Lawmakers override DeWine veto, restriction limitations back on

COLUMBUS — The rift between Gov. Mike DeWine and Republican lawmakers grew wider Wednesday as the Ohio House and Senate made good on a promise to override DeWine’s veto of SB 22. The bill places severe limitations on emergency health orders from the Governor as well as having a similar impact on orders from county health agencies.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said after the vote many other states already have similar laws.

“This is not unusual for states around the country to have requirements for states of emergency that have to be renewed,” Cupp said.

DeWine and other critics had earlier called the bill dangerous because it would limit quick action in response to an emergency. House Minority Leader Rep. Emelia Sykes, R- Akron, in a passionate floor speech Wednesday said supporters of the bill may be great lawyers and business owners but their expertise does not extend to the issue at hand.

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“You are not good at public health. This is not your lane. You need to get out of it because people are going to be harmed by this decision,” Sykes said.

As she spoke, she pointed to the other side of the House chamber, filled with Republican members, most who regularly do not wear a mask while the House is in session, even though it is required of every other workplace in the state and recommended by the Centers for Disease Control in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Supporters of the override include Rep. Jena Powell, R- Arcanum, who said it is a matter of giving people in the state more of a voice in emergency health orders. Powell said the override was not targeting DeWine personally.

“This isn’t about Governor DeWine or whoever would be Governor. It’s about restoring checks and balances to the executive branch and ensuring every voice of every Ohioan to have the ability to have input in the legislative process,” Powell said.

The bill was opposed by county health commissioners in the Miami Valley because they say it handcuffs their ability to deal with local health problems. They favored the Governor’s veto of the bill, but now that the veto has been overridden by the Legislature it will become law this summer unless DeWine seeks to have it overturned by the State Supreme Court. For the last two weeks DeWine has mentioned what he considers are constitutional issues with the bill.

Speaker Cupp, who is a former member of the State Supreme Court, said after the House vote that he has studied the bill in detail, looking for a weakness that would allow a successful constitutional challenge. Cupp said he could not find a constitutional issue that would threaten the bill.