COLUMBUS -- Ohio lawmakers voted Wednesday to override Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of SB 22, giving legislators a voice for the first time in health orders issued by the executive branch.
"It absolutely does ... it gets the legislature to the table if we feel like we need to be," Sen. Mark Romanchuk said after the Senate and the House both rejected the governor's Tuesday veto of SB 22.
Barring a legal challenge, SB 22 will become law in 90 days, give the Ohio General Assembly its first opportunity to intervene in DeWine's orders since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the state a year ago.
The governor has said he hopes statewide health orders will be rescinded by that time, given the decline in coronavirus cases and the ramping up of the vaccine program. As of Wednesday, one-fourth of the state's residents have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The bill allows lawmakers to vote on limiting states of emergency, rescind health orders, and limit what local health boards can do. The bill originally passed along party lines -- 25 to 8 in the Senate and 57 to 38 in the House.
"It doesn't require the legislature to act (when the governor issues health orders or declares a health emergency). If the governor issues an emergency, (lawmakers) don't have to do anything. We just now have the option," said Romanchuk, a Republican from Ontario, whose district includes Richland, Ashland and Medina counties.
The Senate voted 23-10 to override the veto and the House followed with its own override vote, 62-35. Overriding the DeWine veto required 20 votes in the Senate and 60 in the House.
Romanchuk voted to override the veto in the Senate, as did state Rep. Marilyn John in the House.
“Our state government is supposed to be three co-equal branches implemented through checks and balances on one another,” John said in a statement.
“After over a year of mandated health orders and shutdowns, it's time that you the people, my constituency, have more of a say on the orders being enacted - Senate Bill 22 will change that and I am proud to have supported it. I want to ensure that your voice is represented, and Senate Bill 22 helps me as a legislator make that a reality," said John, who represents Richland County in the House.
In his veto, the governor said he thinks the bill is unconstitutional and risks the safety of Ohioans in the future.
"It goes well beyond the issues that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. SB 22 strikes at the heart of local health departments’ ability to move quickly to protect the public from the most serious emergencies Ohio could face," DeWine said.
The governor said he received letters from multiple health departments and hospitals urging him to veto the bill.
Romanchuk, who said there are two physicians in the Senate who voted in favor of the override, said lawmakers can return to the bill to fix unintended consequences that may arise from it.
"We just have a difference of opinion on what the bill does and what the legality is," Romanchuk said. "It would not be unusual if there was something in the bill that the legislature would need to come back in fix.
"That's not an usual thing in this line of business. That's why it's called the Ohio Revised Code. It's always being revised. This is not an amendment to our Constitution, it's the revised code," Romanchuk said.
Democrats in the General Assembly called the veto override "dangerous for Ohioans," creating the odd situation where Democratic lawmakers supported a Republican governor while his own party opposed him.
After the vote, DeWine's office said the governor remains "focused every single day on doing all he can to ensure every Ohioan who wants a COVID vaccine can get one in the coming weeks, which is truly what will help Ohio put this pandemic behind us."
Romanchuk said if health orders remain in place when the bill becomes law, that "it's quite likely there are some members who will introduce resolutions to address some of the orders and the health emergency."
"We will have to see how that plays out," he said. "(Lawmakers) would take everyone's opinions and positions into account. The medical community is not all aligned on this matter."