Missouri lawmakers to return to Jefferson City on April 27; they’ll practice social distancing

Coronavirus

The Missouri Senate chamber sits empty on Thursday, March 12, 2020, in Jefferson City, Missouri, after senators adjourned for the day and announced they would not reconvene in a full session until at least March 30 because of concerns over the new coronavirus. Officials in state capitols across the country have been announcing new precautions intended to guard against the spread of the disease. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (Photo by David A. Lieb)

(Missourinet)– Missouri’s governor believes it’s safe for state lawmakers to return to the Capitol in Jefferson City later this month, adding that the decision is up to legislators. The top leaders in the GOP-controlled Missouri Senate and House say lawmakers will come back on April 27.

Governor Mike Parson (R) responded Wednesday to a question from Missourinet during his daily media briefing, asking him about the COVID-19 health concerns raised by State Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis.

“There’s still work to be done everyday here at the state, the state keeps going,” Parson says. “So I look for them to be back and I think they will but I think also they’ll take precautions to make sure people can be as safe as they can when they come back to the Capitol.”

Legislative leaders note they have until the May 8 constitutional deadline to approve the state operating budget.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, and other legislative leaders say lawmakers will continue to practice social distancing when they return, and that infection mitigation procedures will continue.

They also say it’s critical that lawmakers keep state government funded and services operating without interruption.

Representative Aldridge has COVID-19 safety concerns, for the 163-member House and for staff and Capitol visitors.

“We haven’t really reached the peak of this COVID-19 outbreak for cases being reached, deaths being reached in the state and not also having enough tests to know exactly who has this potential virus,” says Aldridge.

Aldridge says the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation projects that Missouri will reach its peak deaths per day on April 29.

Legislative leaders say they’ll use the time between now and April 27 to monitor the trajectory of Missouri’s coronavirus cases.

Aldridge would prefer that lawmakers tackle the budget in a special session this summer.

“We could be entering something that we just don’t know, I mean no one knows, and I’m not blaming anybody,” Aldridge says. “But we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next couple of weeks, and Missouri is continuing to see an increase in COVID cases.”

State health officials say there are now 4,895 confirmed coronavirus cases in Missouri, along with 147 deaths.

Pro Tem Schatz, Speaker Haahr and other GOP legislative leaders say the decision to move forward on April 27 was not an easy one. They say the General Assembly will continue with social distancing and that hearings and proceedings will be open to the public.

They’re still encouraging you to participate in the process remotely, when possible.

State lawmakers left Jefferson City on April 8, after approving a historic $6.2 billion emergency relief package to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which has cost thousands of jobs across the state. Haahr notes it’s the largest supplemental budget in state history.

The House debate was unlike anything that’s ever been seen in the chamber, with Speaker Haahr wearing a mask and the chamber limited to ten people at one time. There were no visitors in the upper galleries, which normally are filled with schoolchildren, lobbyists and the general public.

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