Coronavirus: Some lawmakers push DeWine for quicker reopening

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, says the DeWine administration has turned a deaf ear to lawmakers’ suggestions about how to reopen the state economy.
Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, says the DeWine administration has turned a deaf ear to lawmakers’ suggestions about how to reopen the state economy.

As Gov. Mike DeWine and his team prepare for a gradual reopening of Ohio, they face tremendous push back from conservative lawmakers, including Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

Householder, R-Glenford, and more than 30 state representatives want to open Ohio by Friday with individuals and business owners deciding how to best protect themselves.

Householder said House Republicans are frustrated with the DeWine administration’s “unwillingness to recognize that small businesses who have much less daily traffic in their stores are closed while their large chain competitors have been open throughout the process.”

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The situation means government will help the demise of small businesses, Householder said.

“The big get bigger and the small go away,” he said. “The Ohio House has asked to work with the administration to come up with common sense solutions to resolve this, but have been met with deaf ears.”

Miami Valley Republican lawmakers signing onto the House plan to re-open by May 1 include: Paul Zeltwanger, Tom Brinkman, Nino Vitale, Candice Keller, J. Todd Smith, John Becker, Jena Powell, George Lang, Scott Lipps, Phil Plummer, Rick Perales and Susan Manchester.

The discord comes just as the DeWine administration will need to work with the Ohio General Assembly to pass a budget correction bill before the state fiscal year ends June 30.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, though, said DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and other administration officials have been accessible to him and the GOP caucus through phone calls and conference calls.

“I do think we need to get as much of Ohio open as soon as possible. And (the governor) and I have discussed that several times and he’s been very receptive so we’ll see how things end up. It’s an ongoing process,” Obhof said.

DeWine’s plan calls for reopening retail and consumer businesses beginning May 14. Big box retailers, such as Target, have been allowed to remain open during the pandemic emergency if they sell essential supplies.

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DeWine reversed course Tuesday, saying Ohio would not mandate masks for customers in retail stores.

“I’ve heard you and we aren’t going to mandate this,” he said. “We’re going to leave this up to the individual customer.”

The governor noted that although it isn’t a mandate, it’s clearly in the best interest of Ohioans to wear them in retail settings to avoid asymptomatic people from inadvertently spreading the virus.

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No plan exists for when bars, restaurants, gyms, hair salons, amusement venues, country clubs, zoos, pools, casinos, theaters, campgrounds and daycare centers will reopen.

DeWine said Tuesday he is establishing two groups — restaurant owners and salon and barber shop owners — to advise him on upcoming steps. The governor said he asked legislative leaders to recommend people to serve on those advisory panels.

DeWine said that he has an open, solid relationship with lawmakers but he doesn’t expect everyone to agree with every decision he makes.

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The Ohio Restaurant Association urged DeWine to let bars and restaurants open May 15 for dine-in service that allows for social distancing.

Six business groups — NFIB Ohio, Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Manufacturers Association and Ohio Council of Retail Merchants — called DeWine’s phased-in reopening plan “responsible first steps” but urged bringing back Ohio’s economy to full force as soon as possible.

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“It is vitally important to move forward and reopen safely,” the joint statement says. Ohio businesses are prepared and capable of following safety protocols, it says.

“With roughly 17% to 22% of Ohio’s workforce filing for unemployment, Ohio businesses, especially many smaller entities, and their employees are really hurting during this pandemic crisis. As we approach the month of May, many key industries will remain closed, fighting for their very survival and we cannot leave them behind,” the statement says.

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On Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 16,128 confirmed cases, plus 641 probable cases; 3,340 hospitalizations; 757 deaths, plus 42 deaths attributed to probable cases.

SHOULD MASKS BE REQUIRED IN PUBLIC?

What do you think of Gov. DeWine recommending masks be worn in retail and other establishments, but not making it a mandate? Speak out on our Ohio Politics Facebook page.

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