House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) 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 Thursday.
“This pandemic continues to run rampant in this country, and it is upsetting that certain lawmakers are neglecting public health safety measures when it comes to us doing the work of the people at the Statehouse,” said Leader Sykes. “Our citizens deserve the opportunity to participate in their government in a safe environment, and both virtual testimony and mask wearing allows for that to happen.”
The following bills had their initial hearings in the House Government Oversight Committee 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.