A Democratic lawmaker has filed a complaint with the Franklin County Health Department, after the Ohio House Speaker announced plans to allow all 98 representatives in the chamber at the same time during a session.
State Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) says her colleagues didn’t know Republican House Speaker Larry Householder had abandoned a plan for safe distancing prior to this week's session. Democratic caucus leaders accused Householder of failing to provide a safe workplace.
“We were basically outraged," Galonski says.
Galonski also took issue that most Republicans declined to wear face masks, unlike the Democratic lawmakers. Beyond the health department complaint, Galonski says legal action is possible too.
“If I need to take further action, I feel like I need to protect the employees, staff members, etc. but I believe the health department will do what is necessary and right," Galonski says.
Democratic leaders say this is an example of workers being forced to come back to work in a place that doesn't follow the proper safety measures.
"Like other Ohioans, we trust that our employer is making the best decisions for our health and safety in the midst of this global pandemic," said state Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), House Minority Leader. "But unfortunately, we are learning just as many other Ohioans are as they return to work, that not all employers are taking COVID-19 seriously and are purposely putting their employees at risk."
Householder defended the safety measures, noting that everyone in the House Chamber was set six feet apart. He said that getting all elected officials into the same room was a matter of fairness.
"Makes it really difficult when you have folks down the hall, then you've got technical issues with the televisions sets or whatever, and that's not really fair to those members because they've been chosen to be outside of the session room," says Householder.
The speaker notes other rules that have been in place since the House started allowing employees to come back to the office, which includes a staggered work schedule for House staff members and taking the temperature of employees before they can enter the office.
Householder said that masks would not be required of lawmakers, just recommended.