COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The ability of the Ohio governor to issue public health orders during a pandemic would be restricted under a bill in the Ohio House that is the GOP’s latest effort to reign in the state’s authority.
A House committee is scheduled to give the last review to a GOP-backed bill that looks to create legislative oversight of emergency orders made by fellow Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Health.
The effort is similar to a bill that passed in the Senate last week that would limit public health emergency orders to 90 days, and also give the General Assembly the power to rescind those orders by resolution after 30 days.
It’s the latest in a series of yearlong efforts by GOP lawmakers to curtail DeWine’s pandemic response, including his issuing of a statewide mask mandate, the now-expired curfew and a strict lockdown in the spring.
“We’re going to be taking a look at what the Senate did and why it did it,” House Speaker Bob Cupp said of the bill last week. “We hope to also take a look at some mechanisms in other states.”
Last year, DeWine, a Republican, had indicated he would veto any bill that would make it hard for him or the health department to issue emergency orders to curb the spread of the coronavirus. He made good on that promise in December when a similar Senate bill moved through the House and Senate and landed on his desk.
But DeWine and lawmakers appeared to have made some compromises with the lasted proposal, although the governor said last week that it still does not guarantee he will sign it into law.
“We think it has a way to go and really it’s not so much about me,” DeWine said. “It’s not about me. What we have to make sure we have to get right is how a future governor — not a Mike DeWine — a future governor can react to an emergency.”
Proponents of both the House and Senate bill believe DeWine and the state health department have issued orders during the last 11 months of the pandemic that have remained enacted for longer than necessary and, as a result, have unduly damaged small businesses and the state’s economy.
Opponents of the effort have called it unconstitutional and warned it would decentralize the state’s response during an emergency and cost lives in the process.
Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.