COLUMBUS –House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) participated in a virtual press conference with other House Democratic lawmakers to discuss legislative solutions that are needed as the state faces multiple unprecedented crises. The Ohio House was scheduled to meet for an if-needed House session today, but Speaker Robert Cupp canceled this session on Friday, Sept. 11.
“Today could have been a day where the Ohio House addressed the needs of the state of Ohio. A day where we came together to offer solutions toward recovery from COVID, and the economical fall out from it, but instead it’s another day where republican leadership has refused to put the needs of our state before their own,” said Leader Sykes. “For those of you keeping track, it has been 173 days since the Ohio House passed comprehensive legislation to address COVID-19. House Democrats have been calling for months now for us to get back to work. We keep saying, coronavirus isn’t taking a recess and neither should we!”
“As someone who works in public health, I know bringing the spread of COVID-19 under control is the solution to Ohio’s full economic recovery. The effective mitigation of a viral outbreak takes planning, it takes outreach and it takes leadership,” said Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). “Thus far, House Republicans have been ineffective, obstinate and downright derelict in their leadership during this unprecedented time.”
“On behalf of all of those who are still struggling and need help, we renew our call to the Speaker and Senate President to bring the General Assembly back soon to address the many unresolved issues that remain legislatively with this pandemic. We have another if-needed session date next week and we hope Speaker Cupp will use the time that has been set aside more productively than he has this week,” said Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati).
The decision to cancel comes after Speaker Cupp abruptly ended House session on Sept. 2 after Democrats planned to offer several measures to repeal House Bill (HB) 6, the multi-billion corporate bailout bill at the center of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into an alleged $60 million racketeering and bribery scheme led by former Republican Speaker Larry Householder. Former Speaker Larry Householder and several associates were arrested and indicted for their roles in the alleged corruption scheme.
“It has been 56 days since we learned about the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history involving the passage of HB 6. Unique only in its size and brazenness, this unfortunately continues the culture of corruption in the Republican caucus that has produced 4 speakers in 2 and a half years. Now Republican leadership is blocking our numerous attempts to repeal HB 6. There are 58 cosponsors of two repeal bills, more than enough for passage. Republican leadership should stop protecting HB 6 – we need to show that Ohio is not for sale!” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus).
House Democrats have put forth multiple efforts to quickly repeal HB 6 in order to help restore the public’s trust in the legislature, and have called the creation of this Select Committee an unnecessary stall tactic by House Republicans. On Aug. 11, House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Assistant Whip Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) filed a protest of the passage of House Bill 6 due to the serious allegations of bribery and pay-to-pay politics that were involved in the deliberations and passage of the bill. On Aug. 28, Democrats announced they would file a discharge petition to bring bipartisan legislation to repeal HB 6 to the floor for a vote during session on Sept. 1. House Republicans aggressively worked to thwart the effort by requiring that signatures be done in person and not electronically like all other legislation in an attempt to keep the bill from being brought to the floor in a timely manner. Then on Sept. 1 when Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and House Republicans abruptly ended House session as Democrats readied to offer several amendments to repeal HB 6 on the floor. The session ended before making it even halfway through the scheduled calendar—an unprecedented move intended to block Democratic efforts to repeal HB 6.
House Democrats also pointed out the obstructionist tactics of Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose to suppress the vote for the upcoming November election. Yesterday, House Dems slammed LaRose and GOP lawmakers for refusing to fund absentee ballot postage and pointed out that the Secretary does not require legislative approval to make the general election more accessible during a pandemic. House Democrats have consistently called on Sec. LaRose to use existing funds to pay for postage if the legislature fails to address it.
“We saw what can happen last March if we go into an election unprepared,” Rep. Hicks-Hudson said. “Ohioans know that the global pandemic and an overwhelmed Postal Service threatens our right to vote and unfortunately, Republicans have made very few steps towards preventing a similar disaster from happening again in November.”
A recording of the virtual press conference can be found here.