Column: Speaker of House: Jim Jordan?


Thomas Suddes - cleveland.com



Here’s the headline: Ohio is losing one of its 16 U.S. House seats.

Here’s the question: Will anyone notice?

After all, because of rigged congressional districts, and not just in Ohio, the British House of Lords seems like an edgy experiment in democracy.

Yes, voter-passed “redistricting” reforms are supposed to induce the creation of fair congressional districts in Ohio. But even fair (actually, less-unfair) districts won’t keep Ohioans from peopling the U.S. House with historically unremarkable people.

Well-publicized people? Yes. But anyone whose departure from Congress would affect the well-being of a single Ohio family besides his or her own? No.

True, by losing a U.S. House seat, Ohio will also lose one electoral vote. And that says something about Ohio, which, as late as 1940, still had more residents than California — albeit just 225 more. Meanwhile, over, say, the last 100 years, the men and women Ohio has sent to the U.S. House (some directly from the Statehouse) have been at most middling. The only book most will appear in is Mr. Webster’s dictionary — as illustrations next to the definition of “forgettable.”

True, in the last 100 years, two Ohioans became U.S. House speakers: Cincinnati’s Nicholas Longworth, and suburban Cincinnati’s John Boehner. A third Ohio Republican, U.S. Rep. William M. McCulloch of Piqua, in Congress from late 1947 through 1972, was a sterling champion of civil rights for all people. McCulloch was Ohio House speaker from 1939 through 1944. A bronze bust just outside the House’s chamber honors McCulloch.

Some readers likely think one Ohioan now in the U.S. House has star quality and will long remain in the national spotlight as a GOP champion: Rep. Jim Jordan, the Urbana Republican. That may be a fair assessment, keeping in mind that (with one crucial exception) Jordan probably couldn’t be elected dogcatcher outside Ohio’s GOP-rigged 4th Congressional District.

The exception: If Republicans regain U.S. House control in November 2022 (which is certainly possible), Jordan may be a contender for House speaker.

Any Ohioan who says Jordan could never become speaker may have once said Donald Trump could never become president.

Consumer squeeze: Still stalled by Senate GOP leaders are two bills that would really repeal House Bill 6 and repeal another brazen anti-ratepayer Ohio law.

In March, the legislature did repeal the nuclear-power-plant bailout part of HB 6. But HB 6, passed in 2019, still requires Ohio electricity consumers to pay $700 million to bail out two money-losing coal-burning power plants, one in Indiana. A bill to repeal the coal plant subsidies (Senate Bill 117, sponsored by GOP Sen. Mark Romanchuk, of Ontario, and Democratic Sen. Hearcel Craig, of Columbus) seems stuck in the Senate’s Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

The panel’s chair is Sen. Bob Peterson, a Washington Court House Republican. Peterson’s running for the 15th Congressional District seat that Rep. Steve Stivers, an Upper Arlington Republican, is leaving. Stivers’ artfully gerrymandered 15th District includes eight counties and parts of four others, including a chunk of Franklin County.

The coal plants’ owners include American Electric Power, AES Ohio (Dayton Power & Light) and Duke Energy. AEP is fielding 10 Statehouse lobbyists. AES Ohio is fielding eight. Duke is fielding 11. Lobbyists have every right to represent private interests. But the stall by Peterson’s Senate committee on SB 117, to repeal the coal plant bailout Ohio still forces consumers to pay, may make voters wonder just who’s representing the public interest.

Also seemingly on ice in Peterson’s Senate committee is another pro-consumer measure, Senate Bill 95, introduced Feb. 24 by Sen. Tina Maharath, a Canal Winchester Democrat.

Maharath’s bill would overturn one of Ohio’s most brazen anti-consumer laws: Utility ratepayers “are typically denied refunds even when the Ohio Supreme Court finds a [Public Utilities Commission of Ohio]-approved charge to be unlawful,” Maharath said in sponsor testimony. For example, “FirstEnergy’s two million [Ohio] consumers were denied nearly a half-billion dollars in refunds after the [Ohio Supreme] Court ruled [FirstEnergy’s] so-called distribution modernization charge to be improper,” she said.

That’s fair? No. That’s the status quo in Ohio. And, evidently, the legislature’s GOP leadership thinks that’s swell.

Thomas Suddes, a member of the editorial board, writes from Athens.

To reach Thomas Suddes: tsuddes@cleveland.com, 216-408-9474

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Thomas Suddes

cleveland.com

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