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Georgia state lawmaker removed from House chamber after refusing Covid test

"The member in question had been advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested," the House speaker said.

A Georgia state lawmaker said his refusal to take a Covid-19 test got him kicked out of the House chambers on Tuesday.

But Georgia House Speaker David Ralston said the lawmaker, Rep. David Clark, has repeatedly refused to follow House policy which states that all members and staff be tested for the coronavirus twice a week.

"The member in question had been advised numerous times about the requirements and had refused to be tested at any point during this session," Ralston's office said in a statement on Twitter.

"The member refused to leave of his/her own accord. As such, under the authority granted to the Speaker by House Rules, the member was escorted out of the Chamber by a member of the Georgia Department of Public Safety."

Clark, a Republican, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that he arrived at the chamber ready to follow the required protocols by wearing a mask, social distancing and having his temperature taken.

But "what I will not do is be forced to have a Covid test, or any unnecessary medical test, done without a basis for doing so," he said.

"The seat that I hold for District 98 is not my seat, but the people’s 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."

State Rep. David Clark, R-Buford, speaks during a press conference on April 17, 2019, in Atlanta.Bob Andres / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP file

During an interview with a WXIA reporter, a maskless Clark said that when he walked into the chamber this morning, he was told he was not allowed to be in there. He said he doesn't agree with the twice-a-week testing policy because there are essential workers who are not able to get tested.

"I check my temperature when I come in. When I go in the chambers, I wear my mask. I follow the protocols they want in the chamber but two tests a week is wrong on my conscience when teachers can't get it and first responders can't get it," he told the reporter. "We get two tests but nobody else gets the same thing out there. My grandma doesn't get two tests."

In a December memo, Ralston said that all members and House staff are required to be tested for the coronavirus twice a week during the 2021 Session. Masks must be worn while on Capitol grounds and may only be taken off when a member is addressing the House.

Ralston said in his statement that Clark will be allowed to return to the chamber after he complies with the policy.

"This is about preventing the spread of a disease that has killed more than 12,000 Georgians," he said.

In addition to being removed, Ralston said that Clark will no longer be assigned office space in the legislative building over his refusal to follow protocols.