Statehouse Republicans Block a Key Appointment by GOP Gov. John Kasich

Dec 2, 2016

The Ohio Senate has rejected a major appointment by Gov. John Kasich. As statehouse correspondent Andy Chow reports, this could be a sign of friction among Ohio’s top Republicans.

Months of tension between the Senate and Gov. Kasich over his nomination of Columbus lawyer Howard Petricoff to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio culminated this week when a committee voted to reject Petricoff.

The Senate is called to advise and consent on gubernatorial nominations. Usually these committee votes are just a formality.

But Republican Senate President Keith Faber of Celina has said Petricoff would have too many conflicts of interest as a commissioner because of his time advocating for different energy groups.

'How else do you develop the kind of expertise and experience needed?'

Fellow Republican Senator Bill Seitz of Cincinnati echoed that sentiment during the committee meeting.

“There were concerns about the process by which this has come to us, and there were concerns about the number of recusals that he would have to be engaged in by the important business of the Public Utilities Commission.”

Experience counts
But several lawmakers disagree, including Democratic Senator Lou Gentile of Steubenville.

“This is somebody who has worked extensively in public utilities law and, yes, as a result of that he has interacted with folks that he may be in a position to have to regulate. But to your point: How else do you develop the kind of expertise and experience needed.”

Nothing personal?
Many advocates who work on energy issues were there to see the committee vote against Petricoff’s nomination, including Rob Kelter with Environmental Law and Policy Center. He says he’s not buying the explanation offered by Republicans.

“They owe the public an explanation as to what that means and why somebody as qualified as Howard Petricoff was voted down.”

'This is about the constitutional process, and this transcends personal issues.'

There have been rumblings at the Statehouse that Faber was unhappy with Kasich’s pick all the way back in June. Petricoff is a Democrat. But there also have been suggestions that the opposition stems from Kasich’s veto of a Senate elections bill just days before he announced Petricoff’s nomination.

Faber rejected any suggestion this was personal.

“This isn’t about the relationship between Keith Faber and John Kasich; it’s not the relationship between the Senate and the governor; it’s not even about the relationship between the Senate and Howard Petricoff. This is about the constitutional process, and this transcends personal issues.”

What's next?
The vote from the Senate Public Utilities Committee is just a rejection to recommend the nominee. The full Senate Chamber would have vote to completely deny the appointment.

Some expect it won't get that far, and that Petricoff will pull his name from consideration instead.

If the General Assembly ends its lame-duck session this month without the Senate holding a full chamber vote on Kasich’s nominee, then the appointment is automatically upheld. The PUCO is a five-member body. Petricoff has been an active member of the commission and sitting in on meetings since his temporary appointment.

The last time the Senate denied a gubernatorial appointment was in 2010 when they rejected Cathy Collins-Taylor, Gov. Ted Strickland’s nominee for director of the Department of Public Safety.