The Ohio House Democrats of the Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee have accused their Republican colleagues of rigging the vote on House Bill 6 (HB 6). The Democratic members of the subcommittee released a joint statement on Wednesday claiming the hearing to be a “rigged-process.”
Joe Price, senior manager of government affairs and energy commodities at Timken Steel, testified as a proponent of the bill representing his employer on Wednesday. When State Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) tried to question Price, she was denied the opportunity to do so after Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana), chair of the subcommittee, claimed that the five minutes for Price was up.
“I’m sorry we’re really trying to limit to five minutes as I stated earlier, including questions,” said Vitale in the hearing on Wednesday
Following the testimony, Boggs, Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), and three fellow Democrats on the subcommittee walked out of the hearing without comment and were absent for more than an hour.
Vitale and the committee had agreed on a limit of five minutes per witness. After Price read his statement, he was questioned by two Republican committee members, but when it came time for Boggs and Weinstein to question Price, the five minutes had expired.
“Taxpayers deserve an open and transparent legislative process, especially when they’re being asked to bailout an energy company. Instead, today, elected officials were silenced and debate was restricted in favor of a rigged process with a predetermined outcome to cast House Bill 6 in the best public light possible – no matter what the cost. We won’t take part in a political sideshow or stunt committee hearing. The people we represent expect us to ask tough questions, have honest debate and make tough decisions at their Statehouse,” Democratic committee members said in a joint statement.
The Democratic members reentered the chamber 90 minutes later. By then, Vitale and Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati) reached an agreement to allot more time for questioning of witnesses by the minority party. Price was asked to return to the podium and questioning was resumed.
HB 6 is widely considered to be a bailout for a pair failing nuclear power plants in Ohio, and would create a “clean energy” program using taxpayer money. According to The Columbus Dispatch, the bill would offer a bailout to two of FirstEnergy Solution’s northern Ohio nuclear power plants. The bill would entitle FirstEnergy to $150 million per year as part of the proposed consumer-financed bailout. It would also offer millions for zero-carbon emission power generation to take hold in the state.
Each resident drawing power from the utility company would be subject to an extra $2.50 per month surcharge to finance the bailout as well as the growth of the “Clean Energy” program.
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Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by Alexander Smith. CC BY-SA 3.0.