Focus Washington: Vorys partner Randy Teague on Ohio Economics and Capitol Hill

Randal Teague, a partner at the Washington office of Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease LLP, sits down with host Chuck Conconi to discuss the economics of Ohio, and the affect it brings to Capitol Hill.

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Chuck Conconi: Welcome to Focus Washington. I’m Chuck Conconi. My guest today is Randal Teague, a partner in Washington with the law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. Randy, thank you for joining me today.

Randal Teague: Glad to be with you

Chuck Conconi: It’s great to have you again. The last time you were here in March we talked about Ohio’s clout on Capital Hill because of House speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio.) Do Ohio businesses and companies have an agenda in Washington?

Randal Teague: Ohio companies do have an agenda in Washington and it is a broader agenda than just the Speaker’s. It’s focused on jobs- that’s a national agenda, but in Ohio it’s focused in a different way. Ohio is looking to bring jobs back, not only from overseas, but also from states around the country where jobs moved.

It is an energy-focused agenda and an environment-focused agenda, all of which would add jobs. The state of Ohio has coal-fired plants and we could replace those with natural gas plants. We could take jobs back from around the rest of the country for industries that are there and we could attract new industries to Ohio.

Chuck Conconi: Well that’s a good part of the question coming next. Jobs are certainly the issue of day, given Ohio’s nine percent unemployment rate—and that’s a significant rate. Does the Ohio delegation have a jobs agenda?

Randal Teague: It does have a jobs agenda. But the nine percent rate in Ohio is the nine percent rate in the country. The jobs agenda here is one that’s going to be successful because Ohio has members of Congress on the Appropriations Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, and the Energy and Commerce Committee. It is well placed with that agenda.

But the agenda is to help create jobs—job creation. Labor, non-labor, everyone wants job creation in Ohio. It’s achievable because it has specifics. Specifics tied to trade, tied to education, tied to transportation as a hub within the eastern United States and there’s much that’s being done and can be done.

Chuck Conconi: Well, shale gas has great promise for tens of thousands of jobs as I understand it in Ohio. Should shale gas be encouraged at the federal and state level?

Randal Teague: It should be encouraged and I think it is being increasingly encouraged. I think that battle is being won. There is so much natural gas underlying the state of Ohio. You can easily recover it, you can transport it, you can take these coal-fired plants that everyone wants to eliminate because of their environmental contamination and convert them to natural gas power plants. The job creation that you just mentioned is enormous with those kind of conversions, but it’s enormous for the exploration for the gas, for the transportation of the gas, its all there in Ohio.
Chuck Conconi: You have spent a great deal of time in Washington as a lawyer-lobbyist. What has lobbying been like with the Republicans in control of the House and the Democrats in control of the Senate?

Randal Teague: Well, it really is not different from lobbying under other circumstances. We’ve seen this before: One political party in the majority of one house of Congress, the other political party in the majority on the other side. It requires you to be precise. It requires you to do all of your homework in articulating your client’s positions for that particular Member [of Congress] in terms of their own political or their value systems.

It requires you to do the hard work of completing the project, but I do not know any Member of Congress from the state of Ohio, Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative who is not open to hearing arguments for jobs creation, environmental contamination reduction and so forth. The door is open, we just have to work hard at it and we have to work persistently at it.

Chuck Conconi: Well that brings me to the question about Speaker Boehner. It’s been a tough go for him. How would you rate his job performance thus far?

Randal Teague: I think thus far his job performance has been quite good. Look at the context. He is in a divided government, a divided congress, a divided House, even a divided Republican party. And yet with only one slight exception, he has been able to accomplish everything that he has needed to do.

The issues for Boehner lie ahead. It’s one thing to get the budget temporarily taken care of, but there needs to be a permanent solution to these budget issues. Tax reform is major issue on the horizon. Education reform is another one. All of these issues lie ahead and I think he will rise to the occasion, but he has to prove that himself. I can not do that.

Chuck Conconi: The other thing that’s going on now is the Ohio Governor Kasich’s approval ratings have really nosedived. Maybe just temporarily, but it’s been noticed throughout the country. What happened to the governor? Can he recover from that?

Randal Teague: I think he went into this office believing that his hardest battles he should do first. That’s a very good strategy. It’s a four-year term. He rolls out these very controversial issues in the first year. We have a statewide referendum to affirm or reject what has been passed in terms of the legislation for changing the collective bargaining with state and local employees and that’s the biggest issue of all. And if he succeeds in that he’s off and running for the next three years.

If he fails in that, he still has three years to repair the damage and move ahead with what it is he still needs to get enacted. John Kasich does not pick a fight but he does not run from a fight.

Chuck Conconi: So you think he can be re-elected?

Randal Teague: Oh, I think he can but a lot of this is going to ride on what happens in November.

Chuck Conconi: Randy, thank you for being my guest today and I hope you will come back soon.

Randal Teague: I would like that.

Chuck Conconi: I’m Chuck Conconi and this has been Focus Washington.

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