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Gov. Mike DeWine losing GOP support

Even though he’s a Republican, the GOP-controlled state Legislature is very tired of Gov. Mike DeWine’s health orders and states of emergency from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite last-ditch efforts by DeWine to strike a compromise, the General Assembly last week overrode his veto of a bill giving authority to limit public health orders.

The Senate voted 23-10 to overturn it. That was quickly followed by a 62-35 vote in the House.

Only two Republican senators joined all Democrats in rejecting the veto override, while only one Republican voted with all Democrats in the House not to overturn it.

The bill limits public health orders to 90 days and allows the Legislature to terminate them after 30 days as well as permit legislators to rescind any order or rule issued in response to a state of emergency and bar the executive branch from reissuing it for 60 days.

It also limits local health districts’ power.

It was a public rebuke from DeWine’s own party members, who have been clamoring for the state to open up despite the recent rise in COVID-19 cases.

It also raises questions about DeWine’s strength among his party as he plans next year to run for a second four-year term as governor.

Even with that questionable support, no legitimate Republican contenders have stepped forward to take on DeWine.

When you ask party faithful in the Mahoning Valley about DeWine, you get few positive responses.

First and foremost, they don’t like how he’s handled the pandemic. They don’t like that he doesn’t fully embrace former President Donald Trump even though he’s been a strong supporter. They question why he wants to make changes — even though they’re modest — to gun control laws, ignoring that he signed the Stand Your Ground bill.

Besides gun control, the Legislature has ignored his efforts to increase law enforcement oversight and even on distracted driving.

DeWine downplays the divide every time he’s asked.

DeWine has been a loyal Republican longer than several GOP legislators have been alive and with the party decades before those who first joined when Trump ran for president and scream RINO (Republican in name only) at anyone who disagrees with them.

DeWine even signed the heartbeat bill into law, despite constitutional challenges that have it held up in court.

Based on all Democrats in the Legislature voting to not override the veto and conversations I’ve had with party leaders, DeWine probably has more support among the opposing party than he does among Republicans.

However, if DeWine is the nominee next year for governor — and there’s no reason to think otherwise at this point — plenty of Republicans will hold their nose and vote for him.

In an explanation as to why he voted to override DeWine’s veto, state Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, said it was done “to restore checks and balances to our state. For over a year, our people have been mandated time and time again with burdensome health orders, but with the override of the governor’s veto on this bill, we are ensuring that Ohioans and our businesses have a voice once again.”

State Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan, D-Youngstown, called it a “disgraceful moment” for Ohio.

“Members of the majority party who voted for this legislation because of checks and balances on power should look in a damn mirror. My colleagues are on a dangerous power trip.”

State Rep. Michael J. O’Brien, D-Warren, told me: “So there I sit on the House floor with two-thirds of the Republicans without masks and without social distancing overriding the governor’s veto on health orders whereas the governor assembles health professionals to assist him with health decisions.”

The bill takes effect 90 days after the March 24 veto.

It permits legislators to remove every restriction put in place by DeWine related to the pandemic. DeWine said he expects the state no longer to have any restrictions by then under his plan to eliminate them once the state gets to at least 50 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents.

But it’s far from a guarantee that will happen as the state isn’t near that number, and it’s gone up the past two weeks.

What is almost a guarantee is that legislators will lift the restrictions, whether the state is ready or not.

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