Republicans and Democrats in the Ohio House have overwhelmingly approved a bill that seeks to limit Gov. Mike DeWine’s authority to shut down businesses statewide in future health orders. But DeWine says he'll veto it.
The bill, HB 621, would designated all businesses, no matter the size, as essential, and allow them to stay open if they’re following safety protocols.
It aims to stop a statewide shutdown like the one issued by the Ohio Department of Health in March, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was designed to keep people at home and not interacting with others with certain exceptions.
On the House floor, state Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) took on the criticism that the bill was being rushed through on the first vote of the lame duck session.
“We have had nine months," Cross said, saying his bill was introduced in May. "How much longer do we need to figure this out? Ohio is done waiting."
But state Rep. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) fired back that the pandemic is constantly changing, and that she wanted time to confer again with constituents after nearly a month of record new cases and hospitalizations.
“And I would have appreciated the opportunity to give them that breathing room,” Boggs said.
A provision to pass the bill as emergency legislation failed, but the measure was approved on the floor 75-11.
Not long afterward, DeWine was holding his fifth press conference of the day as he toured Ohio cities to talk about his 10 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew. He promised to veto the bill, calling it “horribly misguided.”
“This is a direct attack on public health," DeWine said. "It’s a direct attack on the safety of the people of the state of Ohio. It’s very sad. It’s very, very sad."
The bill passed with more than a veto-proof majority. It takes 60 votes to override a veto in the House and 20 in the Senate, where the bill now goes.
Lawmakers have introduced several measures to limit the power of DeWine and his health director, including a bill to cancel the COVID-19 state of emergency – which remains in place – and to require lawmakers to vote to extend orders after 14 days.
DeWine said he would veto any bill that limits his power on health orders, and he’s already vetoed one that would lower penalties for violating health orders.
He did sign one law that bans any state shutdown of houses of worship, which hasn't happened in Ohio. That law also prohibits the canceling of an election – polling places were closed just hours before the primary election in March, but legislators extended absentee voting until April 28, so the election was never "canceled."