COLUMBUS – State lawmakers have approved legislation to improve oversight of state health department orders, State Representative Susan Manchester announced today.
Manchester (R-Waynesfield) spoke in favor of Senate Bill 1 on the Ohio House floor today, noting the sweeping impact COVID-19 and its fallout have had on all Ohioans.
“This legislation ensures the people of Ohio, through their elected representatives, will have a voice and that all perspectives are heard during these important debates,” Manchester said.
At issue is a little-used, century-old state law that grants the state health director sweeping powers to issue orders closing schools, shuttering businesses and disrupting commerce. The plan approved today would make those orders subject to review by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, a 10-member House-Senate panel that reviews state agency rules.
The bill gives the state health director flexibility to respond to emergency health crises, but makes clear that power is not unlimited and not without legislative oversight.
Manchester shared the story of a local family whose two small businesses have been among the thousands of small businesses ordered closed.
“Their voice – and those of thousands of other Ohioans – need to be heard,” Manchester said. “That’s exactly what this legislation is all about.”
Under the measure approved today:
- New health department orders issued under Ohio Revised Code 3701.13 would be effective for up to 14 days, and would require JCARR approval to be extended.
- To extend a health department order, three of five members of JCARR from each chamber would have to vote in favor of the rule.
- The amendment also makes clear that any Ohioan has standing to seek a court order requiring the governor or state health director to comply with the JCARR oversight requirement without having to prove they will be irreparably harmed if the court does not intervene.
- Any state health department orders issued under ORC 3701.13 on or after April 29 cannot be extended without JCARR approval.
- Emergency orders issued by the governor are under the authority of the Ohio Constitution and cannot be superseded by state law.
The legislation would also require state agencies to provide the legislature and public with a complete inventory not only of their regulatory restrictions, but the basis for them, as well as prohibit them from adopting new regulatory restrictions unless they simultaneously remove two or more existing regulatory restrictions.
The measure now goes back to the Ohio Senate for concurrence.