Mary Alice Reporting – Earlier this year, the question of which businesses are considered essential or non-essential was at the forefront and a bill is looking to address that.

House Bill 621 or the Business Fairness Act is sponsored by Representatives from District 83, Jon Cross, and District 91, Shane Wilkin. The bill revises Ohio codes to give all businesses equality when a pandemic hits since large and small companies are essential.

In a hearing before the Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Workforce Committee, Wilkin noted that this is about valuing a business in Ohio.

He gave the example of a jeweler, in his district, who pointed out that Mother’s Day had been approaching but they were not allowed open, even if they were to adhere to the then state mandates. Wilkin stated that it was not right for this business to be closed but a big box store, with not just food but multiple other departments, including jewelry, could remain open and sell everything within the store.

“We are asking, through this bill, to give all businesses a chance. Give them the equal playing field. They have the right, they should have the right, to be open and conduct business in a safe manner. If this is truly about safety, then what we have here is, if they can meet the same standards as everyone else, they can be open regardless of what they sell.”

Representative Cross added other examples, seen in his district, such as a JoAnn Fabrics, who for unknown reasons had a state contract with the state, remained open when nearby a Hobby Lobby was closed.

“Now [both craft stores] sell the same stuff, give or take a few things, and that to me was a perfect example of why this legislation is needed to allow all business to be deemed essential. It’s an insult to tell any business owner, big or small, that you’re not essential. It’s an insult to tell any Ohio worker that you’re not essential.”

The goal for the bill, if a future pandemic should occur, is to be used as a tool for the Ohio governor to focus on other key efforts and not whether something is essential or not.

HB 621 remains in committee for further review.

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