Ohio House Enters 'Uncharted Territory' As Speaker Standoff Drags On

May 23, 2018

The Ohio House still has no Speaker, and won't for at least the foreseeable future.

After more than a week of Republican in-fighting, the Ohio House has canceled sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday. Meanwhile, pressure is mounting from business groups and fellow lawmakers to stop the standoff.

Wednesday’s planned session was to elect a Speaker, and Thursday’s was intended to vote on pending legislation, of which there are several. But Republicans cannot reach a consensus over the replacement for Cliff Rosenberger, who resigned mid-session in April due to an FBI inquiry into his activities.

Statehouse Bureau Chief Karen Kasler reports that Speaker Pro Tem Kirk Schuring thinks state Rep. Smith Ryan has the necessary 50 votes required from the 65-member Republican caucus. But Schuring says he wants “firm assurances we are there.”

Schuring says he’s disappointed that some members of the caucus chose to “break with tradition” and not support Smith, who is Rosenberger's hand-picked successor. Former House Speaker Larry Householder has garnered the support of some legislators to take over next year's permanent position, while two state lawmakers are vying for the interim position only. 

Meanwhile, a number of bills have been left sitting on the Ohio House agenda, including much-anticipated payday lending reform.

“I don’t want anyone thinking that because session has been cancelled we’re not interested in addressing these issues,” Schuring said.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper says Republicans need to pick a speaker now and get back to work.

“I cannot remember a spectacle in Ohio like we are seeing right now,” Pepper says. “And you have all of this work that needs to be done on the issues the average person cares about – everything from the opioid crisis to the ECOT scandal and a dramatic need for improvement in our voting systems – and now here they are, going into weeks without even being able to have a meeting for goodness sakes.”

Democrats have said they won’t help a Republican candidate reach the 50 votes needed to pass the 99-person House. According to Schuring, Democrats plan to make their own nomination.

"This is uncharted territory," Schuring says. "I'm not going to roll the dice and have a three-ring circus and not know the outcome."

Six conservative-leaning business organizations wrote a letter to the House, asking members to set aside their differences and preferences and focus on the needs of the state.

“Without a speaker, the House is essentially rudderless and that is making the ability for anybody to get any type of public policy accomplished difficult to impossible," says Keith Lake of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.