House Bill 6 Repeal Effort(s), Civil Litigation & Business Groups Step Forward: Work continued in committees – the House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight and the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee – on three bills (HB 738, HB 746 & SB 346, described below) to straight-repeal HB 6’s nuclear energy subsidy program. One issue that’s been raised in the House Select Committee hearings is HB6’s use of 2018’s peak revenue for FirstEnergy as a reference year for the company’s entitled annual revenue levels via ratepayer subsidy charges. The nuclear subsidy charges are set to appear on ratepayer bills on January 1.
Clawback of GM Tax Credits & Awarding new LG Chem Tax Credits: The Ohio Tax Credit Authority on September 28 approved a clawback agreement with General Motors under which the automaker will repay $28MM in incentives resulting from the idling of its Lordstown assembly plant in 2019. The agreement also requires GM to provide another $12MM in “Ohio Community Support” in the form of scholarships or job training at Youngstown State University or schools and/or infrastructure assistance in the Mahoning Valley region.
New Round of Coronavirus Relief Fund Payments to Local Governments
A new proposed funding formula for the final $650 million tranche of Coronavirus Relief Fund payments to Ohio local governments is included in the fast-tracked Senate Bill 357 (described more fully, below). This latest legislative vehicle to distribute federal CARES Act funds to Ohio units of local government will reflect some changes from previous Coronavirus Relief Fund distributions (e.g., HB 481’s distribution of $350 million): extending the deadlines imposed on Ohio local governments to spend their federal money; and the funds-distribution formula moves away from the 2019 Local Government Fund formula (used under HB 481) and instead uses a per capita basis.
HB 6 Repeal Effort
On August 31, Speaker Bob Cupp announced any House bills aiming to repeal or replace HB 6 must go through a special committee – the new House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight. The House immediately referred three bills to the new panel – two repeal measures (HB 738 & HB 746, both of which are discussed below) and one to reverse budget language on significantly excessive earnings determinations for utility companies (HB 740). The speaker said the chamber wants to “act expeditiously” on the issue. Given the structure of the House, the speaker’s move allows HB 6 repeal measures to bypass the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee which is led by Rep. Nino Vitale, who disfavors a full repeal and is one of a handful of House members seeking to impeach Governor DeWine over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic response.
Ohio House Leadership Changes
In early August, members of the House of Representatives ejected Rep. Larry Householder from his speakership role. By a vote of 91-0, the House brought Rep. Householder’s (R-Glenford) second stint as the chamber’s leader to an end. This move came shortly after a federal grand jury indicted Rep. Householder for his alleged role in orchestrating a $60 million racketeering scheme. (Note Rep. Householder’s first stint as House Speaker ended under a cloud of suspicion as he was subject to a federal investigation at the time; that investigation ended without any charges filed.) Following the vote, the House voted to install Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), who said he will work to restore trust in the Ohio House; Speaker Cupp is an experienced public servant, having been an Ohio Supreme Court Justice and a longtime member of the Ohio General Assembly. Speaker Cupp has signaled he’s going to take a less combative tone with Gov. DeWine’s COVID-19 efforts than his predecessor, and he quickly moved to replace the House leadership’s team with new aides and support staff.