COLUMBUS - This week, Republican lawmakers passed a bill that would limit the governor's ability to issue statewide coronavirus orders. The bill has pitted the governor against his own party in the legislature and now the two appear headed for a veto showdown.
Senate Bill 311 passed the Ohio House of Representatives along party lines Thursday. The bill blocks state health officials from ordering a mass quarantine of residents who are not exposed or have not been exposed to a disease. It also allows the General Assembly to rescind quarantine and isolation orders by passing a concurrent resolution. Senate Republican Kristina Roegner of Hudson was one of the bill's primary sponsors.
"Unfortunately, it has become necessary to make this provision even more abundantly clear given the events of the last eight months," says Roegner.
Republican members of the General Assembly have been outspoken during the pandemic about being left out of the governor's decision making process when it comes to mandates. For his part, Governor Mike DeWine said in his Thursday news conference that Senate Bill 311 would put peoples' lives at risk.
"This bill is a disaster," says DeWine.
The bill now heads to his desk.
"I would veto the bill because I would have a moral obligation to do so," DeWine says.
However, Republicans have a supermajority at the Statehouse and could override DeWine's veto.
"Anybody representing their citizens would have a moral obligation to override the governor's veto," says Representative Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wayne County).
Governor DeWine says his hands would also be tied if future outbreaks of other diseases occured and it would take away the state's ability to quickly respond to a crisis. Wiggam and more than three dozen co-sponsors in the House say the governor is being dramatic.
"The governor always goes to a fear-mongering type of reaction and I'm just gonna say it because I think that's how you get things done. That's how you keep people compliant," says Wiggam.
Wiggam also criticized DeWine's handling of the pandemic by placing restrictions on businesses despite acknowledging community spread. He says Senate Bill 311 will put a proper check on his power.
"We would be able to come back to the table in this bill and bring citizens who are screaming at us to the table plus experts, constitutional, legal, scientific, virologists, epidemiologists all to table for a public discussion. I'm not so sure why the governor is afraid of that," Wiggam says.