Ohio House members have been directed to return to Columbus next week to resolve a leadership fight one way or another, which would likely mean that Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin will be sworn into office once that dispute is settled.
The Associated Press reported that state Rep. Kirk Schuring presented lawmakers with two options for resolving an impasse that’s brought law-making to a halt. The Republican became temporary speaker, or speaker pro tem, when Republican Speaker Cliff Rosenberger resigned last month amid an FBI investigation.
Schuring gave lawmakers the option to vote on two existing candidates to succeed Rosenberger. Those are House Finance Chairman Ryan Smith, of Gallia County, and state Rep. Andy Thompson, of Marietta. Or they can vote to change the rules so Schuring can serve as speaker for the remainder of the year.
Schuring has given Republican and Democratic lawmakers until Friday to tell him which option they want to pursue. Whichever gets the most support will proceed June 6.
“I’m hoping every member of the House wants to get back to business as usual and that’s what this is intended to allow,” Schuring said in a phone interview with the AP.
That appeared to be the case among a contingent of eight Smith-supporting Republicans who called a news conference to urge Schuring to call the speaker vote.
State Rep. Craig Riedel, of Defiance, said he and other lawmakers faced pressure from constituents over the Memorial Day weekend to be proactive in getting the House back to work. Riedel said Smith has “the vast, vast majority” of the GOP caucus behind him.
“I want that to be clear and crystal to everybody. I want you to understand that we want to get back to work. We’re waiting on the Speaker Pro Tem to have the House floor vote. Let’s let the chips fall where the chips fall.”
State Rep. Kyle Koehler, of Springfield, said he didn’t favor an interim speaker option that could taint legislative business for the rest of the year.
“I do not want legislation that we’re going to pass in the next seven months to have an asterisk next to it,” he said. “It needs to be just as valid as the laws we passed a year ago or laws we pass a year from now.”
Before the April primary, House Republicans agreed to immediately seat the winner of the primary between Wilkin and Clinton County businesswoman Beth Ellis to finish Rosenberger’s unexpired term as state representative from the 91st Ohio House District.
Wilkin won the GOP primary and even traveled to Columbus to be sworn in. But the failure by House Republicans to agree on a new leader put those plans on hold.
Wilkin said Wednesday he continues following the developments in Columbus. He will face Democratic candidate Justin Grimes in November, with the winner beginning a full term in January.