Coronavirus and State Legislatures in the News

3/31/2020

covid-19 coronavirus

NCSL is tracking the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) may have on state legislatures, including suspension or postponement of legislative session or committee hearings, reduced public access or temporary closure of state capitols and remote participation. Check back often for updated news articles.

Note: The links to these articles are provided for information purposes only. NCSL does not endorse any views these news stories provide. Links more than two weeks old may no longer be active.

Legislative Session and Committee Meetings

Alabama Senate will convene for pro forma session on Tuesday, likely to be out for at least another month. House adjourned indefinitely on Thursday. (added 3/31/2020) 
  The Legislature set to resume session on 3/31, but some legislators express concern about being able to pass a budget in the midst of a pandemic. (added 3/26/2020)
Alaska Legislature now in recess, approves 2021 budget and emergency relief package, including a $1,000 dividend for residents. (added 3/31/2020) 
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson announces special session to run March 26-28 to make budget adjustments. (added 3/26/2020)
Colorado Debate ongoing between Senate and House Democrats on the need to return to the Capitol.  (added 3/31/2020)
  Both chambers meet to postpone session. Waiting to hear back from the State Supreme Court on if the state’s constitution requires 120 consecutive days of session during the state of emergency. (added 3/31/2020)
Connecticut Republican and Democratic leaders release joint statement announcing suspension of all legislative activities until mid-April. (added 3/26/2020)
Minnesota The Legislature, which earlier in the week recessed until mid-April, will convene Thursday to vote on COVID-19 relief bill. The Legislature has been meeting through informal working groups via conference call on policy ideas in response to COVID-19. (added 3/26/2020)
Mississippi Mississippi lawmakers suspended the legislative session after taking up COVID-19-related legislation, including a resolution allowing lawmakers to postpone the session for several weeks. (added 3/20/2020)
Nebraska The Legislature will temporarily reconvene for three days next week to authorize emergency funding to respond to COVID-19 pandemic. (added 3/23/2020)
New Mexico Governor anticipates special session to revise the state budget and address issues related to the state’s COVID-19 response. (added 3/31/2020)
New Hampshire House and Senate leaders announced they would extend the suspension of legislative activity due to COVID-19 through April 10. Last week, the Legislature had passed an emergency rule that permitted Soucy and Shurtleff to extend deadlines for legislative action due to the pandemic. (added 3/20/2020)
Oklahoma Members will not return to the Capitol this week, currently working remotely to draft a budget that can accommodate possible coronavirus–related shortfalls. (added 3/31/2020)
  Legislature will not return to session this week. Legislators unsure when a budget vote will take place. (added 3/31/2020)
Oregon Special session may be held as soon as next week, possibly the first of several this year. Special joint committee was created to develop pandemic response suggestions. (added 3/26/2020)
  Joint committee issues 20 recommendations for emergency coronavirus responses. Lawmakers expect to hold multiple special sessions to address the pandemic. (added 3/31/2020) 
Pennsylvania Legislature pledges transparency, will enable the public to watch committee meetings and what happens on the floor of both chambers via live stream online, as it prepares to vote remotely on coronavirus relief. On March 24-25, both chambers held floor session where at least 114 House members and all but 10 Senate members voted remotely. (added 3/26/2020)
Tennessee After passing a flurry of legislation, including bills to address the COVID-19 emergency, the legislature effectively ended its session on March 20, though they could return to the Capitol on June 1. Legislative staff will be given two weeks of paid administrative leave while the Capitol is cleaned. (added 3/23/2020)
  The Legislature will focus only on budget matters before taking a recess. (added 3/20/2020)
South Dakota Final day of the session on Monday; legislature will hold a quick veto session then consider financial issues relating to COVID-19. Legislature will use electronic teleconferencing for the session. (added 3/26/2020)
  The Legislature will reconvene for its final day of session on March 30. The governor has states she doesn’t plan to call a special session. (added 3/23/2020)
Utah A member of the Senate tested positive for COVID-19. (added 3/23/2020)
Vermont On March 25, the Senate is expected to vote on a temporary change to state open meetings law to allow local government bodies to meet virtually. (added 3/23/2020)

