COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican lawmakers on Wednesday advanced the latest legislative action aimed at limiting the emergency powers of Ohio’s governor.
A Senate bill introduced last month by lawmakers would establish “checks and balances” on fellow GOP Gov. Mike DeWine’s ability to issue and keep in place executive action during an emergency.
The bill would create a committee that would have to power to rescind executive actions taken by a governor or the state health department through a concurrent resolution, which requires a simple majority from the House and Senate. The latest draft of the bill was altered Wednesday during a Senate committee on oversight to reduce the number of lawmakers making the final say on orders in the committee from 10 to 6.
Proponents of the bill believe DeWine and the state health department have issued orders that have remained enacted for longer than necessary and, as a result, have unduly damaged small businesses and the state’s economy.
When questioned by Democratic Sen. Cecil Thomas if the middle of a deadly pandemic is the right time to put this committee together, Sen. Kristina Roegner argued it should have been much earlier.
“My answer is a good time would have been 10 months ago,” Roegner, a Republican from Hudson and committee chair, said. “I think we’re a little late but better late than never.”
“The people of the state of Ohio have voted for us to be their voice,” she added later.
Opponents of the bill warned it would decentralize the state’s response during an emergency and cost lives in the process.
“This is not a good time to limit the authority of the state health director,” Democratic Sen. Hearcel Craig said during the hearing. “We are unsure of the deleterious impact that our interventions might have on the ongoing war against COVID-19, including the potential variants.”
The senator’s comments mirrored those made by DeWine during a briefing Tuesday, where he once again indicated his disdain for efforts made by fellow GOP lawmakers to pass such legislation.
“We’re not out of this yet,” he said. “We cannot declare victory.”
DeWine, who vetoed a similar Senate bill in December, called the legislative action unconstitutional and “a grave mistake.”
He added, “I made it very clear to my friends in the Legislature that if this bill would be passed, I would have no choice as governor of the state but to veto.”