Leadership in the Ohio House requested use of a state-owned airplane to bring lawmakers back from a conference in Chicago in time to vote on a controversial energy bill Tuesday morning.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s chief of staff signed off on the aircraft use because it is for state business, a DeWine spokeswoman said. The Ohio Department of Transportation, which operates, staffs and maintains the aircraft, said the flight plan was filed and later canceled Monday.
Ohio Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Rob Sellers said the patrol also received a request to send a plane to Chicago but the request was canceled at 8:47 p.m. Monday — after the Dayton Daily News reported that House leaders wanted to use the state plane.
Gail Crawley, spokeswoman for Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, said in a written statement: “We do have several members in Chicago at the Council of State Governments Conference. We considered using the state plane and researched the cost of the state plane verus flying commercial or driving. The members decided to fly commercial or drive back for session on Tuesday.”
Householder scheduled a concurrence vote on House Bill 6 for 11 a.m. Tuesday in Columbus.
HB6 passed the House on May 29 on a 53-43 vote. It was later amended and approved by the Senate on July 17 on a 19-12 vote. On July 17, Householder fell short of the 50 votes needed to concur with Senate changes.
Amber Epling, spokeswoman for the House Democrats, said the two Democratic lawmakers attending the conference are driving back from Chicago.
In 2015, ODOT traded in two aging planes and bought the nine passenger King Air 350 for $6.7 million and a seven passenger King Air 250 for $4.25 million. ODOT bills state agencies for flight time, usually more than $400 per hour.
House Bill 6 is expected to impact more than 4.5 million ratepayers, bail out two aging nuclear power plants and give a subsidy to two coal-fired plants. It adds an 80-cent per month charge to residential customers to raise up to $150 million a year in subsidies to keep open nuclear plants owned by First Energy Solutions.
It authorizes a $1.50 per month charge to residential customers for two coal-fired plants owned by the Ohio Valley Electric Corp. AEP, Dayton Power & Light and Duke Energy are among utilities that hold an ownership stake in the OVEC plants.
HB6 scales back and eventually terminates renewable energy benchmarks and mandated energy efficiency programs for utility companies. Because those programs will phase out, ratepayers overall will eventually pay less on their monthly bills, according to supporters of HB6.
The bill marks the biggest reforms to energy policy in Ohio in a decade.
DeWine said last week that he will sign it. “It’s important to the state of Ohio to be able to have a significant amount of energy that is created to be carbon-free. By having nuclear plants, frankly, today is the only way we’re going to be able to achieve that.”
He added, “Our goal all along is to save the nuclear plants, save the jobs but also to keep the cost of energy down, the cost of utilities down for the ratepayers.”
Opponents of the bill include: AARP Ohio, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, Ohio Manufacturers Association, the Buckeye Institute and a slew of environmental groups.
The bill has been the subject of intense lobbying since its introduction four months ago, including $10 million in TV, radio and online ads. A dark money group, Generation Now, spent more than $8 million on ads designed to build public support for the measure.
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