GOP-backed effort to rein in DeWine's pandemic powers passes
By FARNOUSH AMIRI Report for America/Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican lawmakers’ latest in a yearlong attempt to rein in Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s authority to issue public health orders during the pandemic passed Wednesday in the House and faces a likely veto by the governor.
A bill that would allow lawmakers to rescind public health orders issued by the governor or the Ohio Department of Health was fast-tracked out of committee one year to the day from when the coronavirus pandemic began in Ohio and moved onto the House floor where it passed on party lines.
“This body has given the administrative branch of government a lot of power, and it’s time to review that power and it’s time to review it now,” Republican Rep. Scott Wiggam, a supporter of the bill, said before its passing.
Wiggam and the majority of his GOP colleagues have reiterated how the actions that were taken by DeWine and the health department over the past year have been overreaching and detrimental to the freedom of Ohioans.
In recent committee hearings, GOP lawmakers made several changes to the Senate bill that would close loopholes for future governors and local boards of health to issue emergency orders.
One of those changes allows lawmakers to rescind any order or rule issued in response to a state emergency on the day it is declared through a concurrent resolution. This change would encompass any order made by statewide elected officials administrative departments and state agencies.
The most consequential change for DeWine is the barring an executive from reissuing an order or rule for 60 days, an increase from the version of the bill that passed in the Senate, which contained a 30-day window.
Opponents of the bill and previous iterations of it have called it unconstitutional and legislation that could lead to potential loss of life during an emergency in Ohio.
“This bill and its House companion are dangerous bills that will only slow our response to the pandemic and put the health and safety of many more Ohioans at risk,” Rep. Brigid Kelly, a Cincinnati Democrat, said in a statement following the passage.
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.
In the past few weeks, it appeared that the governor and members of his party were making compromises on the bill, but none of them appear to be in the final proposal.
If DeWine follows through with his earlier promise to veto the latest proposal, Republicans need more than just a simple majority to override him. The bill passed with support from 57 Republicans on Wednesday. The House would then need 60 votes to override a governor’s veto.
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.