Ohio House Leader: Householder Should Stay While Court Case Plays Out
Former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) remains in the House as he awaits trial on federal bribery charges related to the 2019 passage of House Bill 6, the sweeping energy law.
House Bill 6 is at the center of the scheme that federal prosecutors say involved $60 million in bribes paid to Householder and four others by a utility widely believed to FirstEnergy through a dark money group called Generation Now. The nuclear power plant subsidies in the law have been repealed, and investigations into the case continue.
Bob Cupp (R-Lima), who replaced Householder as speaker, had said last year Householder might be expelled if he were re-elected to his seat, since a representative can only be removed once for a particular offense. Householder faced only write-in candidates and was overwhelmingly re-elected.
In March, the House met to discuss Householder's future, but there was no decision. Cupp has been asked repeatedly by reporters whether Householder will remain in the legislature. But he has said the caucus hasn’t moved on that.
Veteran lawmaker Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) is the House Majority Floor Leader. He said there are mixed feelings among House Republicans on whether Householder should be removed.
But Seitz noted no member of the House has ever been expelled for being indicted on a felony charge.
“There have been at least four members of the Ohio House in my time here who have been indicted on felony charges - two Democrats, two Republicans. They were never expelled," Seitz said. "So I think we have to be very mindful of the precedent that we set.”
Householder has said he's innocent of the charges against him. He was arrested in July.
"Seeing as how former Speaker Householder has no committee assignments, does not chair any committees, and has only one of 99 members in a chamber where a 50-49 vote is virtually unheard of, I don't think there's a problem with letting the process play out because he fervently maintains his innocence," Seitz said.
That might take a while. Former US Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David Devillers said it usually takes nine months to a year to go from indictment to trial. But COVID shut down court proceedings, delaying many cases.
The only Ohio state rep to be expelled was John Slough, a Democrat of Hamilton County, who punched Republican Darius Cadwell of Ashtabula County on the House floor in January 1857. He went on to fight in the Civil War, and ended up as chief justice of the New Mexico Territory. He was assassinated by a member of that territorial legislature ten years after being expelled from the Ohio legislature.