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Stewart, Johnson Introduce Legislation Supporting County-Owned Hospitals

December 8, 2021
Mark Johnson News

COLUMBUS—State Representatives Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) and Mark Johnson (R-Chillicothe) yesterday provided sponsor testimony on House Bill 405, legislation which clarifies the nature of the appointing authority to the boards of trustees for local county hospitals.

Currently, hospital trustees are appointed by an “appointing authority” comprised of the Board of Commissioners, the senior Common Pleas Court Judge and the Probate Judge. The issue, however, is that there has been debate as to whether each of the elected county commissioners should have their own vote, or whether the board possessed a single, collective vote. 

Shortly after an Ohio Supreme Court case unanimously confirmed that the Board of County Commissioners constitutes individual votes on an appointing authority, an additional controversy arose over whether a senior Common Pleas Court Judge, who also happens to be the Probate Judge, has a single vote, or whether that one individual could somehow constitute 2 votes.

“House Bill 405 would confirm that the ‘one person, one vote’ rule that has been set in America law for so many years remains the law of the land, even with regard to Ohio’s county-owned hospitals,” said Stewart. 

H.B. 405 clarifies explicitly that the appointing authority is comprised of county commissioners each having 1 vote, the senior Common Pleas Judge having 1 vote, and the Probate Judge, if they are separate people, having 1 vote.

“This bill will help reduce conflicts in the administration of county hospitals so that they can continue their important work in the hospital, rather than in a courtroom,” said Johnson.

The committee also adopted an amendment to the bill to include provisions relating to county hospitals in counties that have adopted a charter form of government. The current statutes regarding county hospital appointing authorities are silent regarding how they apply in charter counties. 

Currently, MetroHealth in Cuyahoga County is the only hospital located in a charter county. H.B. 405 would codify the process for making appointments to a hospital board in a charter community by incorporating the involvement of the Cuyahoga County Executive and the Cuyahoga County Council, among other technical fixes. 

The bill now awaits additional hearings in the House State and Local Government Committee.