COLUMBUS — A Republican Ohio state representative who tried to have Gov. Mike DeWine arrested for enacting COVID-19 pandemic restrictions officially filed articles of impeachment against the governor.
Republican leaders, however, do not support the move.
State Rep. John Becker, R-Union Township, who also tried to have DeWine arrested in October for his coronavirus response, filed 12 articles of impeachment with the Ohio House. He was joined by state Reps. Candice Keller, R-Middletown, Paul Zeltwagner, R-Mason, and Nino Vitale, R-Urbana.
Becker called the articles an effort to restore the rule of law after DeWine vetoed a bill that would reduce penalties for violating a health order and has said he will veto a bill that gives lawmakers oversight of health orders.
He also accused the governor of meddling in the presidential primary election, abuse of power and placing curfews on certain businesses. Becker said DeWine weaponized the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to bully and harass businesses and the people of Ohio by enforcing a statewide mask mandate.
“Rather than hearing the cries of Ohioans, Governor DeWine continues to stifle those cries by finding more inventive ways to use masks to muffle the voices of the people,” Becker said in a statement.
House Speaker Robert Cupp, R-Lima, agrees there are disagreements over DeWine’s order but believes none rise to the level of impeachment.
“As Speaker Cupp has said previously, there is legitimate debate and disagreement over the scope and breadth of some of the governor’s orders issued through the health department,” Taylor Jach, majority press secretary, said. “However, this imprudent action would escalate important policy disagreements with the governor into a state constitutional crisis. Policy disagreements – even serious policy disagreements – do not rise to the high level of impeachment under our state constitution.”
At a news conference Monday to discuss rising COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths, DeWine called Becker’s action foolish.
“I’d like for them to go in and talk with some nurses, who are frontline nurses, who are dealing with people who are dying. I’d like for them to go talk to some family members – maybe a family that didn’t believe this could happen,” DeWine said. “Now at Christmas, there will be one less person at their table or more. So, at some point this foolishness has got to stop.”
The Ohio House decides on impeachment, while the Senate would hold a trial if articles are passed by the House.
Becker called on Cupp to assign to the House Federalism Committee, which Becker chairs. He wants two hearings in December and a floor vote.
Last month, the General Assembly passed SB 311 that gives the legislature power to end DeWine’s statewide COVID-19 restrictions. It would prohibit a statewide stay-at-home order like the one enacted by in the spring, and give lawmakers the ability by concurrent resolution to end other orders that shutdown businesses.
DeWine has until Friday evening to take action on SB 311.
In August, Becker announced he had drafted 10 articles of impeachment against DeWine, claiming the governor violated Ohio law and the U.S. Constitution. He called for a “massive” public demand for DeWine’s resignation or impeachment, saying only those two things could save “what is left of Ohioans’ confidence in their public officials.”
In October, Becker filed an affidavit as a private citizen in an effort to have DeWine arrested. He alleged 10 charges, including engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity, complicity, terrorism, making terroristic threats, inducing panic, conspiracy, bribery, interfering with civil rights, coercion and patient abuse or neglect.
Ohio Attorney General David Yost tweeted the affidavit absurd and said warrants no expenditure of law enforcement resources.