Georgia state representative removed for refusing to take COVID-19 test

ATLANTA — A Georgia House of Representatives member was removed from the chamber at the State Capitol after he refused to take a COVID-19 test.

House Speaker David Ralston interrupted Tuesday morning’s session to call out an unnamed house member for refusing to get the required twice a week COVID-19 test.

While he didn’t mention the Gwinnett County lawmaker by name, Ralston ordered Rep. David Clark (R-Buford) out of the chamber.

When he didn’t leave, the speaker took drastic action and had a state trooper escort Clark out.

“Any public safety officer, member of the Georgia state patrol is authorized under Rule Four of the House to escort the member of the chamber,” he said.

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Clark spoke with Channel 2′s Richard Elliot after he was removed.

“You can’t just pick the rules and decide who comes in and who doesn’t come in,” Clark said. “It’s called Speaker Ralston being a dictator again. I’ve read the rules. I’ve been over them.”

Clark, a long outspoken Ralston critic, defended his decision not to get tested by claiming he wants others to get tested first.

“You cannot come in and tell me I have to have a COVID-19 test when no first responders, no doctors, no teachers, two teachers just died in Cobb, you know. Do they get to test? No, so why are we getting them?

However, that isn’t true. Anyone in Georgia who wants a test can get one.

Both sides of the political aisle issued statements or tweets in support of Ralston’s move. Ralston himself said he is worried about the health of his fellow lawmakers.

“I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve been to too many funerals and I’m getting tired of going to them,” he said.

House members are required to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, which was put in place before the legislative session started earlier this month.

House Majority Leader Jon Burns (R-Newington) and House Minority Leader James Beverly (D-Macon) issued the following joint statement.

“We strongly support Speaker David Ralston in his efforts to preserve and protect the health and safety of the members and staff of the House of Representatives and all those who enter the doors of the Georgia State Capitol. We agree that all Members of the House of Representatives should comply with the testing procedures that have been implemented for their safety and the safety of their fellow Georgians.”