A Republican state lawmaker is proposing legislation that would reopen Ohio “without delay” and revoke the authority used by the DeWine administration in responding to COVID-19.
State Rep. John Becker, R-Union Twp., is wasting no time in preparing for the Ohio House of Representatives to get back to work on Monday. Becker sent out a cosponsor request to colleagues on Friday outlining his plans for a “Need Ohio Working NOW Act.”
“I will soon introduce a bill to reopen society in Ohio without delay,” Becker said in the memorandum to colleagues, a copy of which was obtained by the Capital Journal.
“It’s time to stop the madness and reopen Ohio,” Becker continued. “The bill strips the administration of the power they’ve abused by modifying RC 3701.13 to require approval by the General Assembly.”
The law Becker refers to, 3701.13 of the Ohio Revised Code, is the one cited by Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton in giving them authority to carry out sweeping health orders. The law gives the health department “special or standing orders … for preventing the spread of contagious or infectious diseases.”
Most recently, Acton cited the law in extending the stay-at-home order through May 29.
A number of House Republicans have aired criticism against Acton in recent days. Rep. Bill Seitz, the Majority Floor Leader, said during a recent podcast interview that DeWine is leaning too heavily on Acton’s health advice without sufficient consideration of the economic consequences.
Rep. Paul Zeltwanger, R-Mason, the chairman of the Economic Recovery Task Force, shared a petition on Friday aimed at Acton that highlights the fact that she is an unelected official. Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, referred to Acton on Friday as a “Globalist Health Director.”
“While you were sleeping, UNELECTED Acton declared Ohio closed until May 29th,” Vitale wrote on Facebook. “Now when you go to bed at night, you have NO IDEA what your rights will be when you get up in the morning. Is this America or Amerika?”
House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, wrote a stinging rebuke of DeWine early in the week criticizing the governor for not listening to his members’ concerns. The legislature has been out of session with members working from home due to the coronavirus, but Householder has already announced the chamber will reconvene beginning Monday.
As such, the legislature has been quiet since passing an omnibus bill in late March setting up a new primary absentee ballot system and responding to other coronavirus needs. This proposal from Becker, however, marks the first known legislative attempt to take direct control of the state’s COVID-19 plans. To this point, the decisions have been made by the executive branch under the authority of 3701.13.
“I have heard from hundreds of constituents who believe that their state has resorted to oppressive measures by infringing on their natural rights,” Becker wrote to his colleagues. “This country was founded 233 years ago on the belief that liberty is essential to prosperity. As Ohioans, we must not lose sight of the ideals that formed our nation.”
Becker is serving his final year (due to term limits) representing the 65th District, which includes the northern portion of Clermont County in Southwest Ohio. He had campaigned for Clermont County commissioner, but finished runner-up in the seat’s Republican primary this past week.
The exact bill language will be publicized when it is formally introduced. Becker told House members the bill is headed to the clerk’s office “next week” and that the deadline for co-sponsoring it will be Tuesday morning.
After the initial publication of this story, Becker shared the story to his Facebook page. Another user asked Becker “what level of support” the representative might have for this bill.
“Too much political incest in Ohio,” Becker responded. “Too few willing to stand up to the governor.”
Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.