House Republicans introduce bill targeting Ohio biz mask inspections

State Reps. George Lang, R-West Chester, and Bill Reineke, R-Tiffin

Ohio Republicans have introduced another bill to restrict enforcement of the mask mandate in businesses.

State Reps. Bill Reineke of Tiffin and George Lang of West Chester introduced House Bill 799 to rescind one part of a recent state health order requiring heightened enforcement of mask wearing in businesses. 

Ohioans are required to wear masks while patronizing any business. A new order signed on Nov. 13 authorizes state employees, health officials and law enforcement agencies to inspect businesses to make sure mask wearing and other guidelines are being followed.

Officials can issue warnings for non-compliance and a business can be shut down for 24 hours to “allow dissipation of COVID-19 airborne droplets.”

HB 799 would rescind a portion of the Nov. 13 health order requiring businesses to allow and cooperate with any government inspections.

A sign advertising protective face masks is taped in the window of a coronavirus pop-up store. Photo by Samuel Corum | Getty Images.

Two-dozen Republicans have signed on as bill co-sponsors.

This bill mirrors an effort from the Ohio Senate also targeting that inspection rule.

Neither bill targets the overall mask mandate, which would remain in effect.

These are among numerous bills under consideration in the Ohio Statehouse targeting the authority of the Ohio Department of Health to issue orders to slow the spread of COVID-19. With just a few weeks left in this legislative term, newer proposals like HB 798 would need swift movement this month through committees and the full chambers to reach the governor’s desk. 

Gov. Mike DeWine has vowed to veto any bill restricting the executive branch’s authority to respond to a pandemic. He made good on that promise in vetoing Senate Bill 311 last week, which would prevent ODH from issuing widespread quarantine orders in Ohio. 

Republicans hold supermajorities in both legislative chambers, with enough members to override this veto. 

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