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Gov. DeWine said Senate Bill 311 is a 'disaster,' but proponents say it’s to restore a balance of power to Ohio

Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
Posted at 6:28 AM, Nov 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-20 06:28:19-05

CLEVELAND — Governor Mike DeWine spoke out today against Senate Bill 311, which would limit the authority of the governor and the Ohio Department of Health.

It passed through the statehouse and the senate and will soon be on Governor DeWine’s desk.

Dr. Arthur Lavin, a pediatrician in Northeast Ohio said if signed into law, Senate Bill 311 will cripple the government’s attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“If we take the brakes off the virus, oh my goodness, I can’t imagine how bad this will get,” he said. “Once you get to 10,000 cases a day, you start seeing refrigerator trucks outside of hospitals because there’s not enough space in the morgue, you start seeing people you know and love dying.”

The bill would block state health official's mandatory quarantine orders for people who have not been directly exposed to the virus, something he worries about.

“It’s very hard to know if you have SARS2 if you have no symptoms, and half the people have no symptoms,” he said.

But Northeast Ohio native, Aubrey Phelps, supports the bill. She said first and foremost, it’s about restoring a balance of power to the state.

“I believe very strongly in the division of the branches of government, so I take issue to the idea that someone in the executive branch, that is handing out things, are being carried out as laws without that authority,” she said.

The bill would also allow state lawmakers to rescind the Ohio Department of Health’s orders.

“This bill is not attempting to get rid of the ability to mitigate health crisis, that’s no the point of the bill. The bill is putting that power back to a divided population, as opposed to in one person’s hands,” she said.

Rep. Scott Wiggam (R) of District 1 is a co-sponsor of SB. 311. He said, when it comes to the COVID-19 response, the legislators have been stiff-armed by Dewine.

“If they make other orders, we have the ability to come in, as state legislators, in a transparent matter, take a look at that matter and decide if we want to, with a simple majority, rescind that order,” said Rep. Wiggam. “We want more transparency. We want more experts at the table.”

Though, Gov. DeWine expressed his concern not only for the COVID-19 pandemic he is currently dealing with but for what limitations the bill could put on future leaders of Ohio under other outbreaks moving forward.

“This bill 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,” said DeWine.

The governor gave an example of if a person came to the state from a country dealing with an Ebola outbreak, the state’s health department could not ask them to quarantine until they were certain they had direct exposure to Ebola or had tested positive for it.

“This would be devastating. These people would be free to shop in our stores, be free to eat in our restaurants. They’d be free to go any place in the state of Ohio possibly spreading a deadly disease to unknowing Ohioans,” DeWine said. “Not good.

DeWine said he would veto it and called it a disaster.

But Rep. Wiggam said he is confident they have the votes to override that veto.

“He can say it’s disastrous all he wants. I disagree with him, respectfully, and I’d say the government response, in many ways, has been disastrous to a lot of Ohioan’s lives.”

The Ohio House of Representatives needs 60 votes to override DeWine’s veto, and the State Senate needs 20 votes for an override.