State House to cancel all but one day of February session over COVID-19 concerns

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House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch at the Bank of Springfield Center on Wednesday.
House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch at the Bank of Springfield Center on Wednesday. | Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP

The decision, which was laid out in an email from Welch’s chief of staff Jessica Basham, points to public health recommendations on quarantining before and after large gatherings as well as weekly trips to Springfield as being “impractical” for those with small children or older family members.

Illinois House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch plans to cancel all but one day of the Illinois House’s session next month.

That decision, which was laid out in an email from Welch’s chief of staff Jessica Basham, points to public health recommendations on quarantining before and after large gatherings — such as legislative sessions — as well as weekly trips to Springfield being “impractical” for those with small children or older family members as reasons for nixing the upcoming days.

“Therefore, with the health and safety of members, staff, and the public being the priority, the Speaker plans to cancel the session dates set for February 2-4, 9, 11, and 16-18,” Basham’s email reads. The Center Square first reported the email.

Members should still expect to return to Springfield Feb. 10 to adopt the rules for the General Assembly’s procedures. Between now and then, Majority Leader Rep. Greg Harris will “be working with members on both sides of the aisle to gather and consider potential changes to the Rules, including the authorization of remote committees.”

Sean Anderson, a spokesman for Welch, said the move gives members time to figure out how to conduct the session with a combination of remote work and socially distanced meetings.

“The goal is to find a way to do committee work remotely and then floor action being done in a way where members can be socially distanced,” by either working in the House’s chambers or their offices.

Allowing the House’s committees to meet remotely is part of the rules package members will decide on on Feb. 10, Anderson said.

The decision for House Democrats to meet at the Capitol, and not the Bank of Springfield Center where the House conducted its lame duck session earlier this month, largely comes down to trying to preserve a sense of normalcy.

“They’re trying to preserve as much normalcy as possible in a way that is still responsible and safe,” Anderson said. “If we can find a way to do that in the chambers, where members are socially distanced and there’s a rotation, that’s the members’ preference.”

The state Senate also cancelled days scheduled for this week, but plans to meet in Springfield on Feb. 9.

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January 26, 2021 at 03:18PM

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