One week after it slogs through a number of contentious primary battles, the House Republican caucus will vote May 15 to elect a new House speaker.
The caucus has a few options to pick from, including those who want to continue in the job beyond this General Assembly, which ends in December, and those who would serve only until the end of the year.
Former House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, resigned two weeks ago after he revealed that he had hired a defense attorney because the FBI was asking questions about his activities. Sources have said those questions involve some of Rosenberger’s partaking in the perks of the job, including a trip to London, England in late August 2017 that also was attended by payday lending industry lobbyists.
The payday industry also helped sponsor a trip he took in September to France. Rosenberger has insisted he did nothing wrong and federal authorities have not confirmed nor denied any investigation.
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Reps. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, and Larry Householder, R-Glenford, had already been involved in a nasty fight to replace Rosenberger, who would have been term limited at the end of the year. Smith has said he is confident that he currently has backing from a strong majority of the caucus to be speaker right now.
Republican candidates backed by Smith and Householder are dueling in numerous GOP primaries around the state, but most of those winners would not be seated until January.
Some favor picking a speaker who could serve beyond this year.
"In order to focus on the job at hand, it’s better to get this settled as quickly as possible so we can go about doing the work we came here to do. We have some important bills pending," said Rep. Larua Lanese, R-Grove City, pointing to water pricing legislation aimed at stopping cities from charging higher prices to those living outside the municipalities.
Others say an interim speaker is a better option, preferably one not connected to Smith or Householder.
"Right now, that speaker race is very contentious. We don’t need a divided caucus," said Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson. "We need a united caucus, a strong caucus, led by someone who is honorable and has a good vision for accomplishing what the majority party stands for."
Potential short-term options include Reps. Dorothy Pelanda, R-Marysville, and Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, both of whom already planned to leave the House after December.
According to a memo to House Republicans, the only vote that will take place on May 15 will be for speaker. All other leadership positions are still occupied.
Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Marysville, the No. 2 House GOP leader, has been serving as interim speaker and, as dean of the caucus, is responsible for calling the leadership vote. The veteran lawmaker is running for a Senate seat and is not expected to be among the contenders to take the speaker’s post.
The caucus will debate and vote on the new speaker in a closed-door meeting. The expectation, caucus spokesman Brad Miller said, is for the caucus to come out unified, with a full House vote for speaker on May 16.