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Wed. 11:35 a.m.: Lawmakers clash on repeal of bailout bill as deadline looms

House lawmakers, from left, Rep. Laura Lanese, R-Grove City, Rep. Dave Greenspan, R-Westlake, Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, and Rep. Michael O'Brien, D-Warren, testify before the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight in Columbus earlier this month. The committee is set to have its third hearing Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, but lawmakers are failing to agree on how to repeal the bill as the deadline before the law goes into effect looms over the Statehouse. (AP Photo/Andrew Welsh-Huggins, File)

COLUMBUS (AP) — The pressure to repeal the law at the center of a $60 million federal bribery probe that led to the ouster of the former Ohio House speaker is reaching a boiling point.

The committee designated to address the repeal of House Bill 6 is set to meet Wednesday to hear from energy companies for the first time since the investigation into the legislation designed to bailout two nuclear plants was revealed earlier this summer.

The House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight, created by the new Speaker Bob Cupp, has been the scene of rising tensions between Democratic and Republican lawmakers on how best to approach the fate of the now-tainted legislation.

“What Republicans are doing with House Bill 6 is running out the clock,” said Rep. David Leland, the ranking Democrat on the committee. “They want to make the public think they’re moving this along.”

Federal prosecutors in July accused Cupp’s predecessor, fellow GOP Rep. Larry Householder, and four others of shepherding energy company money for personal and political use as part of an effort to pass the legislation, then kill any attempt to repeal it at the polls.

Cupp and many of his Republican colleagues believe the legislation needs to be carefully untangled in order to anticipate and respond to ramifications of the repeal.

But Democrats want a speedy repeal and say Republicans are unnecessarily delaying the process while a deadline looms.

If the House does not repeal the law by Oct. 1, a fee will be added to every electricity bill in the state starting Jan. 1 — directing over $150 million a year, through 2026, to the nuclear plants near Cleveland and Toledo.

While FirstEnergy Corp., whose former subsidiaries owned the plants, have denied wrongdoing and have not been criminally charged, federal investigators say the company secretly funneled millions to secure the $1 billion legislative bailout for the two unprofitable nuclear plants then operated by an independently controlled subsidiary called FirstEnergy Solutions.

The other option is an emergency House vote before the end of the year. As of this week, 58 of 99 House members have signed on to cosponsor bills that would repeal House Bill 6.

Republican Rep. Laura Lanese, who introduced one of the repeal bills days after the federal affidavit was released, said she would vote in favor of an emergency ruling in order to “regain the trust of Ohioans.”

“While some of my Republican colleagues think that they could separate that corruption from the good policy of the bill, I don’t think that’s the case,” Lanese said. “I think it goes to the heart of the integrity of the legislation and that we should kill the bill and start fresh.”

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