Law and legislation in a nationwide pandemic

We are truly in an unprecedented time when it comes to law making and the impact of the law on our society. When the governor made his first order during this nationwide pandemic it was truly an unprecedented decision. When the governor canceled the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus I was shocked and puzzled at how the government had the power to restrict private business in such a way. At the time I was concerned about what the canceling of that program could do to the future meetings that the ODA had planned. At that time, in early March – which feels like years ago at this point – I thought there was very little chance that anything would happen to ODA meetings, which are only attended by hundreds or thousands at most. But as I am writing this it is not a surprise to anyone that ODA meetings were canceled due to this virus. The power for the governor to do this falls within the purview of an emergency order and what the Department of Health can do to protect the public under an emergency order.

This idea that the government has the ability to take great measures to ensure that the public is protected brings with it very positive and negative comments. There are many people who very much appreciate what the governor and health director are doing and there are others who are confused with why the actions are being taken without stronger facts and science as a basis for their decisions. However, when we sit back and think about it, I think that we can all agree that the governor and his staff are in a difficult position when given the information they have and then making a decision that is going to affect a great majority of the public. I would state that, from my research, I do not think that the governor has overstepped his power. However, he has made some decisions that no other governor has ever had to make, which means challenges will come, but no precedent exists.

So from a legal standpoint, the last few months have been an unprecedented time. The actions taken by the executive branch of government have created a scenario where small businesses are suffering. In a time of suffering there have been some positives that have come out of this due to the action of the legislature. In Ohio and on a national level the legislature has been willing to work together to come up with legislation that will help those in need. It seems to me that representatives and senators have come together to pass legislation with true bipartisan support. Bills in both the Ohio legislature and the U.S. Congress have come together in mere days. Even though the media has covered some of the bickering back and forth, the matter of the fact is that these pieces of legislation passed and were signed into law in a week’s timeframe. A normal bill in either the Ohio legislature or U.S. Congress takes months or possibly years to be passed into law.

This fast pace moving legislation creates new difficulties for the lobbyists of the world. In the normal legislative or executive setting there are many strategies that the ODA uses to ensure that our message is clear to the government. Legislatively there is time to read over all legislation and mold that legislation into the most effective policy for members. In current legislation, speed is a very key component. The opinions of the ODA and its members are being expressed to the legislature and the governor. However, as our voice is being heard, the legislation that passes will also include other elements and will take longer to understand because they aren’t something that we have studied for months or years. I can assure you though that the staff of this organization is working around the clock to understand the new laws that are being passed and are trying to get resources out to members as soon as we feel that information is accurate.

In this unprecedented time I am proud to work for an association of dentists that care deeply about the patients and citizens of Ohio. Over the last month I have had phone or email conversations with many of you and in those conversations it has been clear to me that dentists are leaders in their local communities, and the ODA communicates that message in our lobbying efforts. Thank you for all you are doing in Ohio. The ODA staff will continue to work for you, and please reach out to us with questions. You can reach the ODA office at (800) 282-1526, and from there you will be directed to the voicemail of any staff member. We are checking these messages hourly and returning phone calls in the order we receive them.