Lawmakers reject Statehouse mask requirement as many don’t wear them

State Sens. Jay Hottinger and Bob Peterson, who are GOP legislative leaders, do not practice social distancing. Peterson has recovered from COVID-19.
State Sens. Jay Hottinger and Bob Peterson, who are GOP legislative leaders, do not practice social distancing. Peterson has recovered from COVID-19.

Ohio House members shot down a resolution Thursday that would have required them to wear masks in the Statehouse as the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continue to climb.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a public health order in July requiring anybody indoors to wear face masks when not in their homes with some exceptions.

Generally, Democrats wear masks inside the Ohio Statehouse but Republicans are split on the matter.

ExplorePHOTOS: Many avoid wearing masks in Legislature

Unmasked state lawmakers shouted and close-talked for hours inside the House and Senate chambers this week. Some of them took their masks off to take a break, talk with a colleague or make a floor speech.

When asked about requiring senators to wear masks, similar to how they’re required to wear dress clothes, Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said, “I haven’t required it but I’ve strongly encouraged it.”

House Speaker Bob Cupp, R-Lima, noted that lawmakers are independently elected and they are encouraged to wear a mask. But, he said, a majority of House members wouldn’t support adding masks to the dress code.

On Thursday, 58 House members voted to reject a resolution offered by state Rep. Kristin Boggs, D-Columbus, that would have mandated mask wearing.

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