The Texas Legislature will look and feel different when its 87th session starts in January due to COVID-19 protocols put in place. A group of House lawmakers were charged with coming up with recommendations for the session.
“We have put Plexiglass dividers in all of the committee rooms to protect, to separate the members," state Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth). "We have purchased air purification systems for all the members' offices, all of the committee rooms, all of the conference rooms."
There are new air purification filters in the HVAC system in the House chamber and a new sanitization system, according to Geren. He said they have also discussed masks, testing, virtual testimony and voting from places other than the House floor in an effort to minimize the number of people there at one time.
“Every day will be a work in progress. We will get the rules and then we may have to come in and make some modifications to them, and that is why I think there will be a set of COVID rules that will expire,” he said.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) and presumptive Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) are talking with members about procedures, an advisor to Patrick said.
“Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and Speaker-Presumptive Dade Phelan have been discussing possible procedures and protocols to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the upcoming legislative session with legislators from both sides of the aisle for several weeks. His goal has been to be transparent and inclusive in his discussions and to build a consensus among lawmakers about what needs to be done. Lt. Governor Patrick and Speaker-Presumptive Phelan hope to make an announcement regarding Session protocols soon,” senior advisor to Patrick Sherry Sylvester said.
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State Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Fort Worth) said they have a good picture of what’s ahead because they are already having interim committee hearings.
“You will see right here that I have on a little button. And that is indicative of the fact that before I went into my meeting today I was tested for COVID, and so was everybody else who went into the room,” she said.
Powell said she expected frequent testing and masks.
“We are already getting a clear understanding of what it is going to feel to have public testing virtually, and so far, it is just working perfectly,” Powell said.