Legislators were manipulated
Ohio legislators are right to be furious about the way they were manipulated into taking $150 million a year out of their constituents’ pockets to benefit two nuclear power plants. At the same time, they are correct to avoid a knee-jerk reaction to the scandal.
In July, federal authorities arrested former state House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder and four associates. They are accused of being involved in a $60 million bribery scheme allegedly utilized to ensure passage of a bill to bail out the nuclear plants, near Cleveland and Toledo.
Under House Bill 6, which is current law, Ohio consumers will have surcharges totaling $150 million a year added to their electric bills, beginning Jan. 1. The money, being collected through 2026, will go to keep the nuclear plants afloat.
Lawmakers were quick to oust Householder from his leadership position. Then came calls to rescind the HB 6 law. Obviously, time to make that happen is running out.
Critics of the House’s Republican leadership accuse them of dragging their feet, with Ohio families paying the price for delay in repealing the law.
But — and this is by no means a defense of the despicable characters involved in the alleged bribery scheme — the situation is complicated. Merely repealing HB 6 in total would not be a good thing. The measure includes a variety of provisions, including some to promote renewable energy, that are not related to the nuclear plant bailout.
And, there is the question of whether keeping the plants in operation is beneficial to Ohioans — regardless of how HB 6 came to be enacted.
Legislators should be looking at whether it is in Buckeye State residents’ best interest to repeal the bailout and thus, the $150 million a year in fees. But such action needs to be taken responsibly, not without regard to potential unpleasant side-effects.
Action should be taken on HB 6 as soon as prudently possible. If the electric-bill fees must be collected for a few months to exercise caution that could in the long run save Ohioans money, so be it.
That — what is best for Buckeye State residents, not what can be made to sound good politically — needs to be lawmakers’ guide.