Legislature Monitoring

Arizona The Senate and House adjourned for at least three weeks, after debating and passing an emergency budget package on March 23. At least 18 House members voted remotely under the chamber’s news rule. The Senate passed a rule change allowing remote voting on March 23, “in case it is needed,” according to the Senate President. (added 3/23/2020)
California The Senate President discusses legislative priorities and remote voting in light of social distancing and budget requirements. (added 3/26/2020)
Colorado The legislature expected to return next week to vote to extend its postponed session. Colorado’s constitution requires the legislature to conclude 120 days after convening. The Supreme Court is weighing in on if this applies consecutively, as the emergency suspension may otherwise threaten the legislature’s ability to pass a budget. While the legislature awaits this decision, other discussions about how to move forward continue. (added 3/26/2020)
  A state senator tests positive for COVID-19. (added 3/23/2020)
  Lawmaker tests positive for coronavirus. (added 3/20/2020)
  The Capitol is closed, the legislative session is in limbo, but legislators are still working on legislation to address the new coronavirus outbreak and how they pass a state budget. There is also pending legal guidance from the Colorado Supreme Court and whether the 120-day session can extend past the scheduled May 6 adjournment date. (added 3/20/2020)
Connecticut Legislative leaders are working with the governor on an economic stimulus package,  likely to be implemented via emergency-power executive order instead of during legislative session to practice social distancing. One House member has tested positive for COVID-19. (added 3/23/2020)
Florida A legislator tests positive for coronavirus. (added 3/20/2020)
Georgia Four senators test positive for COVID-19. (added 3/23/2020)
  Legislative leaders urged the entire Georgia Legislature, both members and staff, to self-quarantine through the end of March after a senator who participated in a vote on Monday tested positive for the coronavirus. (added 3/20/2020)
Illinois For the second consecutive week, Speaker Michael Madigan’s office has instructed state lawmakers to stay home and be prepared to come to Springfield to address urgent matters.  (added 3/20/2020)
Kansas The Legislature may revisit the state’s emergency powers law once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. In the meantime, the legislature passed a resolution giving it the authority to review each of the governor’s executive orders and the power to revoke many of them within days. (added 3/23/2020)
Kentucky Kentucky’s legislative session will continue as scheduled but with new safeguards in place, including limited access to the Capitol Annex, closure of the galleries and suspending the use of pages, door keepers and floor personnel. Leaders asked members who 60 or older, who have health issues or who live with someone in these categories, to stay home for the time being. (added 3/20/2020)
Maryland House staffer tests positive for COVID-19, after the Assembly adjourned early last week. (added 3/23/2020)
Massachusetts A House employee received a presumptive positive test result for COVID-19, days after Senate and House leaders decided to close the Statehouse to the public. (added 3/20/2020)
Michigan State Senator dies, COVID-19 is the suspected cause. (added 3/31/2020)
Missouri The Capitol and state offices will close to all non-essential personnel on March 24. One House member has tested positive for COVID-19 and many members are self-quarantining. The House is encouraging all employees to stay out of the Capitol for at least 10 days and Senate staff are working remotely. (added 3/23/2020)
New York A third Assembly member tests positive for COVID-19. (added 3/20/2020)
Oklahoma House aide tests positive for COVID-19. A Senate staffer tested positive last week. (added 3/26/2020)
Oregon A special legislative committee formed to establish the groundwork for a special session dedicated to the pandemic had its first hearing Wednesday. (added 3/20/2020)
Wisconsin An Assembly member tests positive for COVID-19. (added 3/23/2020)
  Legislators test positive for COVID-19 in Georgia and Oklahoma. (added 3/26/2020)

Limiting Access to Capitol or Temporary Closure

Iowa The Capitol will be closed to the public until at least March 31. (added 3/20/2020)
Louisiana The Capitol building is closed to the public and legislative staff will work remotely until March 31. (add 3/20/2020)

