This Week in Statehouse Action: Spring Fever edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Spring Fever edition

Happy spring!

Please be sure to observe the vernal equinox in a responsible, socially-distanced manner.

Thank you for joining me during this stressful, uncertain, and deeply weird time.

For what it’s worth, you’re not the only one whose life has been extremely disrupted by COVID-19.

Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year: Last week in this space, I listed out a whole slew of state legislatures that both had and hadn’t altered their lawmaking routines in light of the growing pandemic.

Given how much the situation has evolved over the past seven days, it’s no surprise that more statehouses have pulled up stakes or otherwise altered their schedules. Here’s the latest:

After the Maryland legislature announced last week that the public would no longer be invited to testify for or against legislation in committee hearings and instead could submit comments electronically, lawmakers decided over the weekend to adjourn March 18 (with plans to convene for a special session in late May).

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The Iowa legislature also decided over the weekend to go ahead and meet on Monday but to then suspend its session for 30 days.
Nebraska’s unicameral legislature opted to postpone its session “until further notice.”
The Louisiana legislature is temporarily adjourned with plans to reconvene on March 31.
The Minnesota legislature is in recess “until April 14 or whenever.”
Hawaii’s legislative session has been suspended indefinitely.
California legislators scrambled to pass two coronavirus response bills before suspending session this week.
Mississippi’s legislature voted this week to suspend session until at least April 1
New Hampshire’s legislature has adjourned until April 10.
On Saturday, Colorado lawmakers voted to adjourn until March 30.

The next day, Democratic state Rep. Michaelson Jenet felt feverish. She checked her temperature—102.
On Monday, she got tested for coronavirus.
Thursday, the results came back: positive.

Jenet is, obviously, in quarantine for two weeks.

No word yet on how all the lawmakers she came in contact with over the days before she began to show symptoms plan to deal with their March 30 return date.

Despite the fact that Oklahoma lawmakers have declared no plans to suspend or adjourn their session, they may reconsider, considering that a state Senate staffer tested positive for COVID-19 this week.

Also this week, the state House passed a measure that would let its members vote by proxy on “big bills.”

Kentucky lawmakers decided earlier this week to go ahead with its session, citing the need to pass a state budget, and is limiting statehouse access to lawmakers, staff, and media.
The New York Assembly continues to meet to pass coronavirus relief measures, but they’re doing so with extreme caution, as three members of the body have tested positive for COVID-19.

Session days are being canceled in sort of ad hoc fashion as lawmakers try to minimize time spent in close proximity to more than 10 other humans but still pass important bills.

Lawmakers are casting votes one at a time or in small groups in otherwise empty chambers.

The Pennsylvania House and Senate voted this week to allow members to vote remotely.

Currently neither chamber has plans to suspend session.

Something to watch: the House rules changes allow the chamber to hold session without a quorum of members physically present. If that rule doesn’t change back when all this is over, the GOP-controlled state House could use it to pull some veto-override shenanigans on Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Spring Is Here: At this point, it may be more responsible to warn folks about the legislatures that continue to meet despite exceeding the recommended 10-person gathering limit.

Those legislatures are:

Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Florida
Idaho
Kansas
Kentucky
Massachusetts
Michigan
Oklahoma
Pennsylvania
South Carolina
South Dakota

Also the Ohio Senate (the House is out until further notice).

Spring Haze: In Kansas, GOP lawmakers seem a little confused as to what they’re really fighting.

Even as a pandemic explodes across the country, Republicans in the Sunflower state want to hamstring their Democratic governor’s ability to take decisive action by limiting her emergency powers, including her ability to establish quarantine zones (should the unfortunate need arise).

Republicans are upset that Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly ordered all the state’s K-12 schools closed for the rest of the school year, decrying it as an “overreaction” that could fuel “panic.”

Kelly also temporarily banned evictions and foreclosures.

Some GOPers are suggesting that Kelly might use her emergency powers to try to limit firearms in the state, something she’s literally given no indication of doing and would be contrary to her history of pro-gun votes in the legislature.

Kelly’s declaration of a state of emergency was set to expire March 27 unless lawmakers passed a resolution to extend it—which they have, through May 1.

… but they’ve given themselves the authority to review and revoke some of the ways she uses her emergency powers. 

The final version of the bill that passed Thursday specifically prevents Kelly fro taking Kansans’ ammunition (again, something she’s never given any indication whatsoever she was interested in doing) and gives the GOP-controlled legislature the power to revoke any orders she gives commandeering private property or limiting movement.

Also, Kelly’s emergency powers have to be reauthorized every 30 days.

Spring Vacation: A whole lot of lawmakers in Georgia are going to be staying home for a couple of weeks, thanks to one recklessly irresponsible state senator.

Republican Sen. Brandon Beach began showing coronavirus symptoms, including fever and coughing, early last week. 

He got tested for the coronavirus on Saturday.
Then, despite not yet knowing the results of that test, Beach showed up to a special session on Monday and hung around for almost eight hours as lawmakers voted to give the governor emergency powers.

Fun fact! Even if the vote had been on party lines, Beach didn’t need to show up for the measure to pass, as Republicans have a 35-21 majority in the Georgia Senate.

So Beach:

Knew he’d been sick
Knew he was waiting on the results of a coronavirus test
Knew his party didn’t actually need him to show up to vote
But spread his germs all over the Georgia statehouse for eight hours on Monday anyway.

You probably know how this story ends, but I’mma tell you anyhow.

On Wednesday, Beach’s test results came back: positive for COVID-19.

Georgia’s health commissioner asked all senators and staffers to self-quarantine for 14 days.
House leadership advised all representatives do the same.

One of Beach’s fellow Republicans is … displeased with his colleague.

According to a post on his Facebook page, Rep. Scot Turner is “shaking with rage.”

For Turner, it’s personal: He lives with “an elderly hospice patient.”

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Hope you’re taking care of yourself, whether you’ve been laid off or work from home or are an essential employee of some sort who braves the germy elements each day to keep us healthy and safe or our utilities and government functional or staffs our essential stores or prepares food for us to pick up to help keep your dining establishment open or whatever else takes you out and about in a responsibly socially distant fashion. 

Anyway, do your thing, but look after you, too. Trust me, your boss and/or everyone else who relies on you want you to.

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