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

May 4, 2020

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, although one has proposed a bill to open the state immediately while shutting down the authority of the governor and his health director.

Conservative state Rep. John Becker (R-Union Township) said his bill 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 - which shut down bars and restaurants, hair salons and barbershops and entertainment venues such as bowling alleys and movie theatres - is 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.

This weekend, the state reported a total of 957 confirmed deaths from COVID-19, with 18 reported on Saturday and 17 on Sunday. The state reported a cumulative total of 19,914 cases of COVID-19 based on limited testing availabilty.

Becker said he doesn’t blame Ohio Department of Health director 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: State Reps. Candice Keller (R-Middletown), Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) and Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario).

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

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