Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick will release new protocols when he gavels in the Texas Senate for the 87th Legislative Session on opening day, Jan. 12.
The U.S. Capitol and many state capitol buildings are currently closed to the public, and these protocols are designed to ensure the Texas Capitol can be open to the public, Patrick's office said.
These measures aim to keep everyone safe and also avoid a potential shutdown due to the virus over the next several months, Patrick's office said.
Guest seating for the opening day ceremonial session of the Texas Senate will be allocated by each of the 31 senators. This year, floor seating is limited to one family member at each senator's desk, and there will be no floor seating outside the brass rail or anywhere else on the Senate floor.
According to Patrick's office, this differs from past years when the Senate Chamber floor was fully in use for family and guest seating.
Each senator will be given 3 tickets for seats in the Senate Gallery for their family or constituents, limiting the seating in the Senate Gallery to less than a hundred guests and ensuring space for social distancing.
Senators have agreed to be tested for COVID-19 when entering the capitol. Staff members will be tested as well.
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Opening day guests of senators will also be tested for COVID-19. The testing is free and will yield results in 15 minutes or less. No personal data will be collected or kept regarding results.
On opening day, all Senate guests must enter through the capitol's east entrance, where testing will be conducted.
According to Patrick's office, senators have agreed to a much shorter opening day ceremony to reduce the time spent in a large gathering.
The Senate is reducing all ceremonial events and gatherings this session to focus on their constitutional legislative duties, Patrick's office said.
On opening day and throughout the session, most Senate offices will be open by appointment only to facilitate social distancing in their offices and to protect both the public and their staff.
Protocols and rules for the first 60 days of the legislative session will be voted on by the senators the first week of the session.
Those protocols will be released shortly thereafter, Patrick's office said.