Jay Edwards

Jay Edwards during a House session in 2017. Photo courtesy of The Ohio House of Representatives.

State Rep. Jay Edwards voted Wednesday to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s veto of a bill that aims to bolster the legislature's ability to override the governor's public health orders.

Edwards, who served as a joint-sponsor of the law and did not immediately respond to a request for comment, indicated a few weeks ago his belief that the measure is a healthy check on the executive branch, which he and many other members of the Republican-controlled legislature say has exercised too much power over Ohioans throughout the pandemic.

DeWine’s veto, made on Tuesday, was overridden Wednesday by both chambers in the Ohio General Assembly, bypassing the executive to make the bill law. DeWine argued in a statement about his veto that the law “handcuffs” the state’s ability to confront health crises.

The law will take effect in about three months. Senate President Mat Huffman said he expects a legal challenge of the law, Cleveland.com reported.

The law creates a legislative oversight committee for DeWine and The Ohio Department of Health, an idea Edwards floated last month when he introduced a similar piece of legislation into the House that was ultimately folded into the Senate version of the law. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission (OLSC) opined in its nonpartisan analysis of Edwards’ bill that the creation of such a committee could be unconstitutional, The Athens Messenger reported.

It will allow the legislature to rescind certain health orders issued by the governor and ODH, according to the nonpartisan analysis by the OLSC. It also would prohibit the governor from issuing states of emergency, including those specific to public health, beyond 90 days without the General Assembly’s approval. The OLSC warned that both provisions may not be constitutional.

The law marks the first time the legislature has overridden a veto made by DeWine. It’s also the latest and most successful move in a string of attempts by both chambers to undermine the public health powers of the state’s executive branch. 

Earlier in the year, a similar bill was vetoed by DeWine, and former Republican Senate President Larry Obhoff, who was serving his final term, declined to hold an override vote, prompting Edwards to attack him in a Facebook post over the decision.

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