The House minority leader called the changes 'a drastic move' that signals real dissension in the GOP camp.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- In the wake of whispers of a possible revolt, Republican House Speaker Larry Householder is stripping committee assignments from three GOP House members.
State Rep. Bryan C. Williams, an Akron Republican, lost his chairmanship of the House Commerce and Labor Committee and the Select Committee on Ohio's Securities Industry. Householder also kicked Williams off both committees as well.
State Rep. Stephen P. Buehrer, the assistant majority floor leader and a Delta Republican, was booted off the coveted, budget-writing House Finance & amp; Appropriations Committee, the House State Government Committee, the Finance's transportation subcommittee and the Rules and Reference Committee.
James Trakas, the majority whip and an Independence Republican, was dropped from the finance, state government and rules and reference committees and the higher education subcommittee of finance.
The committee changes come in the wake of recent reports of unrest among the 59-member House GOP caucus and reports of a potential power coup against Householder.
Just like a team
"These changes are necessary in order to get the [Republican] caucus refocused on what's important," Householder, of Glenford, said in a statement. He couldn't be reached for further comment, but his spokeswoman, Jennifer Detwiler, said the speaker is looking toward the best interest of House Republicans.
"The Republican caucus is a team. It's just like any other team," Detwiler said.
When there is a lack of unity, "it hurts the whole team," she said.
State Rep. Charles Blasdel of East Liverpool, a Householder supporter, said he was somewhat surprised by the speaker's decision.
"But when people undermine the caucus, something has to be done," he said. "It was a question of loyalty. A lot of members are somewhat frustrated, but they are losing sight of the big picture goal of smaller government. We've achieved that goal, and Larry deserves a lot of credit."
Buehrer didn't immediately return messages seeking comment, left at his Columbus and northwest Ohio offices late Tuesday. Williams didn't return a message left at his Akron home.
Trakas learned about the committee moves from a newspaper reporter Tuesday. He disavowed any connection to reports of House GOP unrest or of raising concerns with Householder's management style.
Reportedly, those concerns have centered on Householder's style and fund-raising tactics.
"I think people have done that individually," said Trakas. "There's absolutely been no collective effort and I have absolutely not been a part of it."
Last week, about a dozen Republican state representatives gathered outside the Statehouse in a public show of support for Householder.
They produced a list of 38 GOP representatives and seven candidates who said they'll vote to re-elect Householder speaker for the 2003-04 session of the Legislature, assuming the GOP maintains control of the House. Republicans outnumber Democrats 59 to 40 in the lower chamber.
State Rep. Robert Latta, a Bowling Green Republican who was named to the finance committee and the transportation subcommittee in place of Buehrer, was among those pledging support for Householder last week.
State Rep. Ron Young, a Leroy Republican, was named chairman of the Commerce and Labor Committee in place of Williams. Also, state Rep. Gary Cates, a West Chester Republican, was named to Williams' place on the committee.
State Rep. Merle G. Kearns, a Springfield Republican, was named to Trakas' spots on finance and the finance subcommittee.
State Rep. Tim Schaffer, a Lancaster Republican, and state Rep. John J. White, a Kettering Republican, were added to the state government committee in place of Buehrer and Trakas.
"I'm a little surprised," House Minority Leader Dean DePiero said. "I think it's kind of a drastic move."