Retherford says House dysfunction has lead to inaction in electing a new speaker

State Rep. Wes Retherford has several opinions on the Ohio House’s inaction Tuesday in trying to name a new speaker.

In a lengthy Facebook post, Retherford, R-Hamilton, said one lawmaker called his constituents “too clueless” to understand what’s going on in the Statehouse, the “dean” of the Republican caucus has treated most House lawmakers like children, and the reason the Ohio House has yet to get a new speaker is because most want some type of quid pro quo with their candidate in power over the next seven months.

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“For us to save face, save this institution and to move forward for the people instead of self-interests, we must remove ourselves from that,” said Retherford. “But once again, many of my colleagues chose self-interests over the best course of action for the House and the State.”

Three are seeking to be the next Ohio Speaker, two of whom will leave after this General Assembly, and one who will have one more term. And if Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, is elected to fill out the remaining speakership term of Cliff Rosenberger, then he’d have a leg up over his Rep. Larry Householder, R-Glenford. Householder is aiming to be speaker for the next General Assembly starting in 2019.

The issue at hand is the House cannot hold a legislative session until the Republicans — the party in the majority — decide who will lead the Ohio House until the end of December. House Republicans failed to name a new speaker because of "a raging internal fight of control" of the General Assembly chamber, reported Cox Media's Statehouse reporter Laura Bischoff.

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Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring has been serving as acting speaker, but House rules state only the speaker can set the chamber's calendar. The rules, however, do not indicate if an acting speaker has that authority.

Retherford, 34, who is now a lame duck legislator after losing the GOP primary to Hamilton philanthropist Sara Carruthers, wrote in a lengthy Facebook post the Republicans of the Ohio House had every intention of electing a new speaker. He prefers a term-limited legislator so the chamber can start fresh in the 133rd General Assembly that will convene in January because the Republicans of the Ohio House has "been locked in a nasty speakers race for over a year now, one that has seen colleagues turn on each other …."

He called that “a shame” because appearances show Republican lawmakers are simply jockeying for position “so their guy can win and they can get something out of it.”

The next speaker needs to secure 50 votes to win the floor vote.

Smith, R-Bidwell, is seeking to finish out Rosenberger’s term this year and will be one of the candidates seeking the job starting in January. If Smith is elected to be the speaker for the next seven months, it will give Smith an unfair advantage over Householder as Smith would control the Ohio House Republican Organizational Committee (OHROC) purse strings.

Smith, who backed Rosenberger for speaker in 2014, has already contributed more than $870,000 since 2017 to OHROC — $780,000 of it in 2017 — as Rosenberger entered his final term in the Ohio House. In his pre-primary campaign finance report in April, he only had nearly $94,000 cash-on-hand for his re-election bid and his campaign to be the next House Speaker.

Smith did receive the most support among the members while in a Republican caucus meeting, but he doesn’t have enough floor votes. Retherford supported Rep. Andy Thompson, a term-limited Republican lawmaker from Marietta. Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, R-Marysville, is also seeking the job. Pelanda didn’t seek re-election after dropping from the GOP nomination for Ohio Secretary of State.

Householder had been the speaker from 2001 to 2004 and is not seeking to be speaker in the final seven months of this General Assembly. The House hasn’t met since April 11, the day after Rosenberger announced to the Republican caucus he was resigning as he was facing an FBI inquiry.

If Smith does not win, he will not be able to tap into the OHROC coffers as the speaker leads the organizational committee. That would give an apparent financial advantage to Householder. According to his pre-primary campaign finance report, Householder had more than $530,000 cash-on-hand heading into the primary.

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