COLUMBUS — The Ohio General Assembly voted Wednesday to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of Senate Bill 22.
Senate Bill 22, vetoed by DeWine on Tuesday, limits the governor’s ability to create ongoing health orders and creates an Ohio Health Oversight Advisory Committee comprised of members of the House and Senate to review health orders. The measure includes a number of provisions directed at limiting the authority of the Ohio Department of Health and local health departments.
Following are some of the provisions:
• Via passage of a concurrent resolution, the General Assembly can rescind public health orders, state of emergency declarations, and any other executive branch order/rule issued in response to an emergency declaration.
• Orders/declarations can be rescinded as early as the same day they are issued.
• The executive branch cannot reissue a rescinded order for at least 60 days
• Limits state of emergency declarations to 30 days, requiring legislature approval to extend it.
• Limits local boards of health from issuing widespread quarantine orders or any other orders that impact schools and businesses.
• Local boards of health can only issue a quarantine/isolation order to individuals who have been diagnosed with a disease or have come in contact with someone who has a disease.
The Senate approved the override by a vote of 23-10 with two Republicans voting against it. The House voted 62-35 to approve the override with one GOP member voting against it. Republicans hold super-majorities in both chambers of the Ohio General Assembly: 25-8 in the Senate and 64-35 in the House.
Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said feedback from constituents encouraged him and other GOP Senators to vote for the override.
“Ohioans have persevered through the pandemic of 2020. We heard from thousands of our constituents who fought to protect both the lives of their families and their livelihoods,” said Huffman. “This is why my colleagues and I in the Senate voted to override the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 22. The bill simply gives the people the power to review orders issued by the Ohio Department of Health. More than 30 states have similar laws, and it is time for Ohio to make this change.”
Rep. Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky, explained his reasons for supporting the measure.
“This bill is about our government being of, by, and for the people. About giving voice to Ohioans on the continuation of emergency orders,” McClain posted on his Facebook page Wednesday evening. “However, this bill has never been about covid, it’s about addressing the gaps we have experienced over the last year in which our legislative body has had no meaningful say in our state’s pandemic response. In the future we, all Ohioans, will have better options to forge the path forward. We are all in this together.”
Some Senate Democrats called the override effort “foolish” and encouraged their GOP counterparts to oppose it during debate on Wednesday ahead of the final vote.
“My concern lies in the safety and health and the well-being of the people in Ohio in an emergency when there’s a crisis,” said Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood. “In a crisis, in an emergency, when lives are on the line, there has to be somebody able to make a decision quickly with the authority to do the best that they can believing that what they are doing is in the best interest of the majority of the people they represent.”
After vetoing SB 22 on Tuesday, DeWine released a statement detailing his reasons for doing so. He had previously stated that not vetoing the measure would be “absolutely irresponsible.”
“Senate Bill 22 jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan,” he wrote. “It goes well beyond the issues that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. SB 22 strikes at the heart of local health departments’ ability to move quickly to protect the public from the most serious emergencies Ohio could face. … SB 22 handcuffs Ohio’s ability to confront crises. The emergence of a yet unknown, epidemic illnesses bursting on the scene — just as COVID-19 did — remains a very real threat, as does the risk of state and non-state-sponsored terrorism.”
DeWine was supported in his veto of the measure by officials from three dozen hospitals and other health organizations across Ohio.
Senate Bill 22 will go into effect in 90 days. Huffman said lawmakers will look at which COVID-19 orders are still active at that time and determine if they need to vote to rescind them.