COLUMBUS — As the Ohio economy stays stalled amidst an ever-changing coronavirus (COVID-19) landscape, the Ohio Legislature is taking steps to limit the authority of the Ohio Department of Health and its director, Dr. Amy Acton.

The Ohio House passed two bills on Wednesday, May 6, in an effort to limit the reach and power of orders during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 1 was passed by the 133rd General Assembly with Primary sponsors of the bill being Senator Rob McColley and Senator Kristina Roegner. The bill aims to amend sections in the Ohio Revised Code and to enact certain sections.

The changes will require certain agencies to reduce the amount of rules and regulations the Ohio Department of Health can give. The bill also outlines that prior approval by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review, for the department of health orders, is to be effective for more than 14 days after April 29. The joint committee has the authority to extend orders.

The Joint Committee on Agency Review (JCARR) was established in 1977 by the Ohio General Assembly. The committee is made up of five state representatives and five state senators. Its main focus, according to jcarr.state.ohio.us, is to review proposed fresh, amended and abolished rules from over 100 agencies in order to make sure their rule-making authority is not abused or exceeded.

Senate Bill 1 also addresses the JCARR may have a hand in how the department makes its rules.

Senate Bill 55 also passed, making changes to orders made during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the bill in total aims to amend sections and enact changes to several Ohio Revised Codes. The bill is primarily being sponsored by Senator Theresa Gavarone.

The bill itself mainly addresses enhancing penalties for certain drug trafficking offenses made within the vicinity of a substance addiction service provider. Also, in a few sections, it goes as far as to modify penalties of public health orders related to a pandemic.

The bill also changes the misdemeanor violation for not complying with the governor’s orders to a $100 fine for local health department order violations and $150 for state health department violations.

“Whoever violates any rule adopted or order issued by the director of health or department of health as described in section 3701.352 of the Revised Code that relates to a pandemic shall receive a warning on a first offense and on each subsequent offense shall be fined in an amount not to exceed the maximum amount specified in section 2929.28 of the Revised Code for a minor misdemeanor,” according to Senate Bill 55.

According to revised code 2929.28(2)(a)(iii), the punishment for a minor misdemeanor can be as much as a $150 fine.

 
 
 
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