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UPDATE: Governor says oversight bill “not about me”

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 6:29 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 25, 2021 at 5:27 PM EDT
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTAP) - Governor Mike DeWine says he’s moving on from a battle with the Ohio Legislature that resulted in lawmakers voting Wednesday to override his veto of a bill limiting public health orders.

DeWine Thursday said his opposition to a bill lawmakers said provides more legislative oversight to future health orders wasn’t about him. It was more, he said, about the ability of his successors-and local health departments-to respond to major health emergencies.

He says even lawmakers who supported the measure admitted to him there were problems with it.

”In calls that I’ve made the last few days before the vote,” the governor said at his Thursday COVID-19 briefing, “there are members who told me they were going to vote for the bill, and told me they were going to override my veto, but acknowledged there were real problems connected with the bill.”

Gov. DeWine says more than 500,000 new vaccine doses will be available next week, with most of them being the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

And in addition to the mass vaccination sites already open, mobile sites-one of them in Washington County-will be open on certain dates in April. Those mobile sites will be offered in partnership with Ohio University.

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UPDATE: 3/24/2021 5:00 P.M.

GOP lawmakers have made good on their promise to check the authority of fellow Republican Gov. Mike DeWine by issuing the first override of his term after a yearlong battle over how the state should respond during a health emergency. T

he Republican-controlled House and Senate voted Wednesday after short debates in each chamber to reject DeWine’s veto of legislation restricting the state including local health departments’ ability to respond to emergencies such as the coronavirus pandemic.

Matt Huffman, a Lima Republican, is Senate president. He says the legislation simply gives lawmakers the power to review orders issued by the Ohio Department of Health.

UPDATE 3-23/21 5:45 P.M.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WTAP) - Gov. Mike DeWine veto legislation Tuesday that he said would jeopardize the health of Ohioans during health emergencies like the pandemic.

“Senate Bill 22 jeopardizes the safety of every Ohioan,” DeWine said in a news release. “It goes well beyond the issues that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. (It) strikes at the heart of local health departments’ ability to move quickly to protect the public from the most serious emergencies Ohio could face.”

Legislative leaders have said they have enough votes to override the governor’s veto.

Senate Bill 22 would place limits on executive orders issued by the state’s governor and give lawmakers more control over how long they would be allowed to remain in effect. The bill was prompted by several health orders issued during the pandemic, including one for a statewide mask mandate.

It would also keep state and local health departments from requiring someone to quarantine or isolate “unless there has been a specific medical diagnosis of that person or unless that person has come in direct contact with someone who has been “medically diagnosed,” DeWine said in his veto message.

In his veto, DeWine cited an incident in early 2020 before the official start of the pandemic that involved two Miami University students who returned to campus after visiting Wuhan, China.

At that time, coronavirus tests did not exist in Ohio, meaning the students had to be tested and those tests then sent to he U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While awaiting the test results, which were not returned for more than five days, the Butler County Health Department asked the students to self-quarantine, which they did.

Under Senate Bill 22, had the students refused, health officials would not have had the authority to require them to quarantine before they were medically diagnosed and they could have infected other students and local residents.

“The Butler County Health Department and ODH would have been helpless to stop this spread,” DeWine said in his veto message said. “Without immediate access to testing results, it might be impossible to medically diagnose a person, especially someone who is asymptomatic. Such a situation could certainly happen again with a future novel virus.”

ORIGINAL STORY: 3/22/21

COLUMBUS, Ohio-(WTAP) - Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine predicts a chaotic future for the state in a letter pleading with fellow Republican lawmakers to compromise on a health bill that would handicap the state’s ability to issue any orders during an emergency.

The governor Monday sent a letter to Ohio legislators saying enacting Senate Bill 22 hampers the ability of any governor to protect Ohioans.

If he vetoes the measure, as expected, Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate say there are the votes to override that veto.

The governor, in his Monday COVID-19 briefing, noted it allows the legislature to rescind even general orders issued in a public health emergency.

“Think of a situation where there’s an EColi breakout, and it’s traced to a supplier in regard to romaine lettuce,” DeWine told reporters. “The order that would go out normally says anyone who has bought that romaine lettuce needs to do certain things; any restaurant, any grocery store. That would be a general order and that type of order would be suspect under this bill.”

The governor’s orders, issued at the start of the pandemic in March, 2020, kept some businesses open while closing others deemed “non-essential”.

An often-cited example were several “big-box” stores, such as WalMart, Target, Home Depot and Menard’s.

WalMart, for instance, sells a variety of merchandise, particularly groceries, and was determined to be an essential business, as would grocery store chains such as Kroger and Giant Eagle.

Smaller, independently-owned stores, which sold specific merchandise, not deemed essential, had to close. Most were closed throughout the spring, and some never reopened.

That’s been a concern for lawmakers who have supported the measure, including 94th District Representative Jay Edwards, who serves Washington, Athens and Meigs Counties.

“I don’t blame the governor, he was put in a tough spot,” says Edwards, a Republican. “But at the same time, we have to look to the future and what we’re going to do moving forward. I think this bill is a healthy balance to allow legislative oversight; to allow people I represent to have a seat at the table when it comes to some of these orders.”

In West Virginia, a bill giving the legislature the right to rescind certain executive orders was passed by the House of Delegates earlier in the legislative session, which ends in early April.

It, too, was aimed at orders issued by Governor Jim Justice which closed a number of businesses between March and May. It could allow legislators to lift those orders after a certain amount of time passes.

The bill is still pending in the Senate.

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