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Coronavirus In Ohio: Householder 'Disrespected' By Plans To Reopen Economy

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) unveil new cameras installed in a committee room in March.
Andy Chow
Statehouse News Bureau
House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) speak to reporters in March 2019.

As Ohio moves closer to allowing certain businesses to reopen after coronavirus closings, Republican and Democratic state lawmakers are raising concerns about Gov. Mike DeWine's 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. 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.

After DeWine on Monday unveiled a plan to gradually open the economy in phases, Householder put out a statement saying House Republicans felt disrespected.

“We have a difference of opinion in regards to this," Householder said. "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."

Republican members of the bipartisan 2020 House Economy Recovery Task force released their own competing planto reopen businesses all at once, on or before May 1.

While Householder says he agrees with certain ideas of that "Open Ohio Responsibly" framework, he won't sign onto it. The plan has already been signed by 11 of 17 Republicans on that panel, as well as two dozen members of Householder's caucus.

House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) argued not all businesses are the same and shouldn't reopen at the same time.

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

Democrats want 14 days of declining cases before businesses reopen. Sykes said her caucus also wants more details on scaling up testing and on the workforce that will be hired to do contact tracing, which experts say are critical if states want to relax social distancing measures.

House Democrats also want specifics on plans to open day cares, 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," Sykes said. "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 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.

Householder argued DeWine should sit down with lawmakers, since the legislature is what he calls a separate but equal branch of government. At the same time, Householder said he’s still an avid DeWine supporter.

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

Do you have questions about the coronavirus in Ohio? Ask below as part of our Curious Cbus series.