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General Assembly’s Republican leadership confirms return to Capitol

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Republican leaders in both the House and Senate confirmed legislators will reconvene in the capital city on April 27. 

Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden had teased the return earlier this week, but GOP leadership cemented the plans in a joint statement Wednesday evening. Lawmakers have stayed away from the Capitol during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. 

Rowden, Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz, House Speaker Elijah Haahr, and Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo said: 

“During this unprecedented time, our legislative body has worked to balance the health and safety of members, staff, and visitors with our constitutional obligation to pass a budget. The decision to move forward on April 27 was not an easy one, however it is absolutely critical for the people of Missouri that we keep the state government funded and services operating without interruption. We will use the intervening time to monitor the trajectory of Missouri’s coronavirus cases as well as assess the impact of newly issued federal guidance and disaster funds on the state budget.

The General Assembly will continue to adhere to social distancing and infection mitigation procedures when members return. Committee hearings and legislative proceedings will remain open to the public and their testimony. We strongly encourage members of the public to follow social distancing guidelines and participate in the legislative process electronically when possible.” 

Although the Missouri Capitol and state offices officially shuttered on March 24, lawmakers, reporters, and some members of the public gathered in the Statehouse last week as the supplemental budget was passed. Extra precautions were in place, including temperature checks at the door. Many legislators wore masks and gloves, and the House floor remained largely empty during discussions. 

Additionally, reporters and other members of the public were shepherded through a separate door and could only traverse certain cordoned off areas of the Capitol while in the building. Lawmakers’ offices were also restricted. 

Missouri is under a statewide stay at home order until April 24. However, Gov. Mike Parson said he planned to make an announcement regarding that order Thursday. 

When asked by The Missouri Times earlier this week, Parson said he was “glad [lawmakers are] coming back” to work. 

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade said lawmakers should keep a narrow focus upon return. 

“If the legislative session is to resume then it must be limited to enacting the state budget and passing laws necessary to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild Missouri’s economy,” Quade said in a statement. “As Governor Parson said yesterday, those are the only priorities that matter. Under no circumstances should the safety of the public, legislative staff, and lawmakers be jeopardized to advance a partisan political agenda or grant special interest favors.” 

And earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader John Rizzo expressed his disapproval about plans to call legislators back to the capital city. Like Quade, he also expressed a desire for the final weeks of session to focus on the budget and other “meaningful legislation” pertaining to jobs and health care. 

So far, only one member of the General Assembly has tested positive for coronavirus. And Sen. Gina Walsh said she is self-quarantining after potentially being exposed to the virus. 

Since early March, at least 4,800 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19 and 147 have died.  


EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.