The Mississippi Senate announced today that they would be allowing a change in attendance of committee meetings starting on Monday.
Just after convening at 10:00AM on Thursday, the Senate Rules Committee met and discussed a new set of protocols for members attending committee meetings until the next bill deadline. Members in the Senate, but no the House will still be required to check-in during roll call each morning, but they then will be free to retire to a different location and participate in committee meetings through a Zoom call.
Senator Walter Michel (R) explained the new rules to members, saying that some rooms like 216 allow for social distancing but rooms such as 409 are much smaller and might constitute some individuals participating via Zoom.
Chairmen will also be afforded the ability to restrict meetings to members only, since both of those rooms are live streamed on YouTube and thus would not violate the Public Meetings Act.
You can watch the Legislative YouTube channel here.
According to the House of Representatives, they are also making efforts to provide live streaming to committee rooms for the public, however those video streams have not yet been posted.
Speaker Gunn also announced on Thursday that they would be moving to a Zoom preferred procedure where lawmakers could participate in committee meetings via the platform, as well as floor actions. With the current general bills deadline still two weeks away, it is unlikely a large amount of floor action will take place in that time frame.
Since before session began, Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann was calling for a delay in the 2021 session due to COVID-19 concerns. He proposed a suspension until March 1 and then consecutively working through the 90 day session until the end of May. The sentiment was not echoed in the House as Speaker Gunn said publicly, many times, that work would go on as usual come January.
So far, two members have been confirmed to have tested positive for COVID-19, one of which had already had the first round of vaccination according to Hosemann. There are rumors that several more members have also tested positive in both chambers.
According to Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the state’s Chief Medical Officer, he considers an outbreak to be at least three people who have tested positive for COVID-19. The Senate and House are quickly approaching that number.
Members of the Senate on the floor Thursday discussed writing a letter to the House requesting the filing of a suspension resolution in order to delay session. Senator John Horhn (D) and others said it could encourage their House counterparts to push for this delay if they were to understand how strongly the Senate feels about it.
However, Senator Scott DeLano (R) said that he does not believe that the consensus for a delay is there just yet. He said there are other concerns from members on what the implications of a delay could mean.