The Missouri Legislature’s new session begins today at the state Capitol in Jefferson City – with some COVID-19 measures. Senate President Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, says session will not be a usual start because of the pandemic.

Missouri Capitol

“We have people checking temperatures, asking COVID-related questions as they enter the Capitol here, monitoring it from that perspective,” he tells Missourinet. “We’re taking some precautions on setting up our committee hearing rooms with some social distance areas, just trying to make sure that we have as much a safe environment as we can to try to conduct business.”

The public can listen to Senate committee hearings from abroad, but Schatz says hearings are not set up to take virtual testimony at this time.

“We would anticipate continuing to have public testimony in the form of individuals coming to the Capitol,” he says. “If they feel uncomfortable, I mean they’ve always been able to submit written testimony to the committees as well.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports the public will be able to testify virtually during House committee hearings.

Both the House and Senate already provide audio of floor debate. The House also posts video of debate on its website.

Schatz says Senators are not required to wear a mask, but he suggests that they wear one. At this time, spring break is the only major break planned in the Senate.

“Until something that would dramatically change, we’re going to plow forward I believe like we should,” says Schatz.

The state reports 405,589 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since March and 5,825 have died from the virus. More than 2,600 people are in a Missouri hospital being treated for COVID-19.

Lawmakers gavel in at noon today for the 2021 session. Eleven newly-elected Senators and 6 returning Senators will be sworn into office. In the House, 161 Representatives will also take the oath of office.

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