Fight over House speaker holding up bill votes

A raging internal fight over control of the Ohio House interrupted plans to pass a controversial payday lending reform bill on Wednesday.

House Republicans, who failed to pick a new speaker, cannot hold a legislative session until they decide who will fill out the remainder of Cliff Rosenberger’s term.

House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, is seeking to be the new speaker for the rest of this year and wants the job when the new legislative session starts in January 2019. But he is opposed by state Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford, who served as speaker 2001 to 2004. Householder and his allies want him to be speaker in 2019.

The House hasn’t met since April 11, the day after Rosenberger told fellow Republicans that he was facing an FBI inquiry and was resigning. Rosenberger said in a statement he believes all his actions were lawful and ethical.

Related: Rosenberger resigning amid FBI probe

Sources familiar with the Federal Bureau of Investigation probe say agents are looking into Rosenberger’s travels, including a four-day trip in August 2017 that was underwritten in part by payday lenders.

HB123, which calls for the biggest reforms in a decade, stalled in the House under Rosenberger’s leadership.

Related: Payday lending reform bill comes to life as speaker faces investigation

The fight over who will get the speaker’s gavel is holding up a long-list of bills.

On Wednesday, lawmakers were set to vote on 16 bills, including measures that would: beef up reporting requirements for drug overdoses; block hospitals from mandating that nurses work overtime; change Ohio’s wrongful imprisonment law; establish protocols for hospitals with stroke patients; and give veterinarians continuing education credits if they perform free spaying services.

State Rep. David Leland, D-Columbus, said in a written statement: “It is important that the House continue to do the work the people of Ohio sent us here to do. It is clear that there are rules in place that would allow the House to move forward and not be impeded by this Republican internal struggle to elect a Speaker.”

Smith said he is confident that it’ll be ironed out before May 23, the next scheduled session. “We are making significant progress,” he said.

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