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Republican lawmakers removed from committee say Ohio House speaker's action was illegal

A Republican lawmaker who has donated to Republican challengers says the Ohio House speaker's action is illegal

By: Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) – The battle between supermajority Republicans continues in one chamber as the speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives removed six members from the committees they lead. House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said it was about unity and those six donated to candidates challenging Republican incumbents in the March GOP primaries.

Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), a supporter of Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township) for speaker, speaks to reporters after the House session on January 25, 2023. [Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau]

Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) was among six, all of whom supported Stephens' rival for speaker, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Twp.). Plummer said the six donated to candidates who were not among the 22 Republicans censured by the Ohio Republican Party. They were called the “Blue 22” because they voted for Stephens, who won the speakership in January 2023 with the votes of those 22 Republicans and all 32 Democrats. Four of them lost their primaries.

“You can’t mix politics with political donations. And he obstructed politics by removing us as chair, and his excuse is that we made political donations,” Plummer said. “So number one is election interference. Second, he is a dictator who won’t let conservative members do their jobs.”

Plummer said he found out he had been removed from the House Constitutional Resolution Committee through the news media, not from Stephens, who made the announcement in a memo distributed to members. Plummer said he is considering filing an ethics complaint or requesting a criminal investigation against Stephens for obstructing legislative work.

“You can’t make politics dependent on doing the people’s work,” Plummer said.

Stephens made the decision to remove the committee chairs after campaign finance reports were filed last month. Of his decision, he said, “A lot of Republicans in our caucus spent money against other Republicans in the caucus, and that's exactly what they accused me of.” And it turns out they were the ones who actually did it have.”

Plummer is part of a lawsuit that argues that the Ohio House speaker does not control the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) campaign fund because Merrin has the support of the majority of the caucus. Plummer and Merrin are joined in this lawsuit by Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville).

A Franklin County judge in February denied a request to stop Stephens from spending money from the OHRA account. Stephens spent those funds on incumbent Republicans, including some who had supported his candidacy for speaker. Last month, a majority of the Republican caucus voted to give Plummer sole control of the OHRA account.

Plummer said caucus counsel wrote a legal opinion saying Plummer, not Stephens, controls the account.

“I think it has to do with the lawsuit where he knows I'm going to take over,” Plummer said. “So retaliation that destroys my ability to do people’s work. This is childish behavior.”

The trial in the legal dispute over control of the OHRA account is scheduled for October 21st.

Anna Harden

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