Lawmakers vote against mask rule in Ohio House

State lawmakers again rejected a proposed rule to require Ohio House members and visitors wear facemasks while at the Ohio Statehouse.

On a 58-33 vote along partisan lines, legislators on Wednesday tabled a proposal offered by House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, that would have incorporated mask wearing into the House rules for the new two-year legislative session.

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House rules govern dress codes, decorum and other matters.

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, said there is a wide divergence of opinion on whether to adopt a mask rule. In contrast, other matters — such as requiring business attire — have broad support, he said.

The House also rejected proposed rule changes that would have allowed Ohioans to testify on pending legislation via online platforms.

“Barring virtual testimony, refusing to require masks and stifling opposing voices is antithetical to our role as the People’s House. The speaker is making it harder and less safe for Ohioans to participate in their democracy and have their voices heard,” Sykes said in a written statement. “These rules show that the entrenched majority cares more about exerting their power than fostering a government of, by and for the people of Ohio.”

Roughly two dozen of the 99 House members attending session on Wednesday were not wearing masks.

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The National Conference of State Legislatures cited a report by the Associated Press that at least 162 state legislators nationwide have tested positive for the virus and three have died. At least 26 state legislatures have changed rules to permit remote participation, according to NCSL.

The Ohio Senate is now considering Senate Bill 22, which would allow lawmakers to rescind public health orders issued by the governor or Ohio Department of Health. The bill would also limit public health emergencies to 30 days unless lawmakers agreed to extend them.

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Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said SB22 would still give the governor the opportunity to act quickly in an emergency or disaster but allow for legislative oversight and analysis.

The Senate also does not require senators to wear face masks.