Editorial: Lawmakers want to upend Ohio’s ability to manage emergency


This is a recent editorial by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

As we’ve editorialized previously, Senate Bill 22 is an irresponsible bid by the General Assembly to handcuff Gov. Mike DeWine, or any future governor, trying to save Ohioans’ lives by fighting a pandemic.

By allowing the legislature to override state emergency orders and rules, to be the final authority on health matters, and to be able to issue subpoenas as part of that effort, SB 22 — now awaiting a promised veto from DeWine — is also a constitutionally suspect attempt to wrest executive power through legislative means.

This is more than a factional fight. It’s essentially a gripe by legislators who’ve gotten heat back home about DeWine’s actions — even though early in the pandemic, most Ohioans recognized they were also life-saving.

Many of SB 22′s backers are the same legislators, almost all in 100% safe seats, who whined when voters complained about Ohio’s creaky unemployment compensation system – creaky because of the legislature’s neglect.

Beyond the absurdity of thinking that a legislature could somehow protect Ohioans from a pandemic when, for 24 years, it’s been unable to make its school-funding practices constitutional, despite repeated Ohio Supreme Court orders to do so, there’s this:

The nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission — where understating things is a way of life — is warning that Senate Bill 22 may be unconstitutional. Why? Because it would let legislators undercut a governor’s public health orders by passing a resolution rather than a bill. “A … court might find that the General Assembly cannot take an action with legal effect – such as rescinding an order of a state department – except by passing a bill.”

The reason SB 22 calls for resolutions, not bills. is because a governor may veto a bill, but not a resolution.

SB 22′s prime sponsors are GOP Sens. Terry Johnson, of Scioto County, an osteopathic physician, once a coroner, and Robert McColley, a lawyer, of Henry County.

DeWine will veto the bill, as he has said he would and as he should, and if the legislature has any sense of responsibility, it won’t override the veto.

But come what may, too many Greater Cleveland legislators who should know better qualified for the Hall of Irresponsible Fame by voting for SB 22.

… If you agree that this is wrong and a dangerous legislative overreach, give your legislators a call.

Let them know that you prefer a constitutional system in which a governor elected by all Ohioans runs the executive branch and the legislature, elected by local constituents, determines — collectively, legislatively, through the passage of legislation subject to gubernatorial veto — what the laws should be. …

— Cleveland Plain Dealer, March 19