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Indicted Householder Introduces Government Accountability Bills

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder leaves the federal courthouse after an initial hearing following charges against him and four others alleging a $60 million bribery scheme Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.
Jay LaPrete
/
AP
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder leaves the federal courthouse after an initial hearing following charges against him and four others alleging a $60 million bribery scheme Tuesday, July 21, 2020, in Columbus, Ohio.

The disgraced former House Speaker has introduced a pair of pandemic-related bills aimed at bringing checks and balances to Ohio government, while he is under a federal investigation for his alleged role in a $61 million bribery scheme.

State Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) has joined the line of GOP critics of Ohio’s anti-coronavirus efforts by introducing his own pair of bills to trim public health officials’ powers during the pandemic.

The bills aim to limit both state and local health departments from issuing emergency orders like the ones that have been issued since the pandemic began a year ago.

“This resolution would exemplify a true checks and balances system in Ohio government, something we haven’t seen in a very long time,” Householder said in a press release. “It also ensures a commonsense approach to legislative oversight over actions of the overly-powerful executive branch.”

Householder's proposed bills include ideas already in a bill that's passed the Senate, and in another bill proposed in the House.  However, his resolution would place a ballot issue in Ohio's May 2022 primary, revising the state constitution to allow a simple majority vote from the Ohio General Assembly to modify or terminate any executive order from the governor.

By placing the issue on the ballot, the proposal would be safe from Gov. Mike DeWine's veto – a fate that's already met several efforts to restrict public health orders – while appearing alongside of a competitive election for governor and U.S. Senate.

Similarly, Householder also proposed a bill to allow county commissioners to terminate or modify any order issued by a county board of health, saying that “unelected boards need to be held accountable by elected officials."

Householder was unanimously voted out as the House Speaker in July 2020, weeks after he was arrested on federal racketeering charges. Householder and four others were indicted for an alleged $61 million conspiracy, which funneled money from an Ohio utility (widely believed to be FirstEnergy) through a dark money group to help Householder get elected Speaker.

In exchange, the conspiracy worked toward the passage of HB6, a controversial nuclear bailout law that benefited two plants formerly owned by FirstEnergy. Two other defendants in the case, along with the dark money group Generation Now, have reached guilty pleas with prosecutors, admitting to their roles in Householder's alleged scheme.

Householder, who has pled not guilty to the racketeering charge, was reelected to his House seat in November. He was not assigned to any legislative committees for the new term by his fellow Republican lawmakers. 

State Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima), who replaced him as speaker, said he didn’t have any reaction to these bills from his predecessor.

“Mr. Householder is a member of the Ohio House, and members have the right to introduce bills, and they will be handled according to the rules of the House," Cupp said in a call with reporters after Thursday's House session.

Cupp said that a House member can only be expelled from the legislature once for a particular reason. It was suggested he would be removed by the incoming House members, but that vote has not happened. Cupp says the 64 members of the Republican House caucus haven’t decided whether to kick Householder out.

But fellow Republican state Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) slammed Householder on Twitter.

"If a bank teller gets caught stealing, they don’t get to handle the cash drawer while their case works through the courts," Stewart wrote. "When a legislator is indicted for selling legislation, he shouldn’t be left in a position to introduce bills. It’s time to expel."