House Democrats today voted in opposition to Senate Bill (SB) 22, controversial Republican legislation that would threaten the health and safety of Ohioans by curbing authority from the governor and health director during public health crises. Every Democratic lawmaker voted against the bill.
“We are months, if not weeks away from turning the corner on the virus, but SB 22 threatens to undo all of that. This bill will slow our response, put more lives at risk and further destabilize our economy. If we want to restore Ohio’s promise of health, safety and security and get us moving in the right direction, this isn’t the way to do it. The governor must veto this disastrous bill,” said Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron).
Proponents of SB 22 made a number of false, inaccurate and misleading claims about the virus and the state’s response. Similarly, YouTube pulled down a recording of testimony from a Feb. 17 House committee hearing on House Bill (HB) 90, legislation that mirrors many of the same provisions of SB 22, for violating the site’s terms of service for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
Opponents of both SB 22 and HB 90 include top state public health officials, who said the effort to roll back health orders would slow the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Statehouse researchers also called into question the constitutionality of the effort to strip executive authority from the governor.
“This bill and its House companion are dangerous bills that will only slow our response to the pandemic and put the health and safety of many more Ohioans at risk,” said Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati), the top Democrat on the State and Local Government Committee, which held legislative hearings on SB 22 and HB 90. “Worse yet, Republicans are rushing this through without getting the facts. We heard numerous falsehoods and misinformation from proponents of this bill, and yet, Republicans are still okay with sending this bill to the governor. We can’t base our decisions on misinformation because those fake facts will have an impact on real lives. We’re better than that.”
Democrats offered several amendments to SB 22 during Wednesday’s floor session, including:
· Requiring members of the General Assembly appointed to the Committee be a physician or have public health experience;
· Raising the threshold of votes needed to overturn health orders;
· Removing the severability clause in the bill.
Republicans rejected the amendments along party lines.