Rep. Monique Smith (D-Fairview Park) issued a statement as two bills that would allow for more House business to be conducted virtually and to require face masks during House committee meetings and floor sessions received their first hearings in the House last week.
“Now that we are many months into the pandemic, it is well known that wearing a mask limits transmission of COVID-19. Simply wearing a mask is an easy and necessary precaution that we must take in public buildings like our statehouse. It is imperative that we maintain safety and accessibility for all people who want to participate in the democratic process at our statehouse, including older Ohioans and all who are at high risk of serious consequences from COVID-19. If members of the GOP majority insist on continuing to not wear masks, then we must allow virtual testimony for all committee meetings in order to keep all Ohioans safe. I support HB 55 and HB 56 to keep our statehouse safe for all Ohioans,” said Rep. Smith.
The following bills had their initial hearings in the House Government Oversight Committee last Thursday:
· House Bill (HB) 55, which would allow for committees to meet and witnesses to testify virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic;
· HB 56, which would require mask wearing in a standing committee, subcommittee, select committee, or joint committee of the House of Representatives.
Dozens of advocacy groups recently sent a letter calling on the legislature to allow for virtual testimony in all legislative hearings. The letter also asks that there be a mask mandate for everyone inside the Statehouse, including Members. Democrats have pushed multiple times for these same health and safety protections, but have been blocked by House Republicans each time.
No additional hearing dates on HB 55 and HB 56 have been announced.