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How will DeWine approach policymaking amid Ohio House leadership fight?

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) at the Ohio Fair Managers Association Convention in Columbus on Jan. 13, 2023.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) at the Ohio Fair Managers Association Convention in Columbus on Jan. 13, 2023.

Although Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) was elected speaker of the Ohio House, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) has said he is the leader of the House Republican caucus, leading to questions over how policymaking will be handled during the 135th General Assembly.

Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, was asked if Stephens or Merrin — who has the support of two-thirds of the Republican caucus — will be his primary point of contact while negotiating legislation.

“I try not to get involved in leadership decisions in regard to the Senate or the House. I don’t think I'm going to comment on that today,” said DeWine.

The governor’s office does not pass legislation but does play a key role in lobbying for policies the governor wants to see become law. That includes the state’s two-year operating budget.

DeWine is expected to rollout his budget proposal which would then be taken up by the House.

DeWine said every year presents different challenges in the policymaking process.

“Every legislature is just different and every makeup is different and leadership is different. And, you know, I anticipate we're going to continue to have a very, very good, working relationship with the legislature,” said DeWine.

On Wednesday, Merrin met with more than 30 members of the House Republican caucus to discuss their priorities for rules and bills.

“I’m the leader of the House Republicans,” Merrin said after the meeting. He recognized Stephens as the “duly-elected” speaker of the House and encouraged him to “work with the Republican majority of the House and not with Democrats.”

Twenty-two Republicans and 32 Democrats joined forces to vote for Stephens as speaker.

In response to Merrin’s meeting, Stephens wrote in a statement, "My focus remains on unifying the House Republican caucus to get to work. After meeting with dozens of members of the Ohio House this past week, I am confident the House can move forward and deliver real results for the people of our great state.”

Stephens canceled a House session originally scheduled for Wednesday. While he was elected as speaker on Jan. 3, Stephens has yet to name committee chairs and members.

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