Unhappy with Dr. Amy Acton, GOP-controlled Ohio House moves to limit health director’s power
Gov. Mike DeWine announced a phased-in plan to restart Ohio's economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. Here's what you need to know. Cincinnati Enquirer
飞艇计划app开奖COLUMBUS - Ohio's GOP-controlled House sought to curb the power of Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton in the middle of a health crisis, but Gov. Mike DeWine plans to veto those limits.
On Wednesday, House Republicans approved changes to limit Ohio Department of Health orders to 14 days. Beyond that, state health department officials would need approval from six lawmakers on a 10-member legislative panel.
飞艇计划app开奖GOP lawmakers in the House also want to reduce the penalty for violating a state health order – currently a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. Instead, violators would face a minor misdemeanor and smaller fine.
It's not clear whether either change has enough support in the Republican-controlled Senate to reach DeWine's desk. But if they did, the governor would veto them, a spokesman told The Enquirer.
飞艇计划app开奖"Creating more uncertainty regarding public health and employee safety is the last thing we need as we work to restore consumer confidence in Ohio's economy," DeWine said in a statement.
Lawmakers, such as Green Township's Rep. Bill Seitz, pitched the changes as needed oversight from those closest to the people and an update to an old law, first-passed more than a century ago.
Democrats, such as Hyde Park's Rep. Brigid Kelly, said the changes were last-minute and not well vetted.
飞艇计划app开奖Top House Democrat Rep. Emilia Sykes took the debate a step further, saying in a statement that Ohio's male-dominated Legislature's "fragile egos are hurt that a woman has more power and is more relevant than they are." The changes passed largely along partisan lines.
飞艇计划app开奖"This is disgraceful abuse of power and unnecessary use of government bureaucracy to slow down a process that will always need to be swift," Sykes said.
飞艇计划app开奖Lawmakers in Ohio's GOP-controlled Legislature have been critical of Acton's orders to close businesses and the polls. Some have lashed out against the health director on social media.
飞艇计划app开奖But House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford in Perry County, condemned attacks on the health director and protests held outside Acton's Columbus area home.
飞艇计划app开奖“What happened today wasn’t about Dr. Acton or Gov. DeWine,” Householder said. “It’s about 14 days in an emergency and having some type of legislative oversight so everyone gets to participate and understand what’s going on.”
飞艇计划app开奖Under the proposed changes, the legislative panel called the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review of JCARR would need to approve any order within 14 days or it would end. Three lawmakers from each chamber would need to approve the order.
DeWine and Acton issued the first “stay-at-home” health order March 23 and have since extended it.
飞艇计划app开奖Both of them have said closing businesses, schools and limiting public gatherings have helped flatten the curve and prevented Ohio hospitals from being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. But – some of whom initially supported the statewide closure – are now saying the effects of the coronavirus no longer justify the economic hardships.
飞艇计划app开奖They want a say in how and when the state reopens.
飞艇计划app开奖“This lack of oversight runs counter with the natural balance of the legislative and executive branches,” said Rep. Scott Wiggam, R-Wooster.
Ohio lawmakers aren’t the only state legislators looking to limit the powers of their governors and health directors.
Republicans in Michigan introduced bills in late April that would strip away the powers of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and potentially reverse her latest stay-at-home order.
And Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin have asked their state supreme court to end Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’s authority to keep businesses and schools closed through May.
What happens next?
Ohio Republicans have a majority in both the House and Senate, but those who support the changes passed Wednesday may still find it difficult to implement.
Sen. Jay Hottinger, R-Newark, said lawmakers in that chamber are open to revising Ohio Department of Health's power but "it should be well thought out and thoroughly vetted and not a mere knee jerk reaction."
Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, praised the governor’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, saying it put Ohio’s economy in better position than other Midwest states to quickly rebound.
He cautioned that other leaders might not exercise the same restraint DeWine did by not shutting down churches or gun stores, which Obhof said would violate Constitutional rights.
飞艇计划app开奖“You could very easily see the same statute in someone else’s hands being used to infringe on people’s rights that way,” he said.
Dispatch reporter Rick Rouan contributed to this article.