DeWine to veto bill that shackles health district powers

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — A bill that would limit the powers of health districts will be vetoed, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday.

DeWine used his COVID-19 briefing to address concerns about the bill, which moved onto the House floor Wednesday, where it passed on party lines with DeWine’s fellow Republicans supporting the measure.

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The governor said he’d tried to work with lawmakers through discussion but, “Nothing really came of it,” he said. “I will have to veto the bill. There is no governor that I can think of in Ohio who would have not vetoed this bill.”

DeWine said the bill will eliminate tools that future governors and health departments will need to keep people safe.

Terrorist attacks and international travel from countries with dangerous outbreaks such as Ebola would not be contained correctly if the bill passes, the governor said.

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“This strikes directly at the heart of the ability of public health, local officials to keep the people of the state safe.”

DeWine said the bill is unconstitutional.

“If the bill became law, it would grant the General Assembly the ability to overturn and modify lawful actions of the Executive Branch not by passing a bill, which is the way it should be done … but by passing something called a ‘concurrent resolution.’ That’s not a bill. That’s not a law. … The bill clearly violates the separation of powers.”

He said that someone coming into the U.S. from an Ebola hotspot could mix with society without being made to quarantine first.

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“Let’s say someone comes into the U.S., and we find out they’ve come from an infected area of one of those countries. Do we really want that person mixing with society, possibly sealing the medical fate of hundreds and hundreds of people?” the governor said.

“This bill would say that that local health department could not stop that person from doing that. It could not stop a person coming from a foreign country, an infected area — it makes no sense. Members of the General Assembly did not take this through to the ramifications of their fellow citizens in the future.

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“When the hypothetical becomes real, the local health departments and the governor have to have the ability to move very quickly to save lives. It would be absolutely irresponsible for me to do anything but veto this bill.”

The governor concluded the topic by saying just because we are coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, it doesn’t mean he can let this bill go through.

“I just couldn’t do this. It is about protecting the future of the people of the state of Ohio. To strip away essential power that might be needed in the future to protect and save lives, I cannot accept that,” he said.