DeWine vetoes 2nd GOP-backed effort to limit health orders

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday vetoed a GOP-backed bill that would limit
Ohio governors’ ability to issue orders during a public health emergency, a move promising a showdown
with members of his party who have vowed to override him.
DeWine made good on his earlier promise to veto the latest iteration of the proposal, marking the second
time in four months the longtime officeholder has shut down attempts by his fellow Republicans to limit
his powers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The executive action came one day after DeWine sent a letter to Rep. Scott Wiggam, of Wooster, pleading
with him and majority Republicans to reach a compromise on the proposal.
The bill "jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan," DeWine said in Tuesday’s veto message. He
added that the legislation "strikes at the heart of local health departments’ ability to move
quickly to protect the public from the most serious emergencies Ohio could face."
The Senate bill in question would allow state lawmakers to rescind public health orders issued by the
governor or the Ohio Department of Health as soon as they take effect, as well as prevent the governor
from reintroducing similar orders for at least 60 days. The bill would also limit state of emergency
orders to a period of 90 days but allow lawmakers to extend them in 60-day increments indefinitely.
The legislation would cripple the state’s ability to address an emerging public health crisis and open up
local health departments to lawsuits by anyone who disagrees with their enforcement actions, DeWine
says.
But Republican lawmakers supporting the bill say it will bring checks and balances back to state
government.
"One branch of government is not meant to have unchecked and unfettered authority over our entire
society for an undefined period of time," bill sponsor Sen. Rob McColley, a Napoleon Republican,
told The Columbus Dispatch. "Really these changes are in response to what we perceived as a
shortcoming in the Ohio code."
Multiple Ohio hospital and health systems, public health departments, and the state’s major associations
of doctors and nurses have all sided with the governor.
Rep. Emilia Sykes of Akron, the top House Democrat, also backed DeWine’s veto. The legislation threatens
Ohio’s ability to respond quickly to coronavirus outbreaks and variants "by slowing our response,
putting more lives at risk and further destabilizing our economy," Sykes said.
On Monday, DeWine said, without providing any details, that he sent House and Senate leadership a
compromise last weekend that would include their concerns for legislative oversight.
Wiggam disputed DeWine’s concerns in a five-page response sent Tuesday. He argued that the governor’s
what-if scenarios were inaccurate and noted that the federal government and not local health boards
would have authority over serious health emergencies such as a disease outbreak that originated in
another country.
"This type of autocratic rule must be checked by the Legislature and should be tested in the courts
because I believe it is not only unacceptable, it is also unconstitutional," Wiggam said.
A Republican override vote could come as soon as Wednesday.
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Farnoush Amiri is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative.
Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to
report on undercovered issues.