- The Maine Wire - https://www.themainewire.com -

Legislative leaders want to revert to old COVID-19 protocols for upcoming second session

According to a schedule released on December 17, the 130th Maine Legislature will hold only two in-person sessions when it reconvenes in January for the second session. Committee meetings will be held remotely, with audio and video streams available to the public.

In-person sessions are currently scheduled for January 5 and 26. According to a press release published jointly by Senate President Troy Jackson (D-Allagash) and Speaker of the House of Representatives Ryan Fecteau (D-Biddeford), the legislature’s presiding officers will “release a further session schedule in late January and will continue to evaluate the operations of the legislature on a regular basis.” 

In the press release, Jackson called the current surge in COVID-19 cases an ”unbelievable crisis” and said the legislature will operate under last years’ COVID-19 policies in order not to put further stress on Maine’s “hospitals, health care providers and frontline workers.”

Fecteau emphasized the impact remote hearings have had on citizen participation in legislative hearings. 

“It was incredible to see how everyday people could participate and get engaged in the political process without having to drive to Augusta,” Fecteau said in the release.

He also stated his commitment to ensuring remote sessions will be transparent and accessible to the public.

“I’m happy to report that the same level of transparency and access will continue this session, with public hearings and work sessions streaming live online. Ultimately, I remain committed to the safety and health of the nonpartisan staff, the public, and the lawmakers at the State House,” Speaker Fecteau said. 

The legislature’s current COVID-19 Prevention Policy was implemented by the Legislative Council in late September just before both houses convened for a special session. 

It reinstated the requirement that anyone entering the State House wear a face covering in legislative spaces, unless the individual is alone in his or her office, in a cubicle and able to socially distance at least six feet, or on the State House’s third floor balcony.

The policy currently in place is identical to the policy that was implemented for the 130th Legislature’s first session, with the exception of a requirement that committee meetings be held remotely. While the policy in place during the first session required remote committee meetings, the current policy says a legislator or committee staff member “may choose” to attend meetings remotely.