Lawmaker Introduces Bill To Limit State's Power Through Public Health Orders

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Manufacturing, construction and distribution companies can reopen on Monday, with employees wearing masks and observing cleaning and social distancing rules.

State lawmakers are also coming back to work this week, and one has proposed a bill to open the state immediately while shutting down the authority of the governor and his health director.

This weekend, the state confirmed 957 confirmed deaths, 18 reported on Saturday and 17 on Sunday, totaling 35 new confirmed deaths. The state reported a cumulative total of 1,038 deaths on Sunday, with 19,094 confirmed cases of COVID-19 based on limited testing availabilty.

Conservative Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township near Cincinnati) said the bill that he's proposing would strip power that he claims Gov. Mike DeWine is abusing and would require lawmakers’ approval to make public health orders mandatory.

Becker said he understood the initial intent of the orders was to make sure the health care system wasn’t overwhelmed with COVID-19.

“That made sense to me," Becker said. "Now, without regard to that, does the governor have the authority to suspend civil liberties, violate the constitution, both federal, state and the Ohio Revised Code? Well, the answer is no to all of that," Becker said.

DeWine has maintained the stay-at-home order for all but essential businesses and the shutdowns of bars and restaurants, hair salons and barbershops and entertainment venues such as bowling alleys and movie theatres are necessary for social distancing to prevent a spike in COVID-19 cases. He also has said following those orders has dramatically lowered the numbers that were initially forecast in the state's earliest model.

Becker said he doesn’t blame Ohio Department of Health Dr. Amy Acton, but that his bill would give lawmakers a say in the orders that she’s signing.

"Assuming the leadership would want to support it, which I don't see happening, then these things could be fast- tracked through," Becker said. "My constituents, there are voices across Ohio are demanding that we get Ohio back to work and to stop the madness and the General Assembly needs to do something. Well, as a legislator, there's one thing I can do and that's write a bill."

Becker has three conservative Republicans signed on to cosponsor his bill, Reps. Candice Keller (R-Middletown), Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) and Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario).

But he doesn’t expect it to get far, though Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) has said he’s had concerns about small businesses being ordered to shut down while big businesses have stayed open. Becker said he hasn't talked to Householder about the bill.