Republican, Democratic State Lawmakers Have Concerns About DeWine's Reopen Ohio Plan

Apr 29, 2020

As Ohio moves closer to allowing certain businesses to reopen after coronavirus closings, Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are raising concerns about his plan and promoting their own ideas.

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said it’s unfair that some big stores stayed open but small ones were shut, and he says businesses and individuals have to be trusted to make their own decisions about opening up and going out.

“We are a free society. That's what we are. And there are great risks of being free. There's no doubt about it. Government can't bubble wrap you, you and can't sit there and make every single decision for you and your life," Householder said.

While he agrees with certain ideas in it, Householder said he doesn't plan to sign the Open Ohio Responsibly Framework put out by Republican members of the bipartisan 2020 House Economic Recovery Task Force, which has been signed by 11 of 17 Republicans on that panel as well as two dozen members of his caucus.

But House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said not all businesses are the same, as she noted a proposal signed by more than half of House Republicans that says all businesses can and should be open on or before May 1.

“I do think that is a dangerous statement to make. And all businesses are not created equal and their business models are not the same," Sykes said.

Democrats want 14 days of declining cases before businesses reopen. Sykes said her caucus wants more details on scaling up testing and on the workforce that will be hired to do contact tracing. They also want specifics on plans to open day cares and on enforceable employer policies to protect workers, and on support for businesses that need help both to reopen and to stay closed.

“We can’t take the approach of everything opens up immediately at the exact same time. And I get the desire to do that. And again, we are sympathetic – we do want businesses to open. But we also want people to be alive to patronize those buildings," Sykes said.

Sykes also said Democrats want a contingency plan for November in case in-person voting is considered unsafe.

Householder was elected Speaker with a bipartisan coalition, though he’s had legislative disagreements with Democrats. While the Democrats’ recommendations are even stricter than DeWine’s plan, Householder said they will have a seat at the table along with Republicans to talk about opening up the economy.

And Householder said that since the legislature is what he calls a separate but equal branch of government, DeWine should sit down with lawmakers, though Householder put out a statement after DeWine issued his plan saying House Republicans felt disrespected.

But Householder said he’s still an avid DeWine supporter.

“We have a difference of opinion in regards to this. And I'll just say that our members do feel disrespected. They came out of the Kasich administration where it is well noted that John Kasich just didn't have a lot of respect for the legislature. And we don't want to get into the same situation with Gov. DeWine," Householder said.

For his part, DeWine said he’s talked to legislative leaders about how to reopen restaurants, bars hair salons and barbershops. But he said he doesn’t expect everyone to agree with him, and that he has the ultimate responsibly on issues of health.