Ohio House debating gas tax, school funding, power plants and more

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder is open to the ideas of raising the gas tax, simplifying K-12 school funding and bailing out aging nuclear power plants.

In a Q&A with the press Friday, Householder, R-Glenford, covered a wide range of topics, including:

Gas Tax: "I think it's all on the table. I mean, what are you going to do? Drive on dirt streets?" Gas taxes are user fees and a safe, well-maintained transportation system is essential to Ohio, he said. A coalition of local governments and interest groups is asking Ohio leaders to consider raising the state gas tax and other mechanisms to pay for road projects. The 28-cent per gallon tax was last increased in 2005.

Abortion: He said there is support in the House to again pass a ban on abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is as early as six weeks gestation. But Householder said he would like to see the bill start in the Senate. "It will not be one of our top agenda items in the House but it will be something members will want to do and we will do it."

Guns: Lawmakers are likely to consider a 'stand your ground' bill that would remove the duty to retreat from danger in public places before using deadly force, he said. Conversely, gun control measures are not likely to gain approval, he said.

K-12: The speaker said he wants Ohio to adopt a simpler school funding system, he doesn't like charter school management companies being for-profit businesses, and he believes local districts should determine what school safety measures to take.

Power plants: Two Ohio nuclear power plants operated by First Energy Solutions are slated to close by 2020, unless they get funding from the state. Householder said nuclear energy benefits the entire state, not just customers who use it. "We generate a tremendous amount of zero emissions energy in this state and we got to decide whether we're willing to give that up or whether we're going to try to work to keep that energy source here," he said. "…I think we all benefit, from Cincinnati to Cleveland to Toledo to Ironton."

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Householder, who served as speaker 2001 to 2004, is pledging more transparency, bipartisanship and professionalism in the House, which he said has become “a bit of a circus.”

The House plans to hire a professional human resources officer, review the culture of the institution and implement changes, he said. “I will not tolerate the behavior that I have seen over the last couple of years in this building.”

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The House GOP caucus is expected to elect a leadership team Feb. 6, make committee assignments after that and begin work Feb. 13. Gov. Mike DeWine is slated to deliver his first State of the State address in the House chamber on March 5.

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