On Thursday, December 3rd, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine vetoed SB311 which had been passed by the Ohio House and Senate by overwhelming majorities. SB311 is an important piece of legislation that restores a constitutional balance in Ohio’s quarantine laws.
SB311 provides necessary legislative oversight to orders issued by the Ohio Department of Health. It does not restrict ODH from protecting Ohioans in times of health emergencies. SB311 does, however, reestablish the exclusive constitutional authority of the elected General Assembly to hold ODH accountable for its actions.
Since Governor DeWine issued Executive Order #2020-01D on March 9, 2020, there have been more than 75 public health orders issued by the Ohio Department of Health related to COVID-19. These orders have had the effect of stripping healthy Ohioans of fundamental rights to worship freely, to peaceably assemble, and to not be deprived of property without due process of law. These public health orders have also disrupted the general economy of Ohio and the state budget. Such fiscal matters by constitutional mandate belong in the General Assembly which has the exclusive responsibility to pass state laws and the state budget.
SB311 makes 2 specific changes:
1. Prohibits the ODH from issuing a statewide or regional quarantine or isolation order that would apply to people who have not been exposed to a defined medical emergency or medically diagnosed with the disease in question. This prevents the quarantining or isolation of healthy people by the ODH.
2. Specifically permits the General Assembly to rescind any order through the approval of a concurrent resolution of the House and Senate. This restores constitutional oversight required in Article II, Sec. 26 of the Ohio Constitution and gives Ohio a seat at the table regarding health policy via their elected representatives.
Criticisms of SB311 are projected upon false narratives and are refuted by the following:
1. SB311 will not limit the ability of public health officials to respond to future infectious disease outbreaks or potential acts of bioterrorism. It only prohibits statewide or regional quarantining / isolation of healthy or unaffected people.
2. ODH will still be able to impose a quarantine on people traveling to Ohio from a disease hotspot. This type of order has no application to a statewide or regional shutdown.
3. Ohio would be able to quarantine individuals in buildings suspected of coming in contact with a bioterrorism anthrax attack. This has no application to a statewide or regional shutdown.
IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED:
Both the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate will have an opportunity to vote to override the Governor’s veto. When they do so, SB311 becomes law in 90 days and the Ohio General Assembly will once again be involved in making healthcare policy according to the state constitution.
Please contact BOTH your State Representative and State Senator. Ask them to vote YES to override Governor DeWine’s veto of SB311. Find your members here.
Also please contact Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp and Senate President Larry Obhof to encourage them to schedule an override vote on SB311 as quickly as possible.
Ohio House Speaker Bob Cupp: 614-466-9624
Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof: 614-466-7505
This legislative update is provided free of charge by The Ohio Roundtable, a non-profit, non-partisan education and research organization founded in 1980. The preservation of constitutional, representative government is a core commitment of the work of the American Policy Roundtable and The Ohio Roundtable. For more information please contact Melanie Elsey, National Legislative Director, at 1.800.522.VOTE(8683).