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Ohio Senate rejects House bill to limit state Health Director Dr. Amy Acton’s power

Tyler Buchanan, Ohio Capital Journal

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The Ohio Senate unanimously voted against an amended bill on Wednesday that would subject some orders from the state health director to a legislative review.

Republicans in the Ohio House of Representatives have defended the bill as allowing for checks and balances between branches of government.

Senators of both parties offered numerous reasons for voting against the bill on Wednesday, with some saying it needs further consideration and others saying they disagree with it altogether.

With the House having voted for amended Senate Bill 1 but the Senate voting against, it now heads to a “conference committee” made up of members from both chambers to work out the disagreements.

It’s unclear how successful those negotiations may be.

Not a single Democrat in either chamber voted for amended SB1.

Some Republicans in the Senate are instead eyeing health department reforms through their own piece of legislation.

What led to Wednesday’s vote

This dispute began in late April, when Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder issued a critical statement against Gov. Mike DeWine. Householder claimed the governor was not listening to proposals from the legislature, and said lawmakers feel “disrespected that their opinions have been largely disregarded by the (DeWine) Administration.”

Legislators worked from home through all of April, but sought to make their voices heard upon reconvening in early May. A House committee swiftly added amendments to Senate Bill 1, which had previously been dormant for over 10 months. A new provision stated that orders from the Ohio Department of Health director lasting beyond 14 days would be subjected to a legislative review.

The committee heard no testimony about the changes before a Republican majority voted to send the amended bill to the House floor. A few hours later, Speaker Householder put the bill to a chamber-wide vote.

The result was a near party-line vote: 58 out of 60 Republicans voted in favor, while 0 out of 38 Democrats did.

This sent the amended bill back to the Senate, which took no action for two weeks until Wednesday’s vote.

This story is being updated.

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