Two high-profile COVID-19 vaccine bills drew statewide attention over the summer but have since cooled off when no compromise could be reached. After HB 248 was staunchly opposed by the business and medical community and failed to garner enough support, House Republican leadership drafted a bill attempting to strike a balance between honoring someone’s personal medical freedom while also protecting the health and safety of Ohioans. HB 435 would give companies and schools the right to mandate vaccines, but it also expanded the opportunities for personal exemptions from the vaccine. Speaker Cupp attempted to bring this bill to the floor for a vote on two occasions and each time failed to get the necessary support form his own party to pass it. After the second attempt, the Speaker said, “…it’s time to move on to other important topics that are facing Ohioans in the state legislature.”
The Ohio Redistricting Commission, which previously drew Ohio’s district maps for the Ohio House and Senate (approved 5-2 along party lines and are currently being challenged in the Ohio Supreme Court), missed another deadline to adopt new Congressional maps prior to an October 31, 2021 Constitutional deadline. The panel had a late start in developing the statehouse maps, as census data, which is used to determine population shifts, was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now Commission members have been drawn into a court battle. The responsibility of drawing the Congressional map goes back to the Ohio General Assembly and is required to be passed no later than November 30, 2021 with a 3/5 majority in both Chambers, including the support of 1/3 from each Chambers’ caucuses. If the map is passed by November 30, 2021 with only a simple majority in both chambers, then the Congressional map is only in effect for four years. After four years, the process repeats. House and Senate Republicans released their proposed maps during the first week in November (SB 327 and HB 479). Both bills are pending in committee and are expected to be a priority for lawmakers in order to meet the November 30th deadline.
The White House recently announced details from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on vaccination requirements for employees of businesses with 100 or more employees and Medicare and Medicaid health care providers. In response, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed a lawsuit alongside the attorneys general of Kentucky and Tennessee, as well as the prosecutor of Geauga County and the sheriff of Seneca County to block a portion of the new rule that would require vaccination of employees of federal contractors. Shariff’s offices house detainees of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in jails, making them federal contractors. Attorney General Yost said, Sheriff’s offices are not the only federal contractors in the state, with defense, higher education, medical, and shipping industries all being impacted by the new requirement. The lawsuit contends that police power to enforce mandates resides with the states, not the federal government, and that Congress did not authorize the president to issue the mandate.