Present to Vote or Remote Participation

Alaska Only legislators, their staffers, legislative employees, and credentialed media are now allowed inside of the capitol building in Juneau. Leaders from the House Majority are trying to take what they call another precautionary measure as a response to the virus - a change to the legislatures uniform rule #23, which would allow committees to meet within one day of public notice. (added 3/20/2020)
Arizona The Arizona House enacted a remote-voting plan over protests from the minority. The rules changes permit the Speaker to use technology to monitor floor action from a remote location and record legislator votes in real time. The system may be able to accommodate only six lawmakers at a time —perhaps as many as eight — meaning the Speaker would determine who is granted remote voting privileges. (added 3/20/2020)
Missouri Legislatures in several states are using innovative methods to socially distance while holding meetings. (added 3/31/2020)
  Faced with a May 8 budget deadline, and contemplating COVID-19 emergency funding, the Legislature is contemplating ways to meet and practice social distancing. One approach under consideration would broadcast committee hearings to observers in other meeting rooms in the Capitol. (added 3/23/2020)
  House Speaker says “remote” floor sessions are not a possibility for the 163-member chamber. (added 3/20/2020)
New Jersey The Assembly voted remotely for the first time March 26, via conference call. (added 3/26/2020)
New York Senate approves rule change to allow remote voting. Assembly expected to follow suit. (added 3/31/2020)
North Carolina The Legislature’s Select Committee on COVID-19 and Health Care Working Group will begin meeting, but members are not clear on when the first tele-meeting is to be held or how the public may access audio of the proceedings. (added 3/23/2020)
North Dakota An interim legislative committee met this week to consider how the legislature might expand live streamed committee hearings. The committee met in the Senate chambers to practice social distancing, and four members joined the hearing by phone. (added 3/20/2020)
Oklahoma The Legislature approved changes to the state’s Open Meeting Act on Tuesday to allow government bodies to meet via teleconference. The Oklahoma Senate put on lockdown Tuesday afternoon after a lawmaker and a staff member tested positive for the Coronavirus. (added 3/20/2020)
Pennsylvania The House held its first virtual committee meeting on March 23, to consider legislation to hold the state primary election to a later in the year. (added 3/23/2020)
  Lawmakers met Wednesday to approve a resolution that temporarily adjusts its rules so members can participate and vote remotely using technology.  (added 3/20/2020)
Rhode Island Legislature split over push for more remote meetings. (added 3/31/2020)
South Dakota Legislature held Veto Day remotely on March 30. (added 3/31/2020)
Vermont

The Vermont Senate and House adopted temporary resolutions to allow remote participation in committee and on the floor during the COVID-19 crisis. (added 3/26/2020)

Wisconsin The Senate has postponed next week’s Senate session and is considering a move it has never made before: meeting virtually. (added 3/20/2020)

