Virus Outbreak Ohio

Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton holds a mask as she speaks at MetroHealth Medical Center, Feb. 27, in Cleveland.

On Friday, the Williams County Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) hosted a legislative roundtable with Williams County leaders, and both State Sen. Rob McColley and State Rep. Jim Hoops expressed discontent with the ability of a single agency to control extensive and indefinite restrictions on daily life without outside input.

Both expressed a level of dissatisfaction with a lack of legislative input and conversation surrounding Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Director of Health Dr. Amy Acton’s instilling of regulations related to COVID-19 precautions.

A bill now under consideration, Senate Bill 1, co-authored by McColley, seeks to establish a group of legislators, called the Joint Committee on Agency Rule, that would consist of five House members and five members of the Senate to examine procedures for any such shutdowns in the future.

The legislation would cap duration of any such directives to 14 days, with an option for the Ohio director of health to request that the legislature extend its order, through the committee, if public safety was at stake.

More generally, the committee would also work to eliminate agency regulation, by a ratio of two reductions for every one new rule.

SB1 has been vetted in the Senate and House thus far, with McColley championing changes made to his own work by the House.

However, McColley cited what he views as problematic language changes made by the House that he believes has made the bill more difficult for the Senate to pass.

“Let me be clear that I fully support the premise and goals of Senate Bill 1 and I applaud the House for sending the bill to the Senate with the changes therein, which is why yesterday’s decision to send the bill to conference committee was a difficult one,” McColley said in a prepared release. “However, in the past couple weeks I have been made aware of some ambiguous and unclear language that needs fixed in order to avoid unintended consequences.”

Still, he said he remains optimistic.

“It’s certainly not dead, it’s very much alive and I hope we can get something done soon to get some checks and balances on our government,” said McColley, noting other states had similar processes in place. “No one branch of government is meant to have exclusive control over our society, our businesses and our lives.”

McColley acknowledged the severity of the situation and Actons’ expertise and expressing a willingness for legislators to examine all sides of an issue.

“What this bill is about is putting checks and balances in place to make sure the legislative branch has a seat at the table and make sure one branch cannot control business and lives for that long without responsibility to another branch of government,” he said.

When discussing negative impacts of the unilateral decision, he cited potential increases in domestic violence, suicides, reduction in student achievement levels and inability for those with various medical conditions to attend to them.

Specifically, McColley indicated calls to suicide hotlines have increased by 800% to 1,000%, noting that in his own estimation, if even a fraction of those reaching out commit suicide, it will lead to more deaths than those due to COVID-19 in Ohio.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, there have been 1,987 COVID-19 deaths in Ohio, as of Monday.

“Looking at this as a binary choice is completely dismissing the societal impact of all this,” he said. “We need to look at this by a broad perspective, which has not been part of the conversation.”

Hoops concurred.

“I’m not a doctor, there are people smarter than me, but we feel we need to be involved in that process,” said Hoops.

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