It remains unclear whether the Ohio General Assembly will enact any legislation modifying House Bill 6 – the controversial law at the core of the $61 million corruption scandal that has made state and national headlines. With, at most, only three legislative session weeks remaining in the year, a bill has yet to clear even one legislative chamber, creating a very tight timeline.
Right now, three pieces of legislation pending in the Legislature would repeal House Bill 6.
The latest legislative “shiny new thing”
The latest legislative “shiny new thing” to be considered is House Bill 772, introduced by Representative Mark Romanchuk of Mansfield. This bill would take more of a free-market approach to electric distribution regulation by eliminating all of the generation subsidies in HB-6, including those for Ohio’s two nuclear power plants, the two coal-burning “OVEC” power plants, as well as four solar projects (they were included in HB 6 as lipstick on the pig). Because the bill, seems to have been the result of some authorship by the Ohio Consumer’s Counsel, it also, unfortunately, takes away the 25 percent LIHEAP transfer – a facet of the bill that OPAE is vigorously opposing.
OPAE is also trying to obtain legislative authorization to spend AEP and DP&L low-income efficiency funds that couldn’t be spent because of Covid-19. HB 6 mandates that all efficiency programs be wrapped up by the end of the current year.
A complicating factor in all of this is the fallout from actions taken by the US Department of Justice that continue to rock Capitol Square. Just last week, federal officials searched the home of PUCO Chair Sam Randazzo. Then, three days later, FirstEnergy revealed in regulatory documents it made a $4 million payment in 2019 to a business that consulted with the company’s subsidiary and was connected to an unnamed person who soon took a state role as a utility regulator – a description fitting Randazzo. These developments resulted in Randazzo resigning, and Commissioner Beth Trumbold taking on the mantel of acting Chair.
Majority of Ohio’s legislators want to “do something”
The bottom line is that the vast majority of Ohio’s legislators want to “do something” about HB 6; however, there is no consensus on what that something is. The House in particular is factionalized. The best bet is that HB 772 will first be significantly modified so that it becomes less ideologically honest and more politically salable, and then the House and ultimately the Senate will try to scrape together the simple majorities in their respective chambers to get the bill to the Governor DeWine’s desk.