Archived Articles

Alaska A new contingency plan revealed Monday by the Alaska Legislature calls for state lawmakers to adjourn the ongoing regular session if at least five of 60 lawmakers get COVID-19. No members of the public are permitted in the Capitol under new rules. (added 3/17/2020)  
Arizona Arizona lawmakers consider adjourning session as coronavirus concerns grow. (added 3/17/2020)
  House and Senate leaders are considering either a temporary shutdown or passing a basic “baseline” budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 and adjourning until later in the year (added March 16, 2020).
  Democratic lawmakers want Governor Doug Ducey (R) to order a special legislative session to address coronavirus in Arizona (added March 12, 2020).
  State lawmakers come up with a plan to adopt what might be called a no-frills budget for the coming year and then go home, at least temporarily. (added 3/20/2020)
California The Legislature then suspended its work until April 13, after approving up to $1 billion in new spending on Monday to combat the coronavirus outbreak. It is believed to be the first unexpected work stoppage in the California Legislature in 158 years. (added 3/17/2020)
  Assembly members met Monday to discuss the possibility of moving up and extending their annual spring recess in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak (added March 16, 2020).
  Leaders of the California Legislature said Tuesday they have no plans to impose coronavirus-related restrictions on the work schedules of lawmakers or the operations of the Capitol, though they said they are closely watching events across the state (added March 12, 2020).
Colorado The General Assembly has pending legislation that would allow public officials to conduct some business over email – but still in question is if it would violate the state’s open meetings law (added March 16, 2020).
  The Colorado legislature has officially suspended its work for at least two weeks, amid the growing coronavirus pandemic. In a historic first for the state, the House and Senate approved the temporary halt to their work on a voice vote (added March 16, 2020).
  General Assembly released a plan of action, including steps to pause session (added March 14, 2020).
Connecticut Capitol Closed, Legislative Business Suspended Until March 30 (added March 14, 2020).
  Capitol complex will be closed to all non-legislative events, tours and meetings March 12-15 for cleaning (added March 12, 2020)
  Legislators canceled all public hearings scheduled for next week and revised their rules to allow committee votes by telephone (added March 12, 2020).
Washington, D.C. U.S. Capitol suspends public tours until end of March. Read more (added March 12, 2020).
Delaware Delaware legislators will postpone their work until at least March 24. Legislative Hall will be closed to the public starting Friday. Governor Carney declares state of emergency (added March 12, 2020).
Florida Five Florida House members and a member of the House staff were briefly self-isolated Monday after attending a recent Washington, D.C., event where an attendee tested positive for coronavirus. There was a temporary delay while those member’s seats were cleaned on the House floor (added March 12, 2020)
  The Legislature is not planning to hold remote votes on the upcoming budget on Thursday. While the state’s constitution does not allow for remote voting, leaders say there is now reason to explore changing laws to allow it in the future (added March 16, 2020).
  Lawmakers adjourn sine die after approving a budget. (added 3/20/2020)
Guam The Legislature postponed an emergency session on unemployment benefits indefinitely due to COVID-19 outbreak. The Speaker expressed interest in a possible virtual session. (added 3/23/2020)
Georgia The General Assembly will suspend the legislative session indefinitely after March 13 (added March 12, 2020).
  “Out of an abundance of caution ... the floor of the House will be limited to members, authorized staff and the media subject to the House rules.” (added March 12, 2020).
Hawaii The Senate and House are suspending the legislative session indefinitely as of March 17 (added March 16, 2020).
Idaho The Idaho Legislature is contemplating a quicker adjournment than originally anticipated (added March 16, 2020).
  The Legislature adjourned March 20. (added 3/23/2020)
  The Legislature all but adjourned on Thursday evening, March 19, after calls throughout the week to halt session. The House is leaving open the possibility that it may need to meet to consider gubernatorial vetoes. (added 3/20/2020)
Illinois Both the Senate and House have canceled legislative sessions in Springfield next week (added March 12, 2020).
Iowa The legislative session will be suspended for at least 30 days due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (added March 16, 2020).
Kansas The Legislature passed a budget and adjourned on March 19. The Legislature is scheduled to return in just over five weeks to adjust the $19.8 billion budget and take up other unfinished work on bills, but legislators acknowledged there is no guarantee the pandemic would allow them to meet. (added 3/20/2020)
Kentucky The General Assembly went back to work on March 17, after a brief break, and working on an expedited schedule to pass a budget next week. (added 3/17/2020)
  The Legislature’s Capitol complex is limited to essential personnel. The general assembly will continue to work. More committee hearings will be streamed online and the LRC will increase staffing of constituent hotlines. The use of doorkeepers, legislative pages and floor personnel will be suspended in the House and Senate chambers (added March 16, 2020). 
