Local versus State control over local health issues

[LFC Comments: The State of Ohio is trying to take away the authority of the local Health Boards to deal with the local public health strategies. Local boards cannot provide isolation or quarantine mandates even if there is an immediate threat to the public. Conversely, that would mean that the local authorities cannot issue a cease and desist order if they deem that the public is no longer at risk…Looks like a real power play by the State officials.]

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Click for AOHC web site

Last Minute Changes to Senate Bill 22 Limit Local Board of Health Authority

In a substitute bill adopted and reported out of the House State and Local Government Committee after 5 pm yesterday, several provisions limiting local board of health authority were newly added. Amended Substitute Senate Bill 22: 

  • Specifies that a local board of health may only issue quarantine and isolation orders in cases in which an individual has been medically diagnosed or come into direct contact with someone medically diagnosed with the disease that is the subject of the order.
  • Eliminates the authority of a local board of health to generally close schools or prohibit public gatherings.
  • Specifies that local boards of health cannot issue orders that apply to a class of individuals or businesses.

Click here to view the comparison document compiled by LSC:  SB 22 Comp Doc

The bill is expected to be voted on by the full House of Representatives LATER TODAY, immediately followed by concurrence by the Senate.

ACTION REQUESTEDIMMEDIATELY Contact BOTH your State Representative and Senator asking them to vote against passage of Senate Bill 22.  Talking points:

1.  These last minute additions related to local board of health authority were added in committee with no opportunity for local stakeholders to review or provide testimony.  A critical change in local authority of this magnitude deserves thoughtful consideration by the legislature that includes public testimony and discussion with local governmental officials and the public.

2. AOHC was consistently reassured, including during a phone meeting yesterday afternoon that included Rep. Wiggam, committee chair, that the bill is not intended to prevent the initial implementation of public health orders during an emergency, but rather to allow a legislative committee to review those orders for continuation after initial issuance, as a way of assuring involvement of the legislative branch in exercising its oversight function.   The last minute additions preemptively prohibit the issuance of local isolation and quarantine orders and other public health mitigation strategies, even if there is an immediate threat to public health and safety.

3.  The overreaching limitations to local board of health authority that were added at the last minute will have unanticipated consequences well beyond this current pandemic, with no options for adoption in any circumstance, prohibiting local decision making.

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