Ohio House Democrats seeking ‘integrity’ law for statewide officeholders

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Statehouse News Bureau) — Democrats in the Ohio Legislature are sponsoring a bill that would ban statewide officeholders from receiving compensation for private employment while serving their elected terms.

The Ohio Statehouse
[Daniel Konik | Statehouse News Bureau]
Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), who resigned from the Westerville City Library Board when she was elected to the legislature, said state leaders need to avoid even the appearance of being beholden to anyone other than their constituents.

“Corruption is costly. When unaccountable politicians abuse their power to fill their own pockets, it’s the Ohioans who pay the ultimate cost,” Lightbody said.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, a Republican, was recently appointed to a paid corporate board position with Heartland Bank Corp. The appointment is legal but it raised some eyebrows with some lawmakers who questioned whether it was proper for a top state leader to have that role.

Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), House minority caucus leader, said the new bill would not apply to lawmakers like her or Lightbody because the Ohio Legislature, by constitutional design, is a part-time position.

She noted service with the Ohio National Guard or in the military would be exempted. But she said the bill would apply in cases like Husted’s. And she said it would apply to all statewide officeholders, regardless of their political affiliation.

“This is not about partisanship. Democratic statewide elected leaders should be held to the same high standards as the Republican statewide elected leaders,” Russo said.

The Republican-dominated Ohio Legislature is not expected to come back until after the November election so the bill, which hasn’t yet been formally introduced, will have to wait at least a few months for consideration.

Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) said majority Republicans are being asked to sign onto the legislation.

“It is incredibly important that we send a strong message and it should be a bipartisan message that ethics, integrity and taxpayer dollars are sacrosanct and that we put them above all else,” Weinstein said.

Earlier this year, after news of Husted’s appointment to the board broke, he said he didn’t see it as a conflict of interest.

“None of what I do in any way conflicts. I do not oversee banking. I don’t have any authority in that space. And it has no conflict of interest whatsoever. I believe it has great value,” Husted said.

Husted explained his purpose for being on the board is to help him better understand how interest rates, inflation, and government regulations affect small businesses and the economy.

“Understanding that and being involved in that has great value, I believe, for everyone to have public officials who truly understand these issues,” Husted said.

Husted leads Innovate Ohio, the state’s business and technological innovation department. He also has influence at JobsOhio, a state-authorized, nonprofit job creation company.

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