COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine said he’s willing to work with the General Assembly on Senate Bill 22 on Thursday, which is a different tone from what he said Tuesday.
Senate Bill 22, which passed the Senate on Wednesday, would allow the General Assembly to rescind orders from DeWine or the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The assembly would also be allowed to let any State of Emergency order expire after 30 days.
Another change that would be made is the creation of an Ohio Health Oversight and Advisory committee, which would compose of lawmakers from both the House and Senate to advise the General Assembly on orders issued by the governor or ODH.
“Look, this bill was improved, and I’m grateful it was in fact improved by the General Assembly,” DeWine said. “But we think it has a ways to go, and really, it’s not so much about me. It’s not about me.”
On Tuesday, DeWine said he planned to veto it if it passed the Ohio House, but said with the new amendments, he understands why the General Assembly wants to be involved in more discussions related to future health orders.
But DeWine said he worries what it could mean for future governors.
“What we have to make sure we get right is how a future governor can react to an emergency,” DeWine said. “And we can all dream up our worst-case scenario, but we don’t want to leave the people of the state of Ohio defenseless.”
DeWine said although cases and hospitalizations are decreasing and vaccinations continue to be distributed, his concern are the variants popping up in Ohio and around the nation.
“These new strains, these new variants, are an important signal,” explained Ohio Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff. “They tell us that the virus is becoming more contagious. It’s becoming more efficient.”
On Friday, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Ohio’s first case of the variant initially discovered in the U.K., otherwise known as the B.1.1.7 variant. Vanderhoff said the variants — not only just the variant discovered in the U.K., but also the one discovered in South Africa — have been identified in most states.
Vanderhoff testified against the bill on Feb. 11, saying passing it could set a precedent for future health crises.
“Let’s not take reactive measures that ensure future generations will be ill-prepared to protect the health and safety of Ohioans,” Vanderhoff said.
Dr. Andrew Thomas, the chief clinic officer at the Ohio State University, said passing the bill would pose a danger to Ohioans since the state isn’t “out of the woods” yet with the discovery of variants.
DeWine echoed those statements, saying the variants could pose a great risk, but he will continue to work with the General Assembly on adapting Senate Bill 22.
“As we look to the future, our concern is the variant,” DeWine said. “We don’t know what’s going on with that.”