On Tuesday, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann reiterated again his desire for a delay in the 2021 Legislative Session. It was his proposal that members come in on January 5 and then adjourn until March 1 in an attempt to maintain public health guidelines regarding indoor gatherings.
The rumors of a potential delay in session first began at the end of November when multiple sources from the House and Senate told Y’all Politics there was talk of a pushed back start date. The idea seemed to stem from high COVID-19 numbers in the state and a desire to avoid them while giving the vaccine a chance to make its way throughout the population.
Hosemann said the primary concern he has is the risk to the public health, including members and Capitol staff. The Legislature returning at this time could create a super spreader event, since lawmakers come from all across the state.
However, he said the House of Representatives has not quite come on board with the notion of a session delay. The House is also the chamber in which a bill would have to originate in order to do so. Hosemann said he had a meeting with Speaker Philip Gunn late Tuesday to discuss matters such as these.
Hosemann’s proposal is simple – come in January 5 and handle matters of housekeeping and votes like the design of the State Flag that must be ratified by the Legislature. Then, the members would have to pass a resolution to allow them to adjourn until March 1 and work their 90 days consecutively through the end of May.
Hosemann was very specific though that he was not interested in a “yo-yo” session in which members were coming in and out all year, similar to what happened in 2020.
“The overriding thing the Speaker and I do agree on is that we want public health and that’s the citizens first, then the people that work here and then the Legislators,” said Hosemann. “I expect that to be an ongoing decision. We could see a spike after we are here for two weeks and then make another turn, we just have to wait and see how it comes out.”
But, he did say he would like to see a fixed period take place.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Finance and Administration has limited Capitol availability. While the public is still permitted to enter and take self-guided tours, all Capitol day events which are typically held by businesses and nonprofits throughout the session have been cancelled. These interactions are often critical in the lawmaking process and Hosemann said a delay in session could allow for constituents to communicate with their lawmakers about the tasks at hand.
“We’re not able to have groupings, we’re not able to have speeches. We’re not able to have these groups that the members of the House and Senate Legislature meet with. We are a citizen legislature and when we can’t have discussion with you, that to me shrinks the ability to have good legislation,” said Hosemann.
Regulations within the Capitol will remain similar to 2020. Officials will take everyone’s temperature upon entry and social distancing will be encouraged. Hosemann said for the Senate, after roll call, members will be asked to disperse to their offices. Roughly half of the Senators have an office; the other half will social distance in the chamber.
Hosemann also said he will require members to wear their masks at all times this year, a request that he admits was not always followed throughout last year.
The last on record comment made by Speaker of the House Gunn regarding a delay was made on December 7 on SuperTalk radio, in which he said at that point they planned to start session as usual on January 5.