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Ohio governor vetoes bill intended to limit authority

Published: Dec. 3, 2020 at 4:33 PM EST
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COLUMBUS, Ohio- (WTAP) - Ohio’s governor has vetoed a bill legislators approved in November, limiting the authority of state leaders to issue orders during emergencies.

Governor Mike DeWine earlier said he would veto Senate Bill 311, saying that while it was “well-intentioned”, it would make it difficult for state leaders to react quickly to emergencies ranging from pandemics to terrorist threats.

Supporters say the bill clarifies separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of state government.

Lawmakers and a number of citizens criticized the governor and state health officials for issuing orders that closed several businesses earlier this year at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, saying several of them, notably small businesses, were closed in smaller counties where case numbers were small or, in some cases, not yet reported.

In a statement accompanying the veto, DeWine cited support for his action from health care professionals and business leaders.

Meanwhile, Ohio is at the 15% infection rate for the coronavirus for the first time since the early weeks of the pandemic last spring.

Hospital representatives who joined DeWine’s briefing Thursday said currently, one out of every two patients in rural Ohio hospitals are suffering from COVID-19.

Some hospitals, they say, are postponing non-emergency surgeries to handle the increased number of patients since the beginning of November. And they say the situation is getting worse.

”Right now, our hospitals are being stressed to the extreme,” said Dr. Nora Colburn, infectious diseases specialist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, “and we haven’t even seen the fallout from infections that occurred over Thanksgiving.”

“Rising above 15% is like being in a tornado,” noted Bruce Vanderhoff, the state’s chief medical officer. “Ohio is in a tornado.”

The latest county alert map shows additional counties in the highest level, which in Ohio is “purple”.

Most other counties, except for a few in Southeast Ohio, including Washington and Morgan, are in the slightly lower “red” level.

But Gov. DeWine noted the map, first introduced during the summer, is becoming less relevant, as all of the state’s 88 counties are at the “high incidence” level for spread of the virus during the past two weeks.

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