DeWine vetoes limit on penalties for health order breaches

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine vetoed a bill Friday, as promised, that would have prohibited criminal penalties for violations of state or local health orders related to the coronavirus pandemic as the number of daily cases hit a new record of 1,679 cases.

The legislation, which was sponsored by state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, a Bowling Green Republican, would instead have allowed fines of not more than $100 for violating a local order and not more than $150 for violating a state order.

DeWine, a fellow Republican, spoke out against the legislation, labeling it “a tragic mistake” that would keep governments from taking bold action against the COVID-19 crisis.

Legislative Republicans argued that they didn’t want to see Ohioans criminally penalized for innocent mistakes, such as failing to space restaurant tables far enough apart. Democrats said unintentional errors would not elicit fines.

Senate President Larry Obhof predicted DeWine would veto the bill, saying that his decision would lead to more discussion about what the appropriate penalty would be for a violation of health orders.

“I have some pretty serious doubts about whether a government actually has the authority to tell you that you have to stay inside your house,” Obhof said last week. “And I am even more skeptical of the idea that we would tell you that if you decide to leave your house, it’s a crime.”