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Coronavirus In Ohio: Lawmakers Returning To Statehouse With Social Distancing In Place

Ohio Senate and Ohio House signs at the Ohio Statehouse.
Dan Konik
Statehouse News Bureau

Lawmakers have a lot to do in the two days they’ve planned to be at the Statehouse this week – picking a new date for the delayed Ohio primary, setting a later state tax filing day and scrapping mandatory school testing for this academic year. 

Both chambers have come up with special procedures for this unprecedented session.  

Any of the 33 Senators who are sick or are worried about falling ill are strongly encouraged to stay home. But Senate leadership says those who’ve been around someone who’s tested positive for COVID-19 must stay home. Senators can request to sit and vote from a separate room.

Senators are also encouraged to dress casually, since some business attire is cleaned infrequently.

In addition to clearing up confusion caused by the delay of the March 17 primary, the House and Senate also plan to align state tax filing deadlines with the federal postponement until July 15.

And with schools on a state-mandated break, which will likely be extended, the governor and legislative leaders agree mandatory standardized testing shouldn't happen this year.

The House has 98 members right now, with the sudden death of state Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown). Manning died of an apparent heart attack, as announced by Speaker Larry Householder on Friday.

House members will be assigned to groups that they will sit with and vote with, in voice votes – the House usually votes all at once.

If ill members "insist on attending session," as the letter from House leadership describes it, they can sit in the members’ lounge, which will be a quarantine area, and the clerk’s office will record their votes through the window.