Ohio House passes bills limiting health department orders

Coronavirus

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio House of Representatives passed two bills Wednesday limiting orders issued by the Director of the Ohio Department of Health.

The House approved Senate Bill 1. This bill would require all orders issued by the Department of Health on or after April 29, 2020 to last no longer than 14 days. The exception is if the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review approves extensions of those orders.

“What happened today wasn’t about Dr. Acton or about Governor DeWine,” said House Speaker Larry Householder. “It’s about 14 days in an emergency and having some type of legislative oversight so everyone gets to participate and know what’s going on.”

The bill would also prohibit any future order by the Director of Health to be in effect for more than 14 days. The Director could request an extension from the joint committee.

“There are good people in this room but they are not the best, the members of JCARR are not the best and I know I want the best for my community,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes.

Senate President Larry Obhof said on Wednesday the Senate will need to look at any bill that comes their way from the House but did not say if he would support these changes. 

Senate Bill 55 also passed the Ohio House Wednesday, which creates tougher penalties for certain drug crimes near a drug treatment facility.

That bill included a last-minute House amendment decriminalizing health department orders as they relate to the pandemic. It proposes a $100 civil fine for local health department order violations and $150 for state health department order violations.

A health department order violation is currently a criminal misdemeanor.

Governor DeWine issued the following statement on the amendments:

My administration is focused on the important things we need to do to help businesses responsibly reopen while protecting Ohioans’ health and safety. This week alone, this included increasing coronavirus testing and tracing, balancing Ohio’s budget, and working on plans to move Ohio’s economy forward. Ohioans need their legislators focused on these important issues. Creating more uncertainty regarding public health and employee safety is the last thing we need as we work to restore consumer confidence in Ohio’s economy.

SB55 and SB1 now go back to the Senate for approval of the changes.

A representative from Governor Mike DeWine’s office confirmed the governor will veto this bill if it comes to his desk.

There would need to be a super majority in both the House and the Senate to override a potential veto from Gov. DeWine. A super majority requires 66 votes in the House and 23 votes in the Senate, which means all 61 Republicans and an additional 5 Democrats would have to vote to override the veto. All House Democrats voted against SB 1.

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