The Ohio Statehouse
The Ohio Statehouse

OHIO — Even as Ohio’s businesses and industries reopen under Governor Mike DeWine’s Responsible RestartOhio plan, the Ohio General Assembly is considering a bill striking down orders limiting that process.

Principally sponsored by Senators Robert McColley (R-District 1) and Kristina Roegner (R-District 27), Senate Bill 311 includes language from, and expands on Senate Bill 1, legislation approved by the Ohio House of Representatives earlier this month. As with SB1, SB 311 calls for the creation of a Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) and requires JCARR’s approval on any Ohio Department of Health orders lasting more than 14 days.

In addition, SB 311, if enacted, would immediately rescind portions of ODH Director Dr. Amy Acton’s Stay Healthy and Safe at Home Order issued on April 30. Specifically, the bill calls for the immediate reopening of all business, strikes down Dr. Acton’s Stay at Home order, requires the governor’s signature on all such future orders, and would go into effect immediately — foregoing a standard period of 90 days — under an emergency clause.

“Senate Bill 311 takes the additional steps of opening Ohio now,” a release on the Ohio General Assembly’s website states. “The bill strengthens the language that was adopted by the House by requiring that the governor personally sign any such order restricting the freedom of Ohio businesses and families for purposes of a health emergency.”

The bill further addresses a topic of considerable controversy and concern: commencement ceremonies. The bill discusses the issue at length, rescinding the authority of the governor or any executive agency representative to:

  • prohibit in-person graduations.
  • restrict the number of attendees; graduates, staff, faculty, or guests.
  • limit when or where ceremonies take place.
  • limit the duration of ceremonies.
  • require social distancing protocols in excess of those established by the federal government.

“Our government was not set up for one branch to have the authority to disrupt the general public’s lives and businesses for this long without some form of check or balance. The time has come to reflect the will of many Ohioans by restoring balance to our government,” McColley stated in a release. “It is imperative we reopen our state now to try and limit any further societal damage this virus has caused to our state.

With Ohio legislators standing ready to vote on the bill, McColley acknowledged the action will make more Ohioans susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. In an interview last week, McColley, referencing COVID-19 cases, said, “There will be more. The orders were put in place to flatten the curve. We’ve done that. It’s time to reopen Ohio.”

Putnam County Health Commissioner Kim Rieman was in qualified agreement with the senator.

“I would foresee an increase in COVID-19 cases,” Rieman said. “We are seeing more community spread cases. We fully expected there to be more community spread. It’s hard. Is it because testing has become more available, or is it just here? Is it because things have opened up? We don’t know at this point. These additional cases we’re getting, I just know they’re community spread.”

With that said, Rieman accentuated the need to minimize exposure and reduce the spread through the same techniques recommended since the first days of the coronavirus pandemic: handwashing, social distancing, physical distancing, and the use of face coverings when out in public.