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Ohio Lawmakers Hold Hearing On Resolution Declaring Racism A Public Health Crisis

A demonstration at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus drew thousands on Friday night, June 5, 2020.
Paige Pfleger
/
WOSU
A demonstration at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus drew thousands on Friday night, June 5, 2020.

A resolution introduced to declare racism a public health crisis is getting its first hearing in the Republican-dominated Ohio Senate, where one member of the GOP has joined eight Democrats in sponsoring the measure.

Even though it wouldn’t have the same legal impact as a law, this proposal faces an uphill battle.

State Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) is the only Republican in the Ohio House or Sentate to join in sponsoring this resolution.

In the House, Majority Leader Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said on Twitter that Republicans won’t be bullied into passing it without a hearing.

The resolution's sponsor, state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland), said that her caucus is determined.

“We are focused beyond politics. We're focusing in on people," Howse said. "People will have conversations with their constituents. The people will always have the last say. People are understanding whether the power truly is. It's in the people.”

Another reaction came from state Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana), who’s blasted the state’s COVID-19 policies and shutdowns. He suggested on Facebook that the resolution could bring similar actions to those he’s criticized.

Howse and Vitale have clashed on social media before over her bill to create a pilot therapy program for Cleveland-area children and families at risk of trauma related to gun violence.

Vitale wrote on Facebook that Howse’s bill gives Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton "the power to create and control firearms and therapy programs for guns."

Howse replied, “It's either he did not read the bill or he can't comprehend.”

A resolution to declare racism a public health crisis passed Columbus City Council last week, and similar ones are being considered in other Ohio counties.