COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a bill that would cut penalties for violating public health orders related to the COVID-pandemic.
On Thursday, DeWine rejected Senate Bill 55, which would have reduced the penalty for violating a public health order. It included anything from mandating masks to closing polling locations.
“The bill was amended in a way that would make it difficult for local health officials to protect the public’s safety and fight the spread of COVID-19. In the midst of this pandemic, now is not the time to change tactics and impede local health officials’ ability to protect all Ohioans. Our collective goals are always to ensure the safety of the public, guard against the health care system from being overwhelmed, and allowing all Ohio workers and businesses to do what they do best, which is grow our economy. A robust public health system protects us from E-coli and Legionella outbreaks, threats of bioterrorism, or once-in-a-century pandemics. For these reasons, this veto is in the public interest."
The current penalty is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. The bill would have required a warning on the first violation of a health order and a maximum fine of $150 for each subsequent offense, as stated in Section 3707.00 of the vetoed bill.
DeWine said the idea of the original bill is one that he “supports” and “looks forward” signing into law one day.
The bill was originally introduced in 2019 as a way to increase penalties for people who were caught selling drugs near recovery centers.
Read more on the bill here.