A top Democrat on the Ohio House’s coronavirus economic recovery task force criticized its Republican chair for gathering “one-sided testimony that only supported the idea of opening Ohio as soon as possible.”
In a statement released last week, Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland), vice chair of the Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force, voiced frustration with the fact that the committee hasn’t heard from “minorities or women.”
“We were under the impression by the majority that this task-force would be a bipartisan, collaborative effort to map out next steps for the General Assembly’s response to the COVID-19 crisis in Ohio,” he said. “However, it became almost immediately apparent from the agenda and the chosen speakers that this task force was actually designed to gather one-sided testimony that only supported the idea of opening Ohio as soon as possible. This was never a democratic process.”
Upchurch said House Democrats have submitted a “diverse list of speakers” to be appear before the task force, but so far none have been added to the agenda.
“Diversity is important in a process such as this – specifically diversity of thought, life experience, gender and race/ethnicity. Ensuring all voices are heard is our job as lawmakers. We encourage interested groups to come forward, including workers concerned about going back to work, and share their thoughts with the task force since the lack of diversity in our invited guests has been detrimental thus far to our success,” he continued.
Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason), chair of the task force, pushed back on Upchurch’s claims and said House Democrats submitted just three of the 150 requests to testify.
“We appointed Representative Upchurch vice chair of the task force expecting that he would bring minority businesses into the discussion,” Zeltwanger said in a statement provided to The Cleveland Plain Dealer. “Apparently he hasn’t taken the initiative to reach out to minority-owned businesses to participate. Why is that?”
The two eventually reached an agreement after Friday’s task force meeting to hear from more Democrat-backed witnesses, but Upchurch further criticized Zeltwanger for not allowing Democrats on the committee to ask questions.
Zeltwanger told The Plain Dealer that he was “very disappointed” in the “potshots” taken by Upchurch.
“We don’t have time for it,” he added.
House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) announced the formation of the task force in late March after Ohio experienced a record-high number of unemployment claims.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of The Minnesota Sun and The Ohio Star. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “State Rep. Terrence Upchurch” by State Rep Terrence Upchurch.