Lawmakers Limit Access To State Capitol During Coronavirus Pandemic
The state legislature is limiting access to the Capitol indefinitely to try to reduce the spread of COVID 19. But lawmakers insist they will continue working, at least for now.
“In the state of Oklahoma, the government is working, is functioning. And will continue to work and function,” said House Speaker Charles McCall (R).
The legislature is limiting access to the capitol building to elected officials, essential capitol staff and the press.
“We’ll be suspending tours, field trips, receptions, rallies and visits to the Capitol.” McCall said.
“We are suspending the page program on an ongoing basis. We have 10 pages this week, but we will suspend those on a going forward basis. We will no longer allow outside groups to have meetings in Senate space. And we are limiting access in the gallery to members of the press,” Senate President Pro tempore Greg Treat added.
The legislature will continue to stream floor activities. The House of Representatives also passed a resolution allowing members to vote by proxy just in case they can’t make it to the Capitol.
“What that means is that on an emergency basis we would be able to send just a few people to the house floor in order to vote on very important measures,” said Representative Emily Virgin (D) Minority Leader.
“We’re trying to avoid unnecessary trips to the Capitol, but nobody knows what the world is going to look like for sure one week from now. What we do know is we’re trying to model good behavior where we plan for worst case scenarios,” Representative John Echols (R) Majority Floor Leader added.
Because of spring break, the legislature will be in session Tuesday and take the remainder of the week off. They haven’t decided whether they’ll return to the Capitol next week.
“We are not in a panic, but we are taking this serious to try to protect our staff, our members and the public of Oklahoma,” Treat said.