Re-opening doesn’t include the ‘People’s House’

Politics

HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) — On Thursday, Governor Ned Lamont and Democratic leaders will meet to discuss pandemic executive orders. They’re mapping out which orders should stay and which orders should go.

While that is happening, the state legislature continues to do its work remotely., why isn’t the State Capitol opening up as Main Street is opening up?

Republican lawmakers say they want lawmakers to get back in the building and start functioning as a normal legislature.

State Rep. Vin Candelora the House Minority Leader says “This game of telephone in the legislative process has become dangerous.”

Masked lawmakers can vote in person. While others vote remotely as long as they are on the Capital property. The general public not allowed in the building. The State Capitol Complex has been shuttered except for lawmakers, the Governor, and the press for a year.

News 8 Chief Political Correspondent Jodi Latina and her photographer Kevin Frederick enter wearing masks and have to get their temperatures taken. This is the protocol for all press corps.

State Rep. Jason Rojas the Democratic House Majority Leader admits, “We are dealing with changing conditions on the ground every day.”

Despite all the social distancing and mask rules visibly in place around the complex, Rojas says it’s not safe to open the state capitol or legislative office building to taxpayers.

“I don’t want to be in a position to say 20-members of the public can come in but you other 20 can’t come in because of capacity limits to access the lawmaking process,” added Rojas. “I don’t know if we want to be in the position of enforcing mask-wearing inside this building. If there is a significant group of people who object to wearing a mask and want to come in. That is a very difficult thing for our staff to police and for our capitol police to manage as well.”

House Minority Leader Candelora counters, “To suggest that if this building is opened up there’s no way to control it versus a grocery store is absurd to me.”

Republicans say people are being kept at a distance for the wrong reasons. “This is the people’s building and we have to have faith in our residents to comply with safety orders,” said Candelora.

The Speaker says he’s waiting on the Centers for Disease Control and State Department of Public Health to give guidance on safely reopening the Capitol.

Meantime, a number of virtual public hearings have lasted 24-hours with hundreds of people signed up to testify – only to be left out because the hearing was capped.

House Speaker State Rep. Matt Ritter says access is not the issue. “Zoom is working for public testimony in my opinion. So yes there is different access. But to say there is no access… you have seen it with public hearings there’s a lot of access for individuals.”

Governor Lamont says opening up 100-percent means still wearing masks and social distancing. Whether that translates to all state-owned buildings is unclear.

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