Legislature reveals COVID rules for organizational session

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 5:41 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) - The full Florida legislature will return to the Capitol for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in just under two weeks to swear in new members.

The usually festive and crowded ceremony will look quite different this year.

Desks not moved in decades have been spread out. Face masks will be mandatory, as will COVID testing for all lawmakers.

“And so we’re taking this serious,” said Senate President-Designate Wilton Simpson.

The safety protocols were developed with infection prevention experts from Tampa General Hospital and USF to ensure the gathering of all 160 lawmakers won’t result in an outbreak.

“We’ve had several Senators who have had COVID and have recovered, thank God. We want to make sure that people are coming into a safe environment,” said Simpson.

Public access is being limited to just a small selection of family and designated guests.

A limited number of journalists will be allowed in the press gallery and video will be streamed on the Florida Channel.

Long-time lobbyist Jack Cory hopes lawmakers will be able to provide for more access to the Capitol when committee meetings begin in January.

“County commissions and city commissions have to meet in person with the public invited. We certainly hope the Legislature gets to that point soon,” said Cory.

And Simpson noted, these protocols only apply to the organizational session.

“And I hope by January we can change that back to something that will be a little more open,” said Simpson.

During the November 17 ceremony, no policy will be discussed, debated or voted on.

The governor had suggested legislators pass his anti-rioting law enforcement protection plan after the election, but it will have to wait until at least March.

After the organizational session, lawmakers will return to the Capitol on Monday, January 11.

They have five weeks of preseason committee meetings lined up before officially commencing the 2021 Legislative Session on Tuesday, March 2.

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