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Companies Wary of Investing in Ohio Amid Political Infighting in State Legislature

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Jun. 20 2024, Published 1:36 a.m. ET

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Plans for major capital improvement projects across the state of Ohio are stalled amid ongoing dysfunction and chronic absenteeism in the state legislature, which some are blaming on leadership, particularly State Senate Majority Leader Matt Huffman.

Huffman, a Republican representing Lima, is term-limited and currently running for a House seat in a bid to oust current House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill). That split focus hasn't helped to improve the General Assembly's productivity after last year, which was its least productive session since at least 1955, according to Cleveland.com.

Republicans hold supermajorities in both chambers of the state legislature, but just 16 bills were signed into law in 2023.

Among the legislators with chronic absences is State Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miami Twp.), who represents Dayton and some of its suburbs. His streak of Senate floor and committee absences ramped up after he placed tenth in the Republican primary for the U.S. Congress seat that represents his district.

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According to an analysis by the Dayton Daily News, Antani missed nearly a third of Senate votes this General Assembly, more than double those missed by other senators. He also sat on four committees, though he has since been removed from one, and missed more hearings than he attended.

Recently, Antani missed a crucial deadline to submit local project proposals to leadership in order to secure some of the $350 million in surplus funds up for grabs for capital improvement projects statewide. He said he did it intentionally, however, both as a form of protest against leadership and on fiscal conservatism grounds.

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Antani told the Dayton Daily News that “every single thing” the Senate has done this session has been marred by Huffman's quest for the Speaker's gavel, as bills aren't being debated and concessions are made to boost his campaign.

“I will not participate in that,” said Antani, who previously had a nearly perfect voting record during eight years in the state House and the first two years of his current term in the Senate. “It’s frankly been embarrassing that this is caused by Republican infighting over a power struggle over who the next speaker is."

As a result of his absences, Antani was removed from the Financial Institutions Committee, though he remains on three others.

Ohio Senate Majority Caucus spokesman John Fortney told the outlet that the removal “boils down to simply making sure committee posts are filled.”

“It’s important to remember that bills are passed based on dialogue and good faith conversations with fellow senators and of course leadership. If Senator Antani wants a hearing on bill, he just needs to ask,” Fortney said.

“Do I regret not voting now and sort of messing up my perfect record? Yeah, I do regret that because, you know, I lost my campaign,” Antani said. “But I will say, overall, if you look at my lifetime record, I still have 97, 98% attendance in voting.”

Meanwhile, companies hoping to get to work on projects in the state are sitting idle as the infighting continues, and companies hoping to invest in Ohio may take their money elsewhere.

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