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Local Health Officials Oppose Senate Bill 22

Montgomery County Public Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper opposes Senate Bill 22. At one point in his career he was an emergency preparedness coordinator.
Kristin Stratman
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WYSO / Screenshot
Montgomery County Public Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper opposes Senate Bill 22. At one point in his career he was an emergency preparedness coordinator.

The Ohio Legislature voted to overturn Governor Mike DeWine’s veto of Senate Bill 22 on Wednesday. The bill will give state legislators the power to change or reject any state health order, such as the mask mandate meant to curb the spread of COVID-19. It would also limit the authority of local boards of health.

Montgomery County Public Health Commissioner Jeff Cooper denounced the bill earlier in the week along with public health officials from five Southwestern Ohio counties. Cooper says the bill will have consequences beyond the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"It would essentially strip local boards of health of their authority to do what is necessary regarding communicable disease control," Cooper said.

Melissa Howell, public health commissioner of Greene County, says it’s important for local health officials to be able to take action as soon as the threat of an outbreak is identified.

melissa howell greene county public health commissioner
Kristin Stratman
Melissa Howell is the public health commissioner for Greene County. In her position, she has worked to modernize public health services and has led Greene County's pandemic response.

"I’ve been a registered nurse for thirty years, I’ve been an epidemiologist in public health and a health commissioner," Howell said. "And sometimes it just takes that knowledge and intuition to know that where there is smoke, there is fire.”

The senate voted 23–10 to overturn the Governor’s veto. The state House voted to approve the bill, 62–35. The bill will go into effect in 90 days. Gov. DeWine said his is reviewing the veto overturn with legal counsel but that it's too early to tell if his office will take legal action.