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Senate Bill 22 Passes in the Ohio Legislature, DeWine Indicates He Will Veto

Last week, after being fast-tracked through the legislature as a priority bill, Senate Bill 22 was passed through the Ohio House with a vote of 57-37. After the Senate concurred with the changes made to the bill in the House with a vote of 25-8, it headed to Governor DeWine’s desk.

As you may recall, SB 22 is the legislature’s reaction to the state’s pandemic response, and would limit the ability of the governor and the health department to issue orders related to the pandemic.

OSMA was the only statewide group that came out in opposition to the bill, having participated in the series of hearings on both SB 22 and its companion bill HB 90. Dr. Andy Thomas, OSMA Councilor, traveled to the Statehouse on multiple occasions to give testimony on OSMA’s behalf and to answer questions from the legislators. He expressed profound concerns from the medical community about this legislation’s impact, saying SB 22 would “only serve to paralyze health experts in their efforts to stop this or future pandemics” and urging elected officials to consider how the bill could put more Ohioans lives at risk as a consequence. We are so appreciative of Dr. Thomas for his willingness to give testimony for OSMA and to take the time to share his concerns and those of his peers on this issue for the past several weeks.

Despite OSMA efforts and Dr. Thomas’s witness testimony in committee hearings, the bill was voted out of committee and sent to the Senate floor for a vote, and then moved quickly through more hearings in the House. OSMA testified in the House hearings as well, but opponents of SB 22 were up against formidable momentum.

Governor DeWine has announced his intention to veto the bill, stating that it would be irresponsible not to do so and also expressing his belief that the bill itself is “unconstitutional.” It remains to be seen if the legislature will override the governor’s forthcoming veto of SB 22, but OSMA expects that it is a possibility. The House’s 57-37 vote on the bill was just 3 votes shy of a veto-proof supermajority. If the veto of SB 22 is overridden by the Legislature, it could be challenged in the courts as Governor DeWine has suggested.

OSMA is watching the proceedings carefully and will keep Ohio physicians updated as the situation evolves.

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