Rep. Thomas E. West (D-Canton) and House Democratic lawmakers Wednesday 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.
“This bill is as dangerous and misguided as the legislation that preceded it last year,” said Rep. West. “Though we are starting to see light at the end of the tunnel, with COVID-19 data trends improving and expanded vaccine eligibility, now is not the time to be undercutting our state’s ability to respond to this pandemic. Beyond this pandemic, SB 22 will damage our state’s ability to respond to future public health threats.”
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.
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.