COLUMBUS – As coronavirus cases rise again in Ohio, a bill has reached Gov. Mike DeWine’s office that would ensure the state government cannot again order a business shutdown for a health emergency while allowing a competitor deemed “essential” to keep its doors open.
âAll businesses are deemed essential with this billâ¦â said Rep. Jon Cross (R., Kenton), who sponsored Bill 215 along with Rep. Shane Wilkin (R., Hillsboro).
âWe can’t pick the winners and the losers,â Cross said. âAll businesses are essential. All employees are essential.
The Ohio Senate recently voted unanimously to send the bill to DeWine’s office. Spokesman Dan Tierney said he would sign it.
House Bill 215 passed the House by a 77-17 vote in May and is a rare example of strong bipartisan support for a measure designed to reduce the future powers of a governor and his administration during of a health emergency such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The bill is supported by business groups like the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants.
In future emergencies, the so-called “Business Fairness Act” would allow a business to remain open as long as it uses the same safety precautions to protect its workers and customers as those used by a competitor who has been deemed “essential. And was cleared to continue operating.
It targets government decisions to shut down small specialty stores while allowing competing big box stores like Walmart to stay open, as they also sell food, supplies or other “essential” items that Ohioans have. needed during a health emergency.
A similar bill passed the House in the last session, but went nowhere in the Senate after DeWine raised objections. Democrats have generally defended the powers of the Republican governor during a health emergency, opposing other GOP-backed bills that allow lawmakers to overturn or revise such orders.
But, with the economic shutdown now in the rearview mirror, many in the minority have broken with the governor over it.
The companies argued that much more is now known about how to prevent the spread of the virus than when the economic shutdown was ordered in March 2020, and that personal protective equipment such as face masks that were once rare are now widely available.
Ohio residents also have access to several vaccines that have been shown to be effective in preventing serious illness. Most of the new hospitalizations and deaths these days are among the unvaccinated.
âI’m glad we did,â Cross said. “It’s about the future, making sure we send a strong message that if you start a business here in Ohio, they and their employees can understand that they will stay open and have their jobs. . It’s a good economic message to send.
“Businesses are making decisions about where they want to grow, and I think that’s a good economic development message,” that regardless of a pandemic, Ohio will remain open for business, “he said. he declared.
DeWine has shown no desire to re-impose a lockdown on businesses and other activities despite subsequent increases in coronavirus infections that eclipsed the wave that led to his first order.
State Health Director Dr Bruce Vanderhoff has warned that Ohio may already be in the early stages of a new delta variant outbreak, as infection rates have risen in recent weeks before the holiday season and winter months.