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Rep. Ryan Smith elected new speaker of Ohio House

By Jim Siegel • Updated Jun 6, 2018 at 5:29 PM

(UPDATED at 5:29 p.m. Wednesday, June 6, 2018)

COLUMBUS — The Ohio House of Representatives today elected State Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) to serve as Speaker of the House, filling a position that had been vacant since April 12.

Following the vote on the floor, Smith was sworn in as the 103rd Speaker in Ohio history.

“It is a sincere honor to be elected as the 103rd Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives and I am humbled by the support from so many of my colleagues,” Smith said. “It is a privilege to represent the citizens of the 93rd District and I look forward to continuing to serve all Ohioans as Speaker. I am encouraged by the fact that the Ohio House can now place its full focus on passing meaningful legislation.

“My colleagues on both sides of the aisle are eager to ensure the work of the people receives the attention and deliberation it deserves, and together we will work to promote high standards of respect and decorum throughout this institution.”

Smith is serving his third term in the Ohio House. He represents the 93rd District, which includes Jackson and Gallia counties, as well as portions of Lawrence and Vinton counties. Over the past two budget cycles, Smith oversaw the state’s budget-making process as chairman of the House Finance Committee.

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At least five Ohio House members are expected to be absent today, reducing to 47 the number of votes needed to become the chamber's next speaker.

After numerous false starts, the House appears set to embark on an unprecedented, contentious vote for one of the most powerful positions in state government.

"All systems go," said House GOP spokesman Brad Miller.

Frontrunner Rep. Ryan Smith, fellow Republican Rep. Andy Thompson, and Minority Leader Fred Strahorn are expected to be nominated for the top job, which has been vacant since mid-April.

"I'm talking to the folks who support me, and I don't see any change," Thompson, R-Marietta, said. A few weeks ago, he had about 18 Republicans backing him.

Among his backers has been Rep. Jim Hughes, R-Upper Arlington. Hughes, who said he supported a short-term speaker, declined to say if anything has changed.

Smith offered Thompson the No. 2 House leadership spot in an effort to end the fight. Thompson declined.

"Ryan and I have had a good working relationship," Thompson said. "I appreciated the offer. I just felt I could best be of help if I were in the top post."

Why are we here?

Former Speaker Cliff Rosenberger abruptly announced his resignation eight weeks ago amid an FBI investigation into his overseas travel and other perks of the job. He has insisted he did nothing improper.

Before his resignation, Smith of Bidwell and Rep. Larry Householder of Glenford were already engaged in a bitter fight to become speaker starting in 2019. With the seat empty, Smith wants the job now. Householder prefers a short-term speaker such as Thompson, who can serve only through December.

The House has not met since April 11. Rep. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, the acting speaker, canceled multiple voting sessions because no speaker candidate had 50 Republican votes.

As the impasse continued, Schuring gave members a choice: call for the vote,or change House rules so Schuring could run the chamber as speaker pro tempore. A majority of members chose a vote.

Why is this important?

Without a speaker, the House isn't passing legislation. Among the glut of bills awaiting a vote:

•House Bill 123. An effort to rein in the low-dollar, high-cost payday lending industry that critics say is charging the highest rates in the nation to Ohio borrowers, trapping them in debt.

•House Bill 365. Named the Reagan Tokes Act after the Ohio State student who was raped and murdered in February 2017, it would allowing for some prison time extensions or reductions depending on behavior behind bars. It also seeks to improve post-release monitoring of felons.

•Senate Bill 135. Provides $114.5 million to help counties replace their aging voting machines.

Will this be a normal vote?

No.

Typically when the House votes, each member pushes a red or green button, with the results revealed on two electronic boards in the chamber.

But with multiple speaker candidates, members will be called in alphabetical order to stand and announce who they support.

If a nominee gets a majority of those casting votes, he wins. If not, the House continues voting up to 10 times until someone gets a majority.

If there's still no winner, the nominee with a plurality on the 11th vote is victorious.

At least four Republicans and one Democrat will be absent today. All four missing Republicans had been expected to vote for Smith, giving him a tougher road to a majority.

Most Democrats are expected to vote for Strahorn, though at least one, Rep. Bernadine Kennedy Kent, D-Columbus, will back Smith.

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©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)

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