COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder said Thursday he’s researching whether the Ohio Statehouse could be legally withdrawn from Columbus city limits, citing his concerns over Columbus leaders’ ability to protect state property from vandalism.
“We’re researching it currently. If Columbus isn’t interested in protecting state property we need to consider removing Cap Square from the City,” Householder said in a statement, referring to Capitol Square, which contains the Statehouse and the surrounding state-owned properties.
Householder previously has threatened to cut Columbus’ share of state local government funding to offset the cost of repairs, and to subpoena city officials in the Democratic-controlled Columbus government to question them about their orders to city police. He made the new threat in a podcast interview with the Ohio Christian Alliance that published Thursday.
In the podcast interview, he compared what he’s envisioning for Capitol Square’s new legal status as similar to Washington, D.C., which is its own legal district that’s entirely surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. He said he also might explore giving the state attorney general’s office, and not the Columbus city attorney’s office, jurisdiction for property damage cases in Downtown Columbus.
Efforts to contact experts on Ohio’s constitution for comment were not immediately successful.
The threat is the latest in a round of vocal criticism from Householder against Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and Columbus city officials. Householder began airing out his concerns after last Thursday, when protesters smeared red paint on the Ohio Statehouse and surrounding grounds in what they told the Columbus Dispatch was a protest against police violence.
The episode was the second incident of vandalism at the Statehouse. Shortly before midnight on May 28, a group of protesters broke windows and damaged doors, and one protester briefly broke in before being arrested by Columbus police, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
A State Highway Patrol spokesman said an investigation is ongoing over both incidents, which occurred against a backdrop of ongoing demonstrations against racism and police brutality. While Householder has criticized Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein, a Democrat, for dropping charges against some arrested protesters, the May 28 incident report shows troopers consider the break-in incident a felony, which would fall under the jurisdiction of Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, a Republican. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, a Democrat, has said he did not order police to “stand down” as Householder has alleged, citing a report from a Columbus TV station that quoted a city police dispatcher. Householder said in his interview with the Ohio Christian Alliance that he believes city officials intentionally failed to protect state properties as a strategy to prevent protesters from damaging city or county properties.
DeWine on Monday said after speaking with State Highway Patrol leadership, he’d concluded there weren’t enough state troopers on site to prevent the Thursday incident from occurring. In the following days, state troopers, who provide security in state buildings, have dramatically increased their visibility outside the Statehouse, with more than 20 troopers seen Wednesday posted around the grounds and near statues and other landmarks.