Ohio lawmakers are proposing more oversight on the governor and the administration’s emergency power to deal with public health crisis like the Covid-19 pandemic.
The package of bills—House Bill 618 (H.B. 618), House Bill 649, House Bill 671, Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1), and Senate Bill 311—would require legislative approval and public testimony before the executive branch can enact any public health orders, restrict the duration of public health orders, and prohibit requiring Ohioans to wear face coverings or masks in public.
The bills would also rescind any currently active public health orders and change them to recommendations.
On May 19, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) lifted his March 22 stay-at-home order, which restricted travel to essential purposes such as grocery shopping and commuting to work. On July 7, DeWine ordered face coverings to be worn in public in counties designated at least a Level Three.
Child care providers and day camps reopened on May 31, and amusement parks, casinos, indoor and outdoor movie theaters, nursing homes, water parks, and zoos reopened to the public throughout June and July.
DeWine issued a public health order on July 7 requiring individuals in seven counties experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks cases to wear face coverings in public for the duration of the elevated risk, but the executive order does not contain language providing for enforcement by government authorities.
‘Epic Abuse of Power’
The pushback against the state’s emergency orders is about fighting tyrants and preserving liberty, says Ohio state Rep. John Becker (R–Cincinnati), sponsor of H.B. 618.
“Nobody ever envisioned such an epic abuse of power that we’ve had, hence the necessity of this legislation to rein in and prevent that abuse of power from happening again, for the purposes of a pandemic,” Becker told Health Care News. “The General Assembly’s not on a witch hunt to solve problems before they occur. The problem’s already occurred. Now we need to step up and solve it.
“What the bill does is reverse all past, present, and future orders of the director of health and the governor on the topic of a pandemic, and it makes them advisory rather than mandatory, unless they are approved by the General Assembly,” said Becker.
Jesse Hathaway (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute.