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New year begins with dramatic speaker votes in Congress and Ohio Statehouse

Newly elected House Speaker Jason Stephens (R) addressees the Ohio House.
Ohio Government Television
Statehouse News Bureau
Newly elected House Speaker Jason Stephens (R) addressees the Ohio House.

As we mark the two-year anniversary of the January 6th riot at the Capitol, the political turmoil unleashed that day continues to echo in Washington, DC.

The selection of the speaker for the United States House of Representatives, normally a formality, has turned this week into a political standoff. A small group of hard-right Republicans have refused to vote with the bulk of the Republican caucus for Congressman Kevin McCarthy of California. That has led to multiple rounds of votes---something that has not happened since 1923. We normally don’t focus on national politics here on the roundtable, but this is high-stakes political drama and several members of Ohio’s congressional delegation figure prominently—including Jim Jordan who at one point was nominated as speaker—even though he said he doesn’t want the job.

While the U-S Speaker vote began in Washington, Ohio lawmakers in Columbus were beginning their new legislative session. This too involved the selection of the speaker of the Ohio House. Back in December, it appeared that Toledo-area Republican Derrick Merrin would win that job. But that didn’t happen. Instead Democrats in the Ohio House joined with Republicans to push Lawrence County Republican Jason Stephens across the finish line.

Akron's Board of Education is preparing the school district for a potential teachers strike, with many questions still to be answered. The two sides returned to the negotiating table this week in the hopes of avoiding Monday's strike deadline. The Akron Education Association filed a strike notice last Thursday - giving the board until Monday to reach a deal. Their contract expired last June.

We've been inundated by ads from sports betting houses for months now, and as it turned out, Ohio gamblers actually set some pretty lofty marks on the first day of legal sports gambling in the state. A cybersecurity company that provides location and security services to betting operators reported 11.3 million geolocation transactions in Ohio in the first 48 hours - tops in the nation. 234,000 of those came during the first hour of New Year's Day.

Governor DeWine this week signed into law a bill that cracks down on distracted driving including texting, reading or watching video behind the wheel. DeWine pushed for the measure last year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in 2020, distracted driving caused more than more than 31-hundred crash deaths nationwide. The bill makes texting while driving a primary offense—meaning you can be pulled over for it. The new law goes into effect in 90 days

- Marlene Harris-Taylor, Director, Engaged Journalism, Ideastream Public Media
- Conor Morris, Education Reporter, Ideastream Public Media
- Karen Kasler, Statehouse News Bureau Chief, Ohio Public Radio/TV

Leigh Barr is a coordinating producer for the "Sound of Ideas" and the "Sound of Ideas Reporters Roundtable."