COLUMBUS, Ohio — During a press briefing on Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced his plans to veto a bill looking to limit the ability of the Ohio Department of Health to issue health orders during crises like the COVID-19, should it pass in the House.
Senate Bill 311 aims to prohibit mandatory, statewide quarantine orders, like the stay at home orders issued across Ohio, for those who “have not been directly exposed to the disease that is the subject of the health order.”
Instead, the bill would allow quarantine orders to apply only to those who are sick or have been directly exposed to the disease. Senate Bill 311 was co-sponsored by Senate President Larry Obhof, who in September said the bill “restores the proper balance between the legislature and the executive branch.”
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.
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 if a president doesn’t issue travel bans for a situation like the COVID-19 pandemic or any future outbreaks, the state of Ohio loses its power to protect citizens by enabling mandatory quarantines for incoming individuals.
The governor also gave the hypothetical of a biological agent deployed by a foreign country, stating the state would need to act immediately to quarantine the area, but would not be able to under Senate Bill 311.
“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,” DeWine said. “This bill is a disaster.”
DeWine said members of the general assembly who created the bill mean well, but when inspected, it is “not a bill that can become law.”
“I have said throughout this pandemic that I would take advice and have been taking advice from medical and health experts. Health experts have told me that this bill cannot become law. They have told me that this bill would be a disaster,” DeWine said. “For that reason, if by chance it would pass, I would veto the bill because I would have a moral obligation to do so.”
DeWine said that he could not object Ohioans to the possibilities the bill would create.