State Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Paris Twp.) announces the introduction of House Bill 649, which addresses updating provisions relating to pandemic powers that have impacted the state due to COVID-19. Stoltzfus indicated some concerns with how the pandemic powers were utilized.
“Under the Revised Code provision 3701.13, it unconstitutionally confers ‘ultimate authority’ to a single executive officer to make, modify, and abolish policies which carry the enforceable weight of law - without limitations,” said Stoltzfus. “This is an abridgment of Article II, Sec. 26 of the Ohio Constitution.”
The bill would amend the 3701.13 provision and take other steps to give more legislative oversight, specifically, the bill would do the following:
- Prohibit any entity other than the General Assembly from postponing any state or local election (consistent with the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for federal elections).
- Amend RC 3701.13 to remove the concept of unlimited authority for the ODH director while preserving the director’s role to administratively respond to epidemics or pandemics with appropriate legislative oversight.
- Limit the effective time for the ODH director’s order to 30 days under the condition that the General Assembly has taken action (within 5 days from filing) to permit it (in the context of an epidemic or pandemic). This process could be repeated in 30 day intervals.
- Prohibit the seizure of property (e.g. closure of business property) or impairment of private contracts without due process.
- Prohibit the general mandatory quarantine or isolation of people not exposed or medically diagnosed with the epidemic or pandemic disease. This COVID-19 experience is the only time in our nation’s history (dealing with an epidemic) that healthy people have been quarantined or isolated.
- The bill will not require testing or the use of masks, gloves, or other covering without an individual's consent.
- Protect the biometric record in a person’s DNA sequence from being shared with any entity.
“Every legislator has taken the oath to uphold the Ohio Constitution and its time we fulfill our duty and act on this important legislation,” said Stoltzfus.