Fourteen Ohio senators and 41 Ohio representatives, including state Rep. Shane Wilkin of Hillsboro, backed a bill to modify the Ohio Department of Health’s ability to issue and enforce public health orders.
The bill, known as Senate Bill 311 (SB311), modifies the ODH’s ultimate authority to declare, modify and enforce public health orders that relate to quarantine and isolation.
Under the bill, the ODH will no longer have the ability to issue general, mandatory public health orders that enforce quarantines or isolations — statewide or regionally — for individuals who have neither been directly exposed to or medically diagnosed with the disease identified in the public health order.
The bill will also give the Ohio General Assembly the authority to repeal public health orders.
The bill’s primary sponsors, senators Rob McColley (District 1) and Kristina Roegner (District 27), first introduced the bill in early September. On Nov. 19, the Ohio House of Representatives passed SB311 by a vote of 58-30, according to a press release from Wilkin’s office. The Ohio Senate previously passed SB311 by a vote of 20-13.
“I was proud to vote yes on Senate Bill 311 during today’s session,” Wilkin said on Nov. 19. “This legislation puts us one step further to protecting the freedoms of Ohioans if we find ourselves in another statewide emergency.”
Wilkin also sponsored the Business Fairness Act, or House Bill 621 (HB621), under which businesses required to cease or limit operations under public health orders due to “epidemic, threatened epidemic, or unusual prevalence of a dangerous communicable disease” would be able to continue or resume operations so long as they comply with safety precautions.
The bill’s primary sponsors, Wilkin and Rep. Jon Cross (District 83), introduced HB621 to the Ohio House of Representatives on May 7. Ohio representatives passed HB621 on Nov. 18 by a vote of 77-3. Ohio senators will vote on HB621 next.
“It is imperative that we as Ohio’s leaders stand up for the constituents and businesses in our communities,” Wilkin said on Nov. 19. “Senate Bill 311 is similar to House Bill 621, which was passed out of the House yesterday because it protects Ohioans and gives them the freedoms they deserve. Ohioans deserve more bills like this.”
Both SB311 and HB621 will go to Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine next. However, DeWine has stated that he will veto both bills due to “a moral obligation to do so.”
During a Nov. 19 press conference, DeWine stated, “This bill (SB311) would make Ohio slow to respond to a crisis. It would take tools away from this governor or future governors; it would put the lives of Ohioans in jeopardy. This bill is a disaster.”
At the press conference, DeWine also stated that SB311 would strip him and future governors of the ability to instate quarantine and isolation periods for travelers entering the state from foreign hotspots.
DeWine also stated that SB311 would prevent Ohio governors from quickly reacting to events of biological terrorism. However, it is not clear whether DeWine’s suggestion that SB311 would limit Ohio governors’ ability to respond to biological terrorism on military bases such as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is accurate as the bill specifically addresses general, mandatory public health orders that affect a region or the state as a whole.
The House and the Senate need 60 votes and 20 votes, respectively, to override the governor’s veto.
View the full documents detailing both Senate Bill 311 and House Bill 621 at www.legislature.ohio.gov.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.