Representatives from both the Ohio House and Senate chambers voted to override Governor Mike DeWine’s veto on Senate Bill 22, a bill which has been coined by some as unconstitutional and others as an equalizer.
The veto override passed in the Ohio House with a vote of 23-10 and in the Senate with a vote of 62-35 with two representatives abstaining from the vote.
The bill is expected to become law in 90 days if it goes unchallenged.
General Assembly members have clashed with the governor throughout the COVID-19 pandemic over his public health measures designed to help stop the spread of the virus.
Supporters of the bill say that with its passing will come a more even playing field by involving the legislature in public health order decisions. Naysayers argue that it is the job of health departments and not the legislature to make health decisions for Ohioans.
Gov. DeWine has expressed concerns over how the passing of the bill would impact the next health crisis that strikes Ohio, saying during his March 22 press conference that the bill “jeopardizes the safety of Ohioans.”
DeWine sent a five page letter to the general assembly imploring them not to override his veto. In his letter, the governor noted that if the bill became law it could create an “avalanche of lawsuits” by allowing Ohioans to sue over whether state emergency orders could be considered constitutional and could even impact non-COVID related emergency orders such as road closures.
Ohio Senate representatives Bob Peterson (District 17) and Frank Hoagland (District 30) both voted yes to override DeWine’s veto with the latter stating, “Communities in my district were simply not represented in the decisions being made during this public health crisis, and I am proud of the legislature’s firm action to restore the people’s voice to our system of checks and balances.”
Representative Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) commented that the purpose of the bill is not to overturn the current health orders but to instead force the governor to work with the legislature on future health orders.
He stated in regards to his constituents, “I am unable to give them a voice if he (DeWine) has full authority without me having any voice in that process.”
Edwards gave examples of orders he would have preferred to have had a voice in including the previously ordered 10 p.m. curfew and the closing of campgrounds.
“Campgrounds are the definition of social distancing,” explained Edwards. He further explained saying that the legislature wouldn’t have canceled health orders but instead might have left bars and other businesses open but enforced mask wearing to keep patrons safe.
Ohio House representative Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) also voted in the affirmative to override the veto but was not available for comment as of publication time.
During his weekly press conference following the veto override vote, DeWine didn’t express intent to challenge the results, saying when questioned that “Someone might challenge it.”
DeWine continued stating, “My passion in describing to members of the public and the general assembly the problems with this bill did not come from what it will do with me or in all likelihood what its even going to do with this pandemic. My passion comes from my deep concern and belief that this is not the only crisis we will face.”
He ended his discussion of the bill with,”I believe that we move on. It’s time for us to come together.”