COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio lawmakers have voted to override Governor Mike DeWine’s veto on Senate Bill 22, which allows lawmakers to rescind public health orders.
SB 22, which was introduced in January, initially passed 25-8 in the Senate and 57-38 in the House on March 10, and was vetoed by Gov. DeWine on Tuesday, March 23.
“Senate Bill 22 jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan,” Gov. DeWine said after vetoing the bill. “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.”
Following Gov. DeWine’s veto, the Senate and House moved quickly Wednesday, March 24, to override, surpassing the three-fifths vote required by both chambers as the Senate voted 23-10, and the House voted 62-35.
The bill, whose primary sponsors include Reps. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), allows the legislature to rescind public health orders, in whole or in part, from the department of health of director of health.
If an order is rescinded, it cannot be reissued, and a “substantially similar order” cannot be issued.
Within 60 days of an order being rescinded, the governor can submit a request to the general assembly to permit the order.
Additionally, the bill establishes a 90-day limit for state of emergencies declared by the governor. After a state of emergency has been declared and has been in effect for 30 days, the general assembly can terminate it by adopting a concurrent resolution, and the governor prohibited from issuing a similar state of emergency for 60 days.
The general assembly can also extend a state of emergency for an additional 60 days by adopting a concurrent resolution.
The bill also creates the Ohio health oversight and advisory committee, which has the power to “oversee actions taken by the governor, department of health, or any other agency during a state of emergency.”
While vetoing the bill, Gov. DeWine said it jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan.
“It goes well beyond the issues that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “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.”
Gov. DeWine’s veto received letters of support from numerous county and state entities including the Ohio State Medical Association, Association of Ohio Health Commissioners and Dayton-Montgomery County Public Health, among others.
In a letter dated Feb. 8 from Preble County Public Health Commissioner Erik Balster to Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) of the Senate Government Reform and Oversight Committee, he voiced his opposition to Senate Bill 22, arguing the bill would add more red tape and restrict the ability of the Director of Health to prevent or respond to future outbreaks.
“While the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major burden on all Ohioans, affecting both the wellbeing of our economy and our health, it is a once-in-a-century pandemic,” Balster’s letter read. “Now is not the time to strip the state health director of any authority that might be necessary now or in the future to quickly limit the spread of a highly pathogenic virus like we saw with the Ebola outbreak in 2014 or the 2009 H1N1 Pandemic. Rather, it is important to now look at the mass vaccination effort taking place in Ohio that is leading us out of this pandemic and back to normal life.”
Balster also showed concern about the Director of Health’s authority in times beyond public health emergencies such as foodborne disease outbreaks, whooping cough, legionnaire’s and Hepatitis A outbreaks.
“Please do not pass a bill that will tie up the Director’s authority in a cumbersome legislative process that includes an oversight committee and concurrent resolutions by both chambers,” he said.
Rep. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria), one of the 40 co-sponsors of the bill, said after the House’s initial vote on March 10 that the legislature represents the will of the people.
“Providing legislative oversight during a state emergency ensures the voices of our constituents and local businesses can be heard,” Creech said.
Ohio House Speaker Bobb Cupp (R-Lima) signed the veto override Wednesday, meaning the bill will go into effect 90 days after it is signed.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles