Dr. Amy Acton and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine have been praised for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic in part because their decisions were made quickly and free of politics.
Does anyone believe the often political Ohio Legislature is capable of doing the same?
On the same token, is it in the best interest of the public for one person — a health director — to have the absolute power to close businesses, shut down schools, order people to stay at home and call off an election?
Those two questions are in play as the confrontation among Republican lawmakers and their fellow Republican governor continues to sizzle in regards to the shutdown and reopening of the state’s economy.
A House amendment to Senate Bill 1 that passed last week would restrict future mandatory closure and stay-at-home orders issued by the health department to 14 days. After that, the orders would need approval from a bipartisan 10-member Senate-House panel. It would require three “yes” votes from each chamber’s five members to extend.
Although the amendment fell two votes short of the required 60 votes needed to override a promised veto by DeWine, it was a step in the right direction. We believe one person shouldn’t be making decisions for the state without the checks and balances offered by legislative oversight. However, turning the decision over to a committee after just 14 days is too soon.
We question not only what kind of data would be available in such a short time span, but we also have concerns about a lawmaker’s ability to digest complex information quickly and arrive at a consensus. To underscore that point, we need only point to the Ohio House and Senate’s inability for months to come to an agreement on school vouchers.
What is the right time limit – 30 days, 45 days, two months? That’s open for debate.
Each of the four local state representatives, all Republicans — Bob Cupp of Lima, Jon Cross of Kenton, Susan Manchester of Waynesfield and Craig Riedel of Defiance — voted in favor in favor of the measure, which passed 58-37 almost on party lines.
DeWine blasted their vote. The GOP-controlled Ohio Senate also did not jump to act on the House bill, saying that significant policy changes require the proper vetting and hearings.
That makes sense.
So does House Speaker Larry Householder’s belief that it is a discussion that needs to happen.
“It sounds like the governor is trying to get things going here by the middle of the month,” Householder said. “We applaud that. What we were really trying to do is look to the future. There’s been talk of a second wave. Who knows what the future holds for all of us.”