UPDATE: Coronavirus concerns lead 27 statehouses to suspend, end work
March 18, 2020
Coronavirus concerns have spurred legislatures around the country to make adjustments to legislative business.
As of Monday there are 18 legislatures that have postponed their legislative session for at least one week, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four states have closed for the year and five more states have one chamber that is taking a break from regular work.
In Georgia, the Legislature suspended the regular session indefinitely out of “an abundance of caution” for coronavirus concerns. Instead, a special session was convened to address efforts to combat COVID-19.
During that time, one state senator acknowledged he tested positive for the virus. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that Senate Transportation Chairman Brandon Beach was symptomatic for multiple days, but continued to show up to the statehouse.
As of March 18, all 236 members of the Georgia House and Senate and employees received memos urging them to self-isolate through March 30. Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan also announced he would self-quarantine.
“I encourage all of us to continue to heed the warnings of Gov. (Brian) Kemp and the Trump administration – we have to take this seriously,” Duncan wrote in a prepared remarks.
— Geoff Duncan (@GeoffDuncanGA) March 18, 2020
The Legislature has adjourned until a future date.
There are at least four other statehouses where at least one legislator has tested positive for coronavirus.
Regular sessions end early
In Maryland, the General Assembly has shut down for a minimum of two months. The legislature was scheduled to be in regular session until April 6.
Out of concern about the novel coronavirus, state lawmakers wrapped up their work by midweek. There are plans to hold a special session before June to pass any necessary legislation.
The Maine Legislature has shut down for the year after approving a supplemental budget and passing legislation related to the virus. The session ended at the end of business March 17 – about one month earlier than was scheduled.
On Thursday, March 19, Idaho lawmakers adjourned for the year – one week earlier than was scheduled.
Tennessee’s General Assembly wrapped up their work at the end of the week. State lawmakers have recessed for at least two months.
In a joint statement from Gov. Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally and House Speaker Cameron Sexton, the decision for “passing an amended budget now and recessing will allow the General Assembly to focus on an immediate plan of action, while still determining needs down the road.”
Similarly in Kansas, the Legislature last week raced to approve a 10-year, $10 billion transportation spending plan. State lawmakers were then sent home on Thursday until April 27.
In Delaware, the Legislature extended a one-week postponement to an “indefinite postponement” because of coronavirus concerns.
Legislatures in Alabama, Kentucky and Vermont are taking at least one week off from official business. California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Rhode Island legislatures have committed to taking at least a two-week break.
The Hawaii Legislature also acted to recess. Senate President Ronald Kouchi stated the Legislature would “resume the session at a future date.”
The Wisconsin Senate will not have a floor period for the rest of the month. The state Assembly adjourned for the year in February.
The Missouri Senate will not return until March 30. The Oklahoma Senate has taking a break until Friday, March 27.
Coronavirus concerns elsewhere
There are legislatures around the country that have stopped short of closing. Instead, they have taken steps to limit interactions while lawmakers focus their efforts to combat the virus.
Statehouses that include Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota and Texas have cancelled meetings and public hearings. Multiple capitols are asking the public to avoid traveling to their statehouse.
There are nine legislatures that already adjourned on their regular schedule: Florida, Indiana, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Four states did not meet in regular session this year: Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas.
As of Monday morning, there are eight states where the legislature has no suspension or postponement. They are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and South Dakota.