Republican Removed From State House Floor After Breaking Safety Rules

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On Tuesday, Georgia state Rep. David Clark (R) was escorted out of the Georgia state House chamber by a member of the Georgia Department of Public Safety after he refused to get tested for COVID-19 as required by House rules. Georgia state House Speaker David Ralston (R) said in a public statement after the incident that Clark “had been advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested at any point during this session,” which could potentially put Clark’s fellow legislators in danger. Clark, for his part, petulantly claimed that he “will not… be forced to have a Covid test, or any unnecessary medical test, done without a basis for doing so.”

Clark insisted that his refusal to get tested as mandated by state House rules is out of concern for the availability of tests across Georgia, although twice weekly tests for Clark and his staff members don’t exactly seem likely to represent the breaking point for the state’s testing supply. Characterizing the testing rules as based in “political optics,” Clark added as follows:

‘The seat that I hold for District 98 is not my seat, but the people‚Äôs seat. I work for you, and I cannot in good conscience watch expensive tests that should be given to Georgia citizens who desperately need them be wasted for nothing more than political optics at the Capitol.’

Keeping state legislators from potentially dying from COVID-19 is not a political optics-based concern, and serving in a legislative position carries an implied level of responsibility for the public well-being that Clark has failed to meaningfully acknowledge in this situation. As Ralston noted, “This is about preventing the spread of a disease that has killed more than 12,000 Georgians.” In an interview with a Georgia reporter, Clark insisted that “two tests a week is wrong on my conscience when teachers can’t get it and first responders can’t get it,” although he apparently failed to acknowledge the fact that, in his position of legislative power, Clark could work on addressing testing supply gaps rather than pretending that the tests that his office uses could be the breaking point for Georgia.

The Georgia state House is not the only legislative chamber proactively dealing with COVID-19. The U.S. House has also mandated masks for all its members.