HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– The pandemic is continuing to affect every aspect of how government works.
We are learning technology will be key if you want to participate in the next legislative session. And some lawmakers may be first in line to receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it’s ready.
How lawmakers pass bills at the Capitol looks really different in a pandemic. Lawmakers vote via computer, or in person with COVID precautions in place. While leaders admit some access was given up, they are trying to create access with zoom public hearings.
“Right now, if you want to come to a public hearing in the judiciary committee you enter the lottery and you could be number 210. And you would drive to Hartford.” said incoming Democratic House Speaker Rep. Matt Ritter. “Now this could be good and bad, but you can sit in the comfort of your home watching a football game in sweatpants and testify at 4 in the morning when your time comes.”
The incoming speaker says the first quarter of the new legislative session will most likely be virtual. But lawmakers will be careful to keep the agenda focused and not hold hearings on Friday afternoons.
“Making sure that in this process that the people’s voice doesn’t get lost in the shuffle,” agrees Republican Minority leaders in the senate Kevin Kelly.
That shuffle in years past has included physically seeing your state representative or senator in person.
“Some folks just don’t want to go to the microphone or write a letter or pick up the phone to call,” adds Sen. Kelly. “Some just like to stand in front of the capitol or wear a colorful shirt and be part of the voice and process. When we aren’t in the building, it makes if difficult to hear that voice.”
But the second quarter of the legislative session could be in person, after a potential roll out of COVID vaccines.
Rep. Matt Ritter said, “we’re optimistic at least, I am with everything I read, a good portion of particularly the legislature’s most at risk …will be vaccinated by hopefully sometime in the March time frame or April. “
The incoming house speaker believes between vaccines, therapeutics and rapid testing the building could be open to the public by May. Meantime, the Governor’s Executive Order powers expire in February. There is an ongoing debate about whether that power should be extended.
The 2021 legislative session begins Jan. 6.