State lawmakers resume session online
The Delaware General Assembly is getting back to work. The House voted 39-2 Tuesday via Zoom to reconvene and continue business virtually for now.
House Speaker Peter Schwarzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) said the current situation is far from ideal, but is necessary.
“It is rare that you get to experience something historic and after a while this will most likely seem routine. We’ve all been conducting and participating in virtual meetings for a couple of months now,” Schwarzkopf said. “I wanted to acknowledge the step that we’re taking today and hope that is a very temporary one. And, that we will return to Legislative Hall in the near future.”
House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst (D-Bear) said the move to a virtual session makes sense.
“Normally, we would be sitting together in the House Chamber in Legislative Hall surrounded by hundreds of staff, officials, advocates, reporters, and members of the public,” Longhurst said. “But, these are different times. And we have to take action to protect the health and safety of our legislators, staff and the public.”
State Rep. Richard Collins (R-Millsboro) voted against the resolution. He argued the move is unconstitutional, and other options are available to meet.
“While it might be somewhat inconvenient, we can meet in-person at auditoriums and gymnasiums in any school in the state or at Dover Downs,” Collins said. “There are numerous facilities that would allow the social distancing that would make our members feel safe.”
State Rep. Shannon Morris (R-Wyoming) also voted no. The state constitution allows the legislature to meet off site under certain circumstances such as fire, war, or disease. Both chambers must pass a concurrent resolution to move forward.
The State Senate votes the resolution Wednesday afternoon. It will also consider a series of appointments that have been on hold during the pandemic.
The state budget is lawmakers top priority as they return to work. They have about $491 million less to work with than when Gov. Carney offer his 2021 budget plan in January, according to the latest revenue estimates.
The Joint Finance Committee begins meeting June 2 with strict safety measures in place to work on the 2021 spending plan, which must be approved by June 30.