Indiana lawmakers consider changing rules for COVID-19 safety

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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s unclear whether Indiana lawmakers will return for session in person this year.

On Monday, the Legislative Continuity Committee met to discuss COVID-19 safety options during session and on Organization Day November 19.

Historically, the Indiana Statehouse is where lawmakers meet, but COVID-19 might change that, especially on Organization Day.

“We may be at an alternate location, and we’ve looked at several sites that might work for that purpose,” said Committee Co-Chair State Sen. Michael Crider (R-Greenfield).

They toured the Convention Center to see if that was an option. Eventually, lawmakers want to be back at the Statehouse, but studies have shown they all can’t meet where they normally do. The Legislative Services Agency did measurements and determined all 50 Senators can fit into their respective chambers safely, but only 42 of the 100 representatives in the House can safely meet in the House Chambers.

“We cannot put 100 people in that room,” said State Rep. Ed Delaney (D-Indianapolis). “I can hardly get out of the row I’m in as it is now.”

Delaney was the only committee member who voted no on recommendations asking the four caucus leaders to adjust rules and procedures for Organization Day and the upcoming 2021 session.

“We basically kicked some of the important issues, such as will we be tested? How often? And what will we do for contact tracing if we have a problem? We kicked those decisions upstairs,” he said.

“I completely trust those four to make the right decisions,” said Crider.

He explained he didn’t want to box state lawmakers in by making too many rules too soon.

“We want to be able to adapt, maybe daily, if that’s necessary,” said Sen. Crider.

However, the committee did make one specific suggestion. It wants to limit the number of bills each legislator can file to 10.

That limit is expected to take pressure off LSA and be better for logistics since they are unsure how and where each committee meeting will be able to safely convene.

Debates may need to happen virtually, and the public is expected to testify electronically as well. It’s going to require a lot of “information technology” or “IT” experts.

“We may need to hire more staff, we may need some more college interns who have an IT specialty,” said Crider.

There’s a lot yet to be determined, but Sen. Crider said he feels they’re off to a good start. State Rep. Delaney hopes the public will weigh in on how they would like to testify on a bill, if need be.

“Do they want to go to the Statehouse anymore? Do they want to do it virtually, where from?” said Rep. Delaney.

The Legislative Continuity Committee meets again on September 9.

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