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Local senator testifies on nuke bailout repeal

State Sen. Sean O’Brien — co-sponsor of legislation to overturn House Bill 6, which is at the center of a federal corruption case — urged his colleagues to approve his proposal, saying it is their duty “to always act in the best interest of all Ohioans.”

O’Brien, D-Bazetta, and state Sen. Stephanie Kunze, R-Hilliard, also co-sponsoring the repeal bill, testified Tuesday before the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.

Former House Speaker Larry Householder and four associates were arrested July 21 on federal racketeering charges in a $60 million bribery case related to the taxpayer-funded bailout of two failing nuclear power plants through HB 6. Householder, who attended Tuesday’s House session while under indictment, pushed through the plan to provide a $1.3 billion bailout last year of the plants owned by former subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp.

“In light of recent events involving the federal investigation into corruption charges against” Householder, O’Brien said he and Kunze “felt duty-bound to introduce SB 346 to repeal that tainted piece of legislation.”

HB 6 puts “a significant financial burden on taxpayers just for power’s sake and to line the pockets of oneself and a few select cronies,” O’Brien said.

He added the evidence against Householder and the others is “overwhelming and this legislation cannot be allowed to stand.”

The Senate is expected to vote on this bill around election time, O’Brien said.

“This is not a partisan issue,” he said. “Rather, it is a signal to the people of Ohio, all of our constituents, that we, the people they elect to represent them, will always look out for their best interests and will stand up for them when they have been taken advantage of, as they were in this case.”

O’Brien also said the alleged scheme behind HB 6 puts “into stark relief the insidious and pervasive role played by dark money in American politics throughout the country. Failure to repeal HB 6 would allow it to stand as a monument to the corrupting power of dark money, now and into the future, to bend the Legislature to their will as long as they are willing to spend enough cash.”

Kunze testified “a repeal of House Bill 6 will help to restore the faith of the public in the legislative process. Not only were the scales weighted in favor of House Bill 6 from the backroom dealings made by those currently under investigation by the FBI, but the public effort to bring House Bill 6 up for referendum was sabotaged by those behind the creation of House Bill 6.”

New House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, announced Monday the creation of a House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight to “focus on energy issues and be tasked with crafting legislation to repeal and replace House Bill 6.”

There are three bills in the House to repeal HB 6, including one co-sponsored by state Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren. O’Brien, who objects to the new committee saying it’s another stall tactic by Republicans, said he’ll be selected as a member to it.

On Tuesday, an effort by him and Rep. Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood, who is co-sponsoring the repeal, to force a floor vote through a discharge petition failed. It needed 50 votes. He said 34 of the 37 Democratic members voted for it while not one of the House’s 62 Republicans supported it.

O’Brien said he also planned an amendment to repeal HB 6, and Republicans abruptly ended Tuesday’s session rather than vote on it.

“They saw my amendment and adjourned,” he said. “What kind of message are they sending?”

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