Stalemate in Ohio House will drag on into next week as bills pile up

The stalemate in the Ohio House is expected to drag into next week while legislative leaders poll Democrats and Republicans on whether they want to vote on a new speaker or change the rules so the number two in command can run the chamber.

While the drama plays out, more than 100 bills are piling up, including measures that impact large swaths of Ohioans: an overhaul of how child support orders are calculated, a ‘stand your ground’ gun measure, $114.5 million to pay for new voting machines and sweeping reforms to payday lending practices.

“This has got to stop. That’s where I agree with my colleagues who say let’s get back to business,” said Speaker Pro Tempore Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, who holds the number two leadership post. He said members have until 5 p.m. Friday to pick “Plan A or Plan B” and whichever has the most support will get a floor vote June 6.

State Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, who wants to be speaker now and for the upcoming legislative session, said “I’m a big boy. I can take it either way. Let’s go…Time is not on our side, nor is it on the people’s side when we’re trying to get business done. I see no point in waiting.”

The crisis has been brewing since Republican Cliff Rosenberger's abrupt resignation as speaker, effective April 12. The FBI raided his Clarksville house and a storage unit and the Ohio House turned documents over to federal agents last week. Sources familiar with the investigation say the FBI is looking at Rosenberger's travel with payday lenders and House Bill 123, which calls for reforms of the payday lending industry.

Schuring had pledged to hold a floor vote on HB123 in May but sessions got canceled over the speakership fight. When asked if he would push for a floor vote next week, Schuring said “We have to work with others. Who is going to be in control on June 7th? I don’t know.”

Smith and former House speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, are both vying for power in January 2019. Householder wants lawmakers to change House rules and let Schuring run the chamber until then.

“This is not a time for grandstanding or further dividing an already divisive body,” Householder said.

The fight is causing a substantial legislative logjam. Here is a sampling of bills that are awaiting action in the House:

• House Bill 456: Nurses would not be required to work overtime as a condition of employment under this bill.

• House Bill 189: Training and licensing requirements would be reduced for cosmetologists, knocking down the training to 1,000 hours from 1,500, and establishing an apprenticeship program.

• House Bill 337: College textbooks would be exempt from sales taxes if this becomes law. Ohio has more than 600,000 college students.

• House Bill 293: New teen drivers would be required to hold their temporary instruction permit for 12 months, up from six months, and wouldn't be eligible for a license until age 16 1/2.

• House Bill 511: Child marriage in Ohio would be outlawed if this becomes law. Currently, state law allows children of any age to be married if parental and judicial consent is given. Since 2000, more than 4,400 minors have married in Ohio.

In Kentucky, lawmakers face a lawsuit over a bill they passed under while a No. 2 leader was in charge, according to the Associated Press.

While Gov. John Kasich has stayed out of the fray, Ohio GOP Chairwoman Jane Timken tried over the weekend to broker a deal between Schuring, Smith and Householder. It failed, in part because Smith refused to meet with Householder.

What’s Next?

• The Ohio House is fighting over who will be speaker for the rest of Republican Cliff Rosenberger’s term.

• Democrats and Republicans have until 5 p.m. Friday to weigh in whether they want to hold a vote for speaker or change House rules to let the speaker pro tempore serve as interim speaker.

• The next session is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. June 6.

• More than 100 bills are awaiting floor votes.

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