The ongoing fight between Ohio’s lawmakers and Governor DeWine over executive authority during the pandemic escalated recently when the legislature successfully overrode a veto by Governor DeWine of legislation that would allow lawmakers to review and overturn state health orders. Both the House and Senate surpassed the 3/5 majority needed to override the governor’s veto of SB 22, which occurred the day before. The move marks the first veto override of Governor DeWine’s term and is the latest development in the back-and-forth between the governor and lawmakers. The override started in the Senate, where Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Senator Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) joined all Democrats in opposition. The House then voted 62-35 to override the veto, with Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) as the only Republican voting against the measure. SB 22 will now take effect in 90 days, assuming there is no lawsuit. Leaders in both chambers feel confident that their actions are constitutional and that giving the legislature input and oversight into the health orders will withstand a challenge by critics. Governor DeWine attempted to negotiate a compromise; however, those efforts were rejected by lawmakers. President Huffman said the proposal came too late in the process and that those talks were hampered by the governor’s initial position that he would veto any measure that would restrict his ability to handle the pandemic.
The House continues its work on the nearly $75 billion operating budget for Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023. The House Finance Committee and subsequent sub-committees have been hearing from agencies on their proposed budget requests for the upcoming biennium as well as stakeholders asking for changes to the massive spending package. The lower chamber has signaled it would like to complete its deliberations by mid-April before sending the bill to the Senate for its review. The budget must be signed no later than June 30th.
Governor Mike DeWine named a former Franklin County judge to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Former Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Jenifer French will chair the PUCO, bringing the commission back up to full membership following an appointment process that drew heightened attention given the ongoing criminal scandal tied to HB 6. But DeWine said although she lacks experience with utilities, he thinks having no background with the industry is a good thing right now, and that she has the needed skills. “A very smart judge,” DeWine said, “someone who has a reputation of studying the facts, taking very complex set of facts, digging through that to come to a just resolution.” French replaces Sam Randazzo, who resigned last year after the FBI searched his home, looking into a $4 million payment from First Energy. Her term ends April 10, 2024, and the appointment is subject to Senate approval. Earlier this year, Governor DeWine reappointed former state appeals court judge Dennis Deters to a full term on the Commission.