Gov. Mike DeWine has vetoed a bill that would give state lawmakers the power to overturn his health and emergency orders. DeWine’s fellow Republicans in the legislature who support it are standing firm, so it’s almost certainly headed to a veto override and a court fight.
In his veto statement, DeWine said he believes the bill is unconstitutional, and raises serious concerns about public health and safety. And he said he thinks the bill opens the General Assembly itself up to lawsuits, which could include damages.
Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wayne County) chairs the House committee that heard the bill. He got a letter from DeWine saying DeWine respects legislative oversight, but the bill is unconstitutional.
Wiggam responded with his own letter, in which he writes: “This type of autocratic rule must be checked by the Legislature and should be tested in the courts”.
“The General Assembly is the only policymaking authority identified by the Ohio Constitution. So you could virtually argue that the governor’s ongoing, year-long orders and rules are actually unconstitutional,” Wiggam said in an interview.
“If we put no limits on the governor, which there are none now, then we're violating our own oath of following the Constitution is what I would argue," Wiggam said. "The Constitution does not grant emergency powers such as the ones claimed by the governor. Those powers are all statutory, given to the governor through the legislation.”
DeWine has proposed a compromise, but Wiggam says it’s largely a non-starter.
Wiggam agrees with DeWine about concerns for future governors and emergencies, but he says the bill ensures citizens will be involved in the decisions they will make.
The Senate is planning to override the veto on Wednesday. It's likely the law could end up in court after that.
This is DeWine's fourth non-budget veto. Last year, he vetoed the bill considered the predecessor to this one, on orders that shut down businesses. It passed last year but no veto override was attempted. He also vetoed a bill that would have reduced penalties for violating health orders.
In January, DeWine also vetoed a bill passed last year that would have lifted COVID restrictions on county fairs, which were canceled in 2020. He said earlier this month that county fairs will happen this year, but with some restrictions such as limited crowds in grandstands.