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New Ohio Bill Removes Penalties For Businesses That Violate COVID Orders

A sign on the door of Lucky Bones, which was forced to re-close.
David Holm
A sign on the door of Lucky Bones, which was forced to re-close after being reported to Franklin County Public Health in the spring.

Ohio lawmakers will look over yet another measure to pull back on Gov. Mike DeWine’s power to issue health orders. A new bill proposed by one of his fellow Republicans would take away penalties slapped on business owners cited for violating coronavirus restrictions.

State Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) says the Ohio legislature has passed laws in recent years to erase criminal records for certain offenders. He thinks the same should happen for businesses that have been cited for breaking COVID-19 regulations. 

“These are business owners that have supposedly violated an order. They haven’t the opportunity before a real judge. So if we are going to expunge records for criminals, we can certainly do it for business owners under these dire circumstances," Merrin says.

Merrin says many business owners have been fined thousands of dollars for violating the state's health requirements, and claims some businesses have closed as a result.

Merrin's bill, HB127, would take away fines levied against the business owners. Merrin says he has support from majority Republicans and claims he'll even get support from the governor. 

But last year, DeWine vetoed a bill that would have lowered penalties for violating health orders. And he has similarly threatened to veto new legislation passed by the Ohio Senate that would curb his authority to issue states of emergency or health orders.

What lingering questions do you have about COVID-19 and Ohio's response? Ask below and WOSU may report the answer for a future story.


Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.