TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Lawmakers are returning to the Capitol on Thursday for a one-day legislative session, but procedural changes will be implemented to maintain social distancing.
This begins the moment legislators and other attendees enter the building, with an evaluation, including having their temperature taken by Capitol building staff, and masks being available if they prefer.
Once they are finished with the evaluation and there are no concerns, they will be given a bright orange wristband to wear.
“Safety is our priority as we bring staff, legislators, and others back into the Statehouse this week,” Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) said in the email to all representatives. “Our administrative staff has consulted with medical professions, who have recommended some safety protocols for operating the building and our Chamber.”
All state representatives, besides House leadership, will stay in their offices and watch the session virtually, said House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer (D-Wichita).
“When you look at the makeup of the Legislature, actually like 65% of the members are in the high risk groups… the older, or have health issues,” Sawyer said. “We definitely should be careful. It’s a big group that’s got a lot of high risk people.”
If lawmakers care to speak, they are encouraged to email their party’s leadership and, once approved, venture to the chambers, according to Sawyer.
Representatives will vote for bills in groups of 21 alphabetically, Sawyer said, as the Kansas Constitution requires lawmakers to vote in-person in their respected chambers.
“It’ll be a very different experience than what we’re use to but hopefully we’ll be able to debate things and get things done without any issues and keep people safe,” Sawyer said.
However, the 40 members of the State Senate will mostly meet as usual.
The senators may choose where they wish to be seated, whether that be in the chambers at their desk or in the gallery, or in their office, according to Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita).
“It’s our way of allowing open discussion and debate,” Wagle said. “When we open up this chamber, it’s a sacred moment. It’s a moment where every voice is heard in Kansas through their elected leaders.”
Wagle said she expects the senate discussion to run until late in the evening.