Ohio lawmakers override DeWine's veto of health order bill, meaning health orders could be rescinded

Posted at 6:16 PM, Mar 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-24 23:32:23-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio House and Senate today voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine's recent veto of Senate Bill 22, which would give the General Assembly the power to rescind any of the governor’s or health department’s health orders.

Now that the bill has passed, beginning in 90 days the legislature can vote to immediately rescind any of the governor’s health orders and prevent him from reissuing them for 60 days. Any emergency declarations would be limited to 90 days unless the general assembly voted to extend the declaration.

The override passed the Senate with a 23-10 vote and in the House with a 62-35 vote. No Democrats voted for the override in either chamber, but two Republicans in the Senate and one in the House joined opposing Democrats.

The bill would also prevent local health departments from quarantining or isolating individuals who are not sick or have not been exposed to an illness. DeWine drew issue to this provision in his Tuesday night veto message.

“Senate Bill 22 jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan," DeWine said. "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."

Meanwhile, supporters of the bill, like sponsor Sen. Rob McColley, argued that the bill restores checks and balances to the state government and gives the legislative branch much-needed oversight on the governor’s orders.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to stand up for the legislative branch," McColley said. "It’s time for us to reassert ourselves as a separate and co-equal branch of government, here in the state of Ohio."

A new legislative committee dedicated to overseeing state health orders would be established as a part of this bill. This committee would advise both the governor and the legislature on health orders.

Democrats in both chambers universally opposed the override and urged their colleagues to do the same. One of their primary concerns was that the legislature is not equipped or qualified to deal with matters of public health.

“I do know very clearly that the lane the legislature is in should not be in the business of public health," House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes said. "I can tell you that just by sitting in this room looking at how little social distancing is occurring, looking at how few members are wearing masks, even though those are the requirements from the CDC.”

Also included in the bill is a provision that allows Ohioans to sue the state government for damages related to health orders, and it requires the state to pay for attorney fees and court costs of any person who successfully challenges an order in court. Ohioans can now start these civil suits in their home counties and do not have to travel to Columbus, where the state government resides.

SB 22 will likely face court challenges in the coming months after the Ohio Legislative Services Commission found in February that the bill is possibly unconstitutional.