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DeWine's First Veto Could Sink Bill To Limit Public Health Orders

Gov. Mike DeWine, center, speaks between Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, left, and Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder during the Ohio State of the State address at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Paul Vernon
Associated Press

A potential showdown is coming between state lawmakers and Gov. Mike DeWine, over a bill passed last month that hits at the power and reach of public health orders issued during the pandemic.

DeWine said he’ll veto a bill that started out as a measure to increase penalties for drug trafficking near rehab facilities.

Lawmakers tacked on a provision to reduce fines and prohibit jail and criminal convictions for violating state or local health departments' orders.

DeWine said the bill can’t become law as it is.

“It would be a tragic mistake. And I'm not going to let it happen for us to give up the opportunity to try to keep Ohioans safe," the governor said.

Some lawmakers have been critical of DeWine's orders, one calling former Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton "a dictator."

House Speaker Larry Householder also blasted DeWine when he unveiled his plans to reopen Ohio businesses starting in early May, saying his GOP caucus felt "disrespected that their opinions have been largely disregarded by the Administration.”

There were enough Republican and Democratic votes for the bill to override a veto in the House, but not in the Senate.

It would be DeWine’s first veto, beyond the 25 items he struck from the budget last year.

There are other proposals to that hit at DeWine's COVID-19 response and orders.

The House had passed a bill to require lawmakers vote to extend public health orders after 14 days, but the Senate rejected it.

The Senate also rejected a House-passed plan to require written permission for contact tracing, but passed a bill that would allow for verbal permission that the House has yet to agree to.

The House has also passed a measure that its sponsor said would require the state and local health departments to change the types of coronavirus data they collect.

There have been previous battles between lawmakers and the governor. State legislators pushed back against Gov. John Kasich's expansion of Medicaid with an attempt to freeze enrollment. Former Speaker Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) said "it’s about exercising the checks and balances that the government has."

Kasich vetoed the Medicaid enrollment freeze. Republicans overrode several of his vetoes, but not that one.