GOP state senators announce bill to end shutdown, curb Dr. Acton’s power

A photo of the Ohio Statehouse from Wikimedia Commons.

A pair of Republican state senators have proposed their own bill to get Ohio reopened and curb the executive power of the governor and state health director.

The Republican caucus in the Ohio House of Representatives has been active in this effort over the past two weeks, but this marks the first bill coming from the state senate.

The legislation was announced Wednesday afternoon by cosponsors Ohio Sens. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, and Rob McColley, R-Napoleon. It has not yet been formally introduced, but the proposal mirrors earlier legislation proposed from the Ohio House.

State Sen. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson. Photo from Ohio Senate website.

Roegner and McColley say the bill would “immediately end the shutdown of the state.” It would also subject certain health orders from Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton to a vote from legislators. 

It would rescind “any existing order closing state businesses and directing Ohioans to stay at home directly upon passage.”

Retail businesses have already reopened, and restaurant dining rooms can reopen on May 21. The current stay-at-home order is in effect through May 29.

Only certain types of businesses remain closed without a stated reopening date announced, such as gyms and daycare centers. 

“This has gone on long enough. Ohioans came together to flatten the curve of this pandemic and we did it successfully. Now we need to open our state before the damage is irreparable,” Roegner said in the news release.

McColley said the goal is to provide checks and balances on the executive branch by letting legislators vote on certain health orders.

State Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon. Photo from Ohio Senate website.

“Our government was not set up for one branch to have the authority to disrupt the general public’s lives and businesses for this long without some form of check or balance,” he stated in the news release. “The time has come to reflect the will of many Ohioans by restoring balance to our government.”

This is similar to a bill passed by the Ohio House last week, which called for certain health orders to be subjected to review from the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). This committee is made up of 10 legislative members, five each from the Ohio House and Senate.

Under the Roegner-McColley bill, school districts would be able to make their own decisions on hosting in-person graduations on a “case-by-case” basis.

DeWine indicated he would veto such a bill last week if it made it to his desk. That scenario would require either the Senate passing the amended bill passed by the House described above, or both chambers passing this new bill from Roegner and McColley.

The Ohio General Assembly requires a three-fifths majority in both chambers to override a veto.

That would be an easy hurdle to clear for the Senate Republicans, which hold 24 of the 33 seats. The GOP caucus in that chamber could afford to lose several of its members’ votes and still have the necessary 60%.

The House Republicans would have a trickier time. The vote result last week was 58-37, with two Republicans voting no. The caucus would need both those members to reverse their votes or get two Democrats to flip, an unlikely proposition as Democrats have begun campaigning on a theme of defending Dr. Acton.