Statehouse scandal in Ohio history. But — based on the courtroom record to date — the entire affair, lock, stock, and barrel, was supposedly choreographed by a single Republican from a Perry County hamlet, one-time Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, with former Republican State Chair Mathew Borges, of Bexley, in a supporting role.

Householder is now serving a 20-year sentence in Columbiana County’s Elkton federal prison. Borges is serving five-year sentence in a federal prison in Michigan. Two other Statehouse figures pleaded guilty and await sentencing; a third committed suicide; and FirstEnergy signed a deferred prosecution agreement that, in so many words, admitted to company wrongdoing in connection with HB 6′s passage. The utility agreed to pay a $230 million penalty.

Anyone who underestimated Larry Householder’s cunning is a fool. But pending any further action by a federal grand jury sitting in Cincinnati, which is said to be ferreting out additional wrongdoing in the affair, here’s the legal bottom line:

Householder may have been the most Machiavellian Ohio legislative leader since Scioto County Democrat Vern Riffe (House speaker from 1975 through 1994). But it took more than Householder’s scheming to assemble a House majority to (narrowly) pass HB 6. Among the 51 House “yes” votes on HB 6, nine were cast by House Democrats.

Meanwhile, although the legislature repealed chunks of HB 6 after the scandal broke, Ohio electricity customers are still paying to subsidize two coal-burning power plants, one in Indiana, the other in the Ohio House district of Speaker Jason Stephens, a Kitts Hill Republican. And Stephens has effectively kiboshed repeal of the coal-plant subsidies.

The subsidies were slipped into HB 6 as a logroll to win support from other electric companies for the FirstEnergy bill. And according to the Ohio Office of Consumers’ Counsel, the coal plant subsidies have so far cost Ohio customers of American Electric Power, AES (formerly Dayton Power & Light) and Duke Energy $173.3 million — and counting.

That is, Ohio consumers are still paying for HB 6, and neither the state Senate nor Ohio’s House will act to stop those subsidies. You’d think Ohio’s economic-development cheerleaders, Gov. DeWine and Republican Lt. Gov. John Husted, would work to repeal the subsidies as financial drags on Ohio’s economy, from homeowners to manufacturers. But not a peep. Not one.

Funny, isn’t it, how Larry Householder’s locked up — but nothing changes?


The public school lobby was out in force last week to complain about the General Assembly’s massive expansion of school vouchers — that is, spending tax money to help parents pay for private schooling. That by a legislature that took nearly a quarter-century to take effective notice of the state Supreme Court’s 1997 DeRolph school-funding ruling.

Since the debut of Ohio school vouchers in 1995 — Cleveland’s voucher pilot, fashioned by the late Medina Republican William G. Batchelder, upheld in 2002 by the U.S. Supreme Court — the state has steadily expanded spending on private school vouchers statewide despite the legislature’s constitutional obligation to fully fund public schools.

It’s never been clear what the root of Republican devotion to vouchers is, except perhaps for dislike of the unions that represent public school teachers. The irony is that a political party that demands choice in schooling denounces choice in pregnancy.

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

About the Author