Ohio State Senator Is Caught Zooming and Driving

A Senator in Ohio might have misled anyone watching a State Board meeting this week into believing they were home if not one: the seat belt across their chest.

He also turned his head at some point to look over both shoulders in what appeared to be an attempt to safely change lanes in his home office.

In footage of the meeting, which was broadcast live on Monday, Senator Andrew Brenner first appeared in a parked car. A few minutes after the call, Mr. Brenner moved his phone, left the meeting for a moment, then reappeared and changed his background to look like he was sitting in a home office surrounded by brown cabinets, a houseplant, and hanging Artwork.

But on his chest a dark gray seat belt was sticking out against his shirt.

While he drove, Mr. Brenner, a Republican representing an area north of Columbus, seemed to keep his eyes mostly forward as he listened and responded to questions from members of the State Controlling Board, a group of elected officials making adjustments the state budget.

Although the background of the office largely obscured Mr. Brenner’s car, one could catch a glimpse of the view from the driver’s side window when he moved his head.

Mr Brenner did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He told The Columbus Dispatch that he was “not distracted” during the meeting and “made sure to drive and listen to the discussion.”

“I had two consecutive meetings in different locations,” Brenner told The Dispatch. “And I actually made other calls, numerous calls, while I was driving. Phone calls for the most part, but when it comes to video calls, I don’t pay attention to the video. It’s like a phone call to me. “

Mr. Brenner’s multitasking coincided with the introduction of a distracted driving law in the state House of Representatives. The bill would expand a driving text message ban, which is currently a secondary criminal offense in Ohio, to specifically prohibit text messaging, live streaming, photography and the use of mobile apps while driving.

The bill would make both holding and using an electronic device while driving a major criminal offense.

Earlier this year, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine added provisions to his budget proposal to combat distracted driving.

“Current Ohio laws don’t go far enough to change the distracted driving culture and people are dying from it,” DeWine said in a statement. “Distracted driving is a choice that must be as culturally unacceptable as drunk driving is today, and strengthening our current laws will lead to more responsible driving.”

Mr Brenner is not the first to step outside of video conferencing during the coronavirus pandemic. With meetings and trials going online since last spring, there have been numerous missteps. The judges have complained about shirtless lawyers attending the trial and defendants signing up for hearings in bikinis and even naked.

Last month, Rebecca Saldaña, a Democratic State senator in Washington, apologized after participating in a legislative video hearing while driving, the Seattle Times reported.

In February, a California plastic surgeon attended a Zoom Traffic Court hearing from an operating room, and a Texas attorney struggling with a filter had to explain to a judge that he was “not a cat.”

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