State lawmakers are staying remote through March
Delaware’s General Assembly won’t return in person to Dover yet, but lawmakers hope that day comes soon.
New cases of COVID-19 are dropping in the First State, but state lawmakers still don’t think it’s the right time to bring everyone back to Legislative Hall.
Session resumes next week and leadership announced this week it will remain online through March.
Most lawmakers are still waiting to be vaccinated, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf says they fall under the next phase of the vaccine rollout.
Schwarzkopf says until legislators are vaccinated, he wants to set an example for the rest of the state. He mentions the recent decision by governors in Texas and Mississippi to open their state’s completely.
“We are on the downside of this latest spike and numbers are coming down all across the country with the addition of people being vaccinated," said Schwartzkopf. "Why would we toy with that right now? Give it another month.”
President Joe Biden announced a collaboration between pharmaceutical companies Tuesday he hopes will speed up vaccine production and get doses to every adult by the end of May.
Schwartzkopf is hoping this means legislators can soon return to meeting in person, noting how much more difficult it is to work on the budget over Zoom.
Schwartzkopf says the virtual format is not all bad. They’ve seen more people attending committee meetings than ever.
“Yeah we had over 100 on one of 'em. It’s an easier way for the public to follow and have some input on what the process is, " said Schwartzkopf. "And right now that’s about the only input they have.”
Schwarzkopf and other lawmakers have applauded the ease of access to committee meetings, and hope to use the technology post-pandemic so people don’t have to drive to Dover to make public comments.
All legislative committee meetings can be found on the General Assembly's website.
The lawmakers’ announcement comes at the same time as Delaware courts extend their restricted access, with jury trials on pause.
The courts announced they’ll remain in phase two of reopening through early April, bringing the pause on jury trials to a full year, with the exception of a short reopening back in October.
Roman Battaglia a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.