Republicans who backed Merrin for Ohio House speaker introduce ethics law changes
The conservative Republican who was elected Ohio House speaker in a private vote in November but lost the official floor vote this month has put forward a bill he says will bring transparency and improvements to ethics laws covering state government.
Flanked by 11 of the 43 Republicans who supported him for speaker, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) said his bill will require lobbyists to report all the income they make from each client and ban public officials from serving on corporate boards of directors after being elected.
Merrin said this would have been his first bill introduced if he had become speaker.
“If you don't have trust and integrity and people don't have confidence in their government, it's hard to do other things," Merrin said. "So we wanted to try to make this our first step to show our commitment and how serious we are to ethics reform.”
The bill also requires the Ohio Elections Commission and the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee to publish disclosures, and says Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation may help ethics commission in violations if asked. Merrin said it will make improvements and increase transparency in state law.
The bill also requires public utilities commission nominees to disclose potential conflicts with utilities they would regulate, noting former PUCO chair Sam Randazzo’s ties to FirstEnergy. The utility has admitted to bribing Republican former Speaker Larry Householder, who goes on trial next week.
Merrin voted for the bill at the center of that trial, House Bill 6, which passed in 2019. Householder was arrested in 2020, was re-elected that fall, and was expelled from the House in June 2021.
Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), who had run against Merrin and Stephens for speaker in that private caucus vote, stood alongside the lawmakers supporting Merrin and this bill.
"We are the integrity caucus," said Plummer. “This is very important for us to speak up and be a unit. We are on the eve of a very important criminal trial, which is embarrassing to my side of the aisle. The Republican side of the aisle is involved in this trial. The Republican side of the aisle now is going to fix these problems.”
In 2019, Plummer also voted for House Bill 6, along with Merrin and 40 other Republicans and nine Democrats.