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DeWine signs bill allowing small businesses to remain open during health emergency

The governor signed the bill sponsored by GOP Reps. Shane Wilkin and Jon Cross on Wednesday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Small businesses may remain open during a health emergency so long as they show they can meet safety protocols required of businesses not mandated to close, under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine and aimed at eliminating what many saw as a double-standard early in the coronavirus pandemic.

Backers of the legislation said it was needed to address a disparity after DeWine's initial stay-at-home orders that saw big-box stores permitted to keep operating, often with many customers and employees, while smaller businesses, some selling the same goods, had to close.

The bill is about fairness and not allowing government to pick winners and losers, Rep. Jon Cross, a Kenton Republican and legislation co-sponsor, testified before the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee in October.

It didn't make sense that large retailers like Walmart could stay open, "with hundreds of people in there, but our local jewelry store had to close that could keep their customers just as safe, because it was less dense—very little people in a small business,” said Cross, who co-sponsored the bill with Rep. Shane Wilkin, a Republican from Hillsboro in southwestern Ohio.

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