Missouri’s House Speaker says “remote” floor sessions are not a possibility for the 163-member chamber.
House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield, was asked about the issue by a Capitol reporter on Thursday, due to concerns about coronavirus.
“There would be no way to verify the ability of people to vote remotely, not just in viewing them but understanding if they’re voting under duress or anything like that,” Haahr says.
Mr. Haahr continues to urge schoolchildren and other guests who are not directly involved in legislative business to avoid the Statehouse in Jefferson City, due to coronavirus concerns. He says the more people who visit the Capitol, the more chances that House members and staff will be at risk for coronavirus.
“We (the House) will have to meet in-person to do voting. The question is how do we do that, protect the members of the Legislature and continue to have state government operate,” says Haahr.
The Speaker notes the 163 House members and thousands of guests travel to the Missouri Capitol from every corner of the state each week. House leaders have closed the House chamber’s floor to the public, for the time being.
The House held “technical” sessions on Sunday and again on Monday. That means one lawmaker literally gavels the chamber in and out. It allows committee hearings to take place on those days. The House Budget Committee met for almost 12 hours on Sunday, before wrapping up at about 1:30 on Monday morning.
Speaker Haahr’s plan is for the full House to return to Jefferson City on Wednesday, with an expected House vote on a proposed $30 billion state operating budget. The House is expected to vote for final budget approval on Thursday.
The House would then begin its regularly-scheduled spring break and would return on March 30. The Senate is not in session this week. Once the House leaves, the Capitol is expected to receive a thorough cleaning.
Click here to listen to the audio from Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr’s press conference on March 12, 2020 in Jefferson City. KMIZ Channel 17’s Joe McLean asks the Speaker about the issue of remote sessions:
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