The Delaware House of Representatives plans to conduct session “physically” at Legislative Hall for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic later this month.
House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D- Rehoboth Beach, said Friday that an in-person hybrid session is planned April 29th for floor votes and party caucuses. It’s expected that the vast majority of lawmakers and essential staff will have been fully vaccinated by then.
Legislative Hall will not be reopened to the public, but Schwartzkopf said decisions about future possible advancing of in-person session for the rest of the year will be announced at a later date.
“As I have stated numerous times, the health and safety of fellow legislators, our staff and the public are my primary responsibilities. Remaining in virtual session has been critical to that goal,” Schwartzkopf said. “However, we are thankfully in a position where lawmakers and staff have been able to get vaccinated, which greatly reduces the risk to them and their families, and we can begin the process of resuming in-person session. “
“Returning to session in person will give us the opportunity to discuss issues and interact with each other in a way that is both familiar and more productive for many members. However, it will require us to first ensure the safety of all those who would be present, and to plan for contingencies,” Schwartzkopf added. “The health and safety of all those involved is our top priority. This is a deliberate process that is being guided by the science and recommendations from experts.”
The House Speaker also said reopening plans have been discussed for weeks, and have not been prompted by “some outside pressure.” Local attorney and former Republican candidate for Governor Julianne Murray filed a lawsuit last week contending that keeping the public out of the capitol building during session violates the State Constitution.
“I want to be clear that this return to an in-person session has been discussed for months among staff and legislators and was not prompted by some outside pressure,” Schwartzkopf said. “In fact, this plan was vetted by the leaders of both caucuses last month, as will our ongoing efforts to conduct legislative business on the House floor.”
House lawmakers are concluding a two-week break and will resume virtual committee meetings April 20th and 21st. A virtual floor session for House votes on legislation is scheduled for Thursday, April 22nd.
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