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Hybrid system coming to 2021 legislative session

The Capitol Building was already under heavy renovations before the pandemic started, including construction to a popular entrance and a video board that will connect lawmakers to the floor virtually.
The Capitol Building was already under heavy renovations before the pandemic started, including construction to a popular entrance and a video board that will connect lawmakers to the floor virtually.(KFYR-TV)
Published: Sep. 16, 2020 at 7:25 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The State Constitution says that lawmakers shall meet “at the seat of government.” And for more than 100 years, that was interpreted to mean to physically meet in this chamber.

However, some lawmakers are being allowed to meet virtually throughout the pandemic. And now, when preparing for session, this largely empty chamber may remain that way in 2021.

With only a few months before the next legislative session, lawmakers are trying to determine how people will meet and how they’ll be allowed to vote.

“As far as the presumption: we’re coming to carry out the legislative session face to face, and then we make adjustments for those individuals that need adjustments going forward,” Sen. Majority Leader Rich Wardner said.

The Capitol Building was already under heavy renovations before the pandemic started, including construction to a popular entrance and a video board that will connect lawmakers to the floor virtually.

But now they’re adding social distancing to changes. Including spreading out lawmakers throughout the chambers, even voting from the public viewing galleries and setting up private cubicles throughout the building for lawmakers to connect to the chamber floors.

“We knew we had to start heading down this path of doing some sort of hybrid. Those video boards are also gonna be to make it so that if someone wants to be up on the 14th or 15th floor, they’ll be on that board,” House Majority Leader Chet Pollert said.

The recent interim has been a dry run for many, with committees meeting and voting remotely for the entirety of the State of Emergency.

The question isn’t just for the 2021 session. There are concerns over setting a precedent, meaning that some lawmakers may be allowed to meet virtually well after the pandemic is over.

Copyright 2020 KFYR. All rights reserved.

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