2 Ohio state senators introduce bill that would 'immediately' end some coronavirus shutdowns

File photo - Ohio Statehouse (WBNS-10TV / Drone 10)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WKYC/WBNS) — Two Ohio state senators are set to introduce a bill that would immediately end some of the state's restrictive coronavirus measures, as Republicans in the general assembly grow increasingly vocal in their opposition to directives put in place by Gov. Mike DeWine and Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton.

According to a press release from the sponsoring senators, Senate Bill 311 "rescinds any existing order closing state businesses and directing Ohioans to stay at home directly upon passage. Additionally, the bill enables local school districts, in consultation with local health experts, to determine whether or not in-person graduations can be safely conducted on a case-by-case manner that is tailored to the individual circumstances of each district, rather than on a one-size-fits-all statewide basis."

Like Senate Bill 1 (which passed the House of Representatives last week), it would also restrict Acton's powers by requiring any of her new orders to be voted on by a panel of legislators after 14 days; unlike SB 1, however, it would go into effect upon passage, rather than after the 90 days.

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Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) is co-sponsoring SB 311 with Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). She released the following statement on the proposal:

"This has gone on long enough. Ohioans came together to flatten the curve of this pandemic and we did it successfully. Now we need to open our state before the damage is irreparable. I believe that Ohioans, if given the freedom, will rise to the occasion and take the necessary steps to keep their families, employees and customers safe, while conducting the commerce that is so critical to our economy."

Nearly all medical experts (including White House advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci) have said an immediate reopening of communities could lead to a surge of the disease and have grave consequences for citizens, a direct contradiction of Roegner's claims. DeWine (also a member of the GOP) agrees and has vowed to veto any bill that curbs Acton's authority during the pandemic.

Polls have shown 85% of Ohioans approve of DeWine's job performance during the COVID-19 crisis, and an even greater number (90%) support the current social distancing orders. But that hasn't stopped Republicans in Columbus from attempting to either roll back or eliminate the measures, pointing to staggering unemployment numbers and claiming the restrictions are an abuse of power.

Much of the vitriol has been directed at Acton, despite DeWine attempting to shield her from criticism by reminding detractors that he appointed her and has the final decision. The loudest voices contend someone who is "unelected" should not have so much authority even in a time of turmoil, and some (particularly Sen. Andrew Brenner and Rep. Nino Vitale) have compared the Jewish Acton to a Nazi leader.

SB 1 passed the House by a vote of 58-37, just short of the 60 votes needed to override a DeWine veto. The amended version now heads back to the Senate, which has a 24-9 GOP majority.

It is unknown if SB 311 would fare better or worse in the General Assembly, but not all Republicans are on board: Sen. Matt Dolan, of Chagrin Falls, has publicly stated he will vote against the less-restrictive SB 1, and accused his colleagues of trying to score "political points" during these difficult times.

Coronavirus: What you need to know

There are now 31,625 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio; 1,888 people have died from the virus and 5,773 were hospitalized, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Breakdown of Ohio cases by county >>

For most people, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a couple of weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are at higher risk of more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

10TV is committed to bringing you a FACTS NOT FEAR approach to our coronavirus reporting. You can count on 10TV to give you the latest developments and the impacts on you and your family. For complete coverage, visit: 10TV.com/coronavirus.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with a clarification about what the bill would rescind. The bill would not have a measure prohibiting mass gatherings as previously reported in this story.

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