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Virtual legislature could mean less participation from the public, warns Republican leaders

Delaware Public Media

The state legislature is convening virtually through January, and some legislators are concerned about a lack of input from the public.


Seeing rising cases and hospitalizations of COVID-19 in the state, State legislators decided that the session will start remotely, at least for the time being.


But Republican legislative leaders say a remote legislative session will leave out the people legislators work for, their constituents.


Senate Minority Whip Brian Pettyjohn says a lot of the decision making in the legislative hall comes from talking with Delawareans face to face, and Zoom just isn’t the same.


“It takes a lot of the  person away from the interactions, it sterilizes it a lot.”


Republican legislators aren’t opposed to the remote session, but want to see controversial bills pushed later in the session so if they do reconvene in person, citizens will have a chance to offer up their thoughts and opinions the proper way.


Pettyjohn adds remote meetings and live streams should be a more common occurrence in the state government.


“You know there are some laws that we should pass to give the public more accessibility to the government. I would love to see for all of the meetings of all these executive agencies and all these boards and commissions to be streamed virtually now.”


Pettyjohn says along with increased government transparency for the public, virtual meetings allow more people to provide their insight.


“There’s some very successful people out there that really don’t have the time to drive an hour and half up to Wilmington for a meeting. If you can give them the option to do these things virtually, then you get to add their expertise to some of these different boards, commissions that meet and help drive policy in the state and make it more convenient for them to do around their busy schedules.”

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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