Now, in fairness, had the 2.2 million Ohioans who voted for legalization instead sent plump checks to the Statehouse’s caucus campaign committees, and hired properly connected wire-pullers (lobbyists), legalization might not be such a ... challenge ... for certain legislators.
On Capitol Square, for example, if you spend $60 million to pass HB 6, the sweetheart deal for FirstEnergy Corp., you’re talking business. But when voters talk ... crickets
Ohio House Republicans were and remain less likely than their Senate counterparts to chop and channel marijuana legalization. Evidently, there is at least some regard for what voters think in Speaker Jason Stephens’s House. Not so in President Matt Huffman’s Senate, similarly GOP-run, which, among other things, had talked last week about outlawing home cultivation of marijuana, a keystone Issue 2 feature. That fell by the wayside. (And here you thought that a big plank in any GOP platform is that Ohioans be self-reliant whenever they can.)
The funny thing is, for all the delusional talk by some Republicans about how the 2020 presidential election was stolen from the GOP, General Assembly attempts to end-run Issue 2 – marijuana legalization – arguably would represent an actual Election Day steal.
The federal indictment last week of former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair Samuel Randazzo, an appointee of Gov. Mike DeWine, signaled another turn in the House Bill 6-FirstEnergy affair, the biggest public corruption scandal in 220 years of statehood.
Randazzo is presumed innocent unless a jury decides otherwise. And Randazzo couldn’t have become PUCO chair without the (unanimous) approval of the state Senate in 2019, Republicans and Democrats alike.
In a nutshell, the “[Randazzo] indictment outlines an alleged scheme in which a public regulatory official ignored the Ohio consumers he was responsible for protecting, instead taking a bribe from an energy company” – Akron-based FirstEnergy – “seeking favors,” FBI Cincinnati Special Agent in Charge J. William Rivers said in a statement. First Energy owns, among other electric utilities, the Cleveland Electric Illuminating, Ohio Edison, and Toledo Edison companies.
In July 2021 the U.S. attorney’s office for Southern Ohio announced that FirstEnergy “[had] been charged federally with conspiring to commit honest services wire fraud and ... agreed to pay a $230 million monetary penalty. The company signed a deferred prosecution agreement that could potentially result in dismissal of the charge.”
True, the legislature has repealed the nuclear-plant bailout that HB 6 would have provided. But still in Ohio’s lawbooks are several other parts of HB 6.
One continuing part of HB 6 ended Ohio’s energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements. Another part also continues to force Ohio electricity customers to subsidize two money losing coal-burning power plants – one in Indiana – whose biggest owner is Columbus-based American Electric Power Co. Without total repeal of HB 6, that law will continue to soak consumers – no matter who is charged with what.
Thomas Suddes is a former legislative reporter with The Plain Dealer in Cleveland and writes from Ohio University. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.