State workers might not be able to work from home as much anymore if Senate budget provision passes
Some state employees have been working from home since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. But a provision tucked in the Ohio Senate budget would change that by limiting the time state workers can work from home to eight hours week. And it is not sitting well with some people.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the suggestion to force state workers to return to their offices came from a member of the Ohio House. Huffman didn't identify that member.
The provision was not part of the House version of the budget. But Huffman said he supports including it in the Senate's budget because lawmakers with concerns about issues need to be able to visit state workers in their offices.
“Certainly, I believe and the senate believes that you do more work and you do more effective work when you are present at your workplace," Huffman said.
Huffman said 10 years ago, when he was in the House, if he had an issue with someone at the Ohio Department of Education, he could walk over to their office and talk to them about it. He said that's not the case anymore. There are times when issues cannot be resolved with a phone call, Huffman also said.
“And in person meetings are almost more effective. With the complexity of the issues we deal with and the fact that legislators – many of them are new and have to have, have to be schooled. And even those of us who have been around for a while, these are complex issues," Huffman said.
But in an unlisted YouTube video for his staff, Attorney General Dave Yost said he was surprised by the provision. He said his office didn't know about it or see it coming.
Yost said he opposes the idea and will stay involved to do "the best we can to influence the process and to making sure the legislature is thinking through the unforeseen impacts that are going to occur because of a change like that."
Many attorneys work from home as well as some in the education field.
In the past three years, some agencies have cut down on office space so there aren’t existing workspaces for all employees to go back to. Some businesses in downtown areas of the state have complained sales have not bounced back to their pre-pandemic levels.
It's unclear if the provision will become law. The senate's version of the budget is likely headed to a conference committee where it will be debated. This provision might not make it into the version of the budget that must be adopted by the end of the month.