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House Democrats reject amendment to strip ODH of power during a pandemic

Says GOP-led attack on state health director is a disgraceful abuse of power
May 6, 2020
Democratic Newsroom

COLUMBUS—House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today released a statement following the dangerous and partisan attack on Dr. Amy Acton by House Republicans:  

“Today’s vote to strip the state’s Health Director of power during a global pandemic is an affront to the oath we all took as lawmakers to serve the public good. The Ohio Department of Health has had quarantine and isolation powers since it was established in 1886 and its director has never before needed JCARR oversight – until that director in charge of a pandemic was a woman. A woman who has gained national praise for her prudent and quick response to the coronavirus pandemic and whose decisive actions have saved Ohio lives.

This is what happens when a single party of mostly men are permitted to dominate both chambers of the state’s legislature – their fragile egos are hurt that a woman has more power and is more relevant than they are. They feel ‘disrespected.’ Well, the real people who should really feel disrespected are the people of this state who are struggling – the small business owners, the unemployed, as well as the elderly and black Ohioans disproportionately dying from this virus – whose voices are not being heard by the Ohio House.

Lawmakers were called back to Columbus this week not to discuss paid family leave or to address childcare concerns. We didn’t hear any testimony on bills related to expanding broadband access or protecting workers in the workplace. As everyday Ohioans struggle to pay their overdue bills at the beginning of yet another month in quarantine, we didn’t move quickly to ensure they could stay in their homes or keep their utilities connected. No, Republicans brought us back only to hamstring the state’s health director during a public health crisis.

This is disgraceful abuse of power and unnecessary use of government bureaucracy to slow down a process that will always need to be swift.”

The amendment was attached to Senate Bill 1 in today’s State and Local Government Committee meeting without advance notice or any public testimony and was discharged from committee on a party-line vote, with all Democratic members voting against it.

“During a crisis where time is of the essence, this amendment flies in the face of reason. This entire bill flies in the face of public health. It is bad policy,” said Representative Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati), Ranking Member of the House State and Local Government Committee. “This bill hasn’t had a hearing since June 12. This amendment was provided to the committee just this morning. The process for this bill and its accompanying amendment was last minute. It was not transparent for legislators, the Department of Health or the public whose lives will be most endangered by this change.”

The amended bill now goes to the Senate for a vote.