File-Ohio State Rep. Jena Powell

Ohio State Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, speaks with students at the state Capitol in Columbus, Ohio.

(The Center Square) – A lottery to encourage Ohioans to get the COVID-19 vaccine could end nearly as quickly as it started if legislation in the Ohio House gets through the General Assembly.

Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum, introduced what she named the Taxpayer Protection Against Frivolous Vaccine Lottery Act shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine announced plans to give away five $1 million prizes, along with full four-year college scholarships to anyone with at least one dose of the vaccine.

The prize money comes from unused federal tax dollars allocated for the Ohio Department of Health, and Powell wants that money to be split between COVID-19 relief grants for small businesses and early childhood mental health. The bill also would prohibit the ODH or the governor from creating any future lotteries similar to Vax-a-Million.

“This lottery is a waste of taxpayer dollars, and we know the money could be better spent in a multitude of areas,” Powell said. “For Governor DeWine to say that any vaccinated Ohioan can potentially receive $1 million through a lottery is an insult to our hard-working constituents.”

House Bill 329, which has 29 cosponsors, also contains an emergency clause, meaning it would take effect immediately after signed by DeWine. It seems unlikely, however, DeWine would sign a bill to stop the lottery he has encouraged and praised since it began.

“This incident is opening up the eyes of Ohioans to what many have known for years – the State of Ohio spends Ohio taxpayer dollars frivolously on needless pet projects every single year in the state budgets,” Powell said.

DeWine has continued to push his Vax-a-Million lottery as the number of Ohio adults receiving at least one dose of the vaccine passed 50% this week. The state has awarded two $1 million prizes through the lottery and two scholarships.

The state also rescinded nearly all of its COVID-19-related health orders June 2, including a mask mandate and social distancing requirements.

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.