A central Ohio judge on Monday blocked the subsidies from a $1 billion nuclear bailout law at the center of a $60 million bribery probe, as state lawmakers scrambled to decide the fate of a repeal effort and nominees were chosen to succeed a utility regulator who resigned amid the investigation.
Franklin County Judge Chris Brown sided with Republican Attorney General Dave Yost and the cities of Cincinnati and Columbus in granting a preliminary injunction that would block the subsidies that were set to be added to every electric bill in the state starting Jan. 1.
“Today’s ruling is a win for all Ohioans,” Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein said in a statement. “HB 6 was passed through deceit, deception and corruption and this decision means that Ohio ratepayers will keep their hard-earned dollars instead of paying for a massive corporate bailout.”
The ruling came as lobbying intensified on all fronts on legislation seeking to repeal the bailout law, as well as several competing proposals, with just a day left in the lame duck legislative session.
The potential for legislative inaction before the session ends influenced his decision, Brown said. Fees collected under the law, which was passed in July 2019, amount to more than $150 million a year through 2026.
“To not impose an injunction would be to allow certain parties to prevail. It would give the OK that bribery is allowed in the state of Ohio and that any ill-gotten gains can be received,” he said from the bench. “All you’ve got to do is find the right legislator, find the right speaker of the House. It is in the public interest to avoid that sentiment throughout the state.”
[Mark Gillispie, Julie Carr Smyth and Farnoush Amiri]