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The logistics of the 2021 session

How the next session will function logistically is not yet entirely clear.

Leadership from the two chambers have been talking about the subject for months, thinking through social distancing, technology, and transparency.

The House is expected to release more information this week on how things will function. The Senate may follow suit this week, as well.

In talking with members and staff about how the session will actually work, for legislators and advocates alike, here are a few key things to look for based on what we have learned.

1. The legislature has to return in person for a session so that each chamber can adopt rules. These rules will provide for committee structures, leadership elections, and the normal day-one events. It also will set the rules for Zoom meetings and allow for votes to take place via a virtual tabulation and voting system. This should not take more than a day, and is expected to move relatively quickly.

2. The House in-person session may not be in the legislative building. The leading plan recently was to convene at St. Martin’s University in the gymnasium. This would provide enough space to convene 98 members, plus administrative staff, given about 6 feet from one another.

3. Committees will have much less time to do their work, allowing fewer bills to move forward. Because the floor action is expected to require more time to pass bills, committees will have fewer calendar days to meet and do their work. Moreover, it’s expected that the technology and process of virtual committee meetings will be less efficient than in-person. So, the number of bills heard in each of the reduced number of committee days will be fewer.

4. Providing testimony will be similar to the virtual testimony model used now. Because the legislature started taking virtual testimony in recent years, it has the infrastructure and process knowledge to scale that up. It’s possible that advocates will need to sign up the day before a hearing. They also may expect as little as one minute to make their case.

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