The Florida House and Senate will take steps in January to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 during the upcoming committee weeks.
Beginning Jan. 11, lawmakers are scheduled to hold a series of committee weeks ahead of the 2021 Legislative Session.
The Florida House’s first round of committee meetings launch on Jan. 13 and Jan. 14. Over the two days, 15 House committees and subcommittees will meet in large committee rooms to prevent the spread of COVID-19, according to a schedule posted on the House website. Notably, on Jan. 13, the House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m and the Appropriations and Ways & Means committees will gather at noon.
The House will require one-hour sanitation breaks between meetings to disinfect rooms and replace microphone shields. All committee rooms will feature medical-grade HEPA filters.
Under the alternating meeting plan outlined this month by House Speaker Chris Sprowls, committees and subcommittees that do not meet on Jan. 13 or Jan. 14 will meet during the week of Jan. 25.
“The intensity of activity in and around committee weeks creates challenges for guarding against the spread of the novel coronavirus,” Sprowls wrote in a Dec. 18 memo. “The House will mitigate that risk by splitting our committee blocks in two and implementing an alternating meeting schedule, which will result in a more condensed committee schedule by reducing the number of days members will need to be in Tallahassee.
The Florida Senate, alternatively, has scheduled meetings over a four-day window, beginning Jan. 11 and continuing until Jan. 14, according to a schedule posted on the Senate website.
The Senate will not hold more than three meetings at a time as one of its strategies to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Senate has reserved three remote viewing rooms, which will allow the public to watch meetings and virtually address senators while social distancing. Only those invited to present information and answer questions, as well as members of the media, will be allowed with senators in the committee rooms in person.
Meanwhile, the House policies also call for virtual testimony but make it available in the capitol building.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, which will play a key role in drawing up the 2021-2022 budget, is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. Jan. 14, followed by a meeting of the newly created Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response, according to the schedule.
The 2021 Legislative Session kicks off on March 2.
Content from the News Service of Florida was used in this article.