In response to the confirmation of Coronavirus in Mississippi the Mississippi Legislature is working on a plan to ensure the safety and health of all individuals who are at the Capitol during the 2020 Session.
Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann told the press that upon a recommendation of Dr. Thomas Dobbs with the Mississippi State Department of Health, they will be limiting access to the Capitol for the foreseeable future. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn has echoed similar sentiments on the House floor but has not released a public statement on the issue at this time.
The Senate Rules Committee voted Friday to suspend the page program and floor presentations. Hosemann initially said on the floor Friday morning, that people like lobbyists would be prohibited from coming to the Capitol unless invited by a member. However, as the rules committee decides on what is permitted by law it is unclear yet how far that will reach.
“The rules committee is in the final throws of making those kinds of decisions and drafting forms and what not,” said Hosemann. He said the Speaker is in agreement that those who have business with them be able to do that and for those that are ill not to be permitted inside.
Any additional decisions related to employees or visitors will be made next week.
He said they are working with the Mississippi Ethics Commission to ensure that no guidelines they set forth will interfere with the Open Meetings Act.
Hosemann added that the Senate Rules Committee is considering things like a mandatory sign in with Capitol police that would require visitors to wear a badge while present, or the use of temperature scanners, since a fever is associated with the illness. Hosemann already has one of these scanners set up outside of his office.
“There is no will by me that we cancel the Legislative session. We are doing the people’s work,” said Hosemann. “We intend to continue to work as long as humanly possible here.”
In a release by Hosemann’s staff they encouraged those who are sick or experiencing flu-like symptoms to consider staying home from work, with permission of their supervisor, or scheduling their visit to the Capitol for another time.
“Ensuring the public has access to their Capitol is important to us. We are balancing protecting this right with the responsibility of ensuring everyone working in or visiting the Capitol is safe and healthy,” Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann said. “We will continue to follow guidance from the State Health Officer to achieve these goals as we assess the Coronavirus situation in the State.”
Other Legislatures across the nation are facing similar issues. According to an Associated Press article some are suspending legislature indefinitely, others are also restricting public access to the Capitol buildings and some have even passed legislation to allow lawmakers to cast votes by phone while emergency public health declarations are in effect.
Read up on what other state’s are doing HERE.