  General Assembly won’t meet March 13 or March 16, returning March 17 (added March 14, 2020).
Louisiana The Legislature temporarily adjourned session until March 31 (added March 16, 2020).
  The Legislature must reconvene on March 31, but will likely only read in bills and adjourn until April 13 when Gov. John Bel Edwards’s stay-at-home order is set to lift. (added 3/23/2020)
Maine The Legislature will adjourn early (added March 16, 2020).
  The Maine Legislature will close its galleries to the public and end tours and some events amid concerns about the coronavirus, but lawmakers will continue to meet and the State House will remain open, legislative leaders announced on Thursday (added March 12, 2020).
Maryland Lawmakers will adjourn nearly three weeks early on March 18, the first time it will do so since the Civil War. It will resume the last week of May for a special session (added March 16, 2020).
  In the General Assembly, all rallies and receptions will be canceled starting Friday. And beginning next week, all bill hearings will feature in-person testimony only from the bill’s sponsor. Members of the public are encouraged to submit written testimony to lawmakers instead of coming in person (added March 12, 2020).
  Maryland’s 2020 Legislative Session has ended almost three weeks early, though legislative leaders left open the possibility to come back for a special session in May. (added 3/20/2020)
Massachusetts Drawing upon its members’ expertise in public health, emergency response and medical backgrounds, the General Court is convening working groups to consider legislation in light of the Governor’s prohibition on meetings of 40 people or more (added March 16, 2020).
  House cancels public events, evaluating session options (added March 12, 2020).
Minnesota The Minnesota legislature is temporarily suspending floor sessions and committee hearings until March 26. Over the past week and half, the legislature unanimously approved emergency funding packages for the state to combat COVID-19. (added 3/17/2020)
  The Minnesota Legislature will allow for more remote working options amid the spread of the coronavirus, legislative leaders announced Sunday, March 15 (added March 16, 2020).
  The Legislature scaled back operations and is holding committee meetings and floor sessions on an on-call basis only through April 14. When they do meet they’ll only use spaces that allow six feet of distance between people (added March 16, 2020).
  House and Senate are preparing a joint resolution that would allow the legislature to recess for longer than three days if needed (added March 12, 2020).
  Legislators are required to meet in person. If 34 senators or 68 house members were absent, they would not be able to vote on emergency Coronavirus funding (added March 12, 2020).
  The Legislature’s scheduled Easter/Passover recess will be extended until April 14. (added 3/23/2020)
  The Legislature recessed until April 14 after passing a COVID-19 related emergency funding measure. A House employee was found to be presumed positive for the illness just two days later. (added 3/20/2020)
Mississippi Mississippi lawmakers announced Tuesday they intend to suspend the legislative session due to the spread of the new coronavirus. (added 3/17/2020)
Missouri Missouri lawmakers on Tuesday urged citizens to avoid the Capitol unless they're directly participating in legislative business amid concerns about the novel coronavirus. Lawmakers closed public access to the House chamber and some other public spaces, including the House Lounge (added March 12, 2020).
  Members of the Missouri Senate have been told they don’t need to show up next week in Jefferson City (added March 12, 2020).
Nebraska The Legislature suspends session as of March 17 with no announced plans to reconvene (added March 16, 2020).
  Lawmakers made adjustments within the Legislature to lessen infection risks, including not allowing visitors to sit in roped-off areas in the chamber, canceling an annual St. Patrick's Day party put on by lobbyists and advising against senators up for reelection campaigning door to door (added March 12, 2020).
North Carolina North Carolina legislature cancels meetings, lets staffers work remotely until April 1 amid coronavirus fears (added March 12, 2020).
New Hampshire The New Hampshire House of Representatives voted against a rules change to allow their members to vote remotely from home if they are suspected of having come in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus (added March 12, 2020).
New York The Legislature continues session to meet budget deadlines; Senate and Assembly rules do not allow for remote voting; two members diagnosed with COVID-19 though neither has been to Albany since early March (added March 16, 2020).
Ohio Guided tours suspended until March 25 (added March 12, 2020).
Oklahoma Oklahoma lawmakers made a historic decision on Monday to close the state Capitol to the public and to plan for the possibility of proxy voting of lawmakers on major legislation.  (added 3/17/2020)
  The Legislature will meet briefly on Tuesday and then depart the Capitol for an already-scheduled break. No decision has been made about week. The Capitol will only be accessible to lawmakers, their staff, essential state employees who are invited and news media (added March 12, 2020).
Oregon The Legislature will convene a special session when it has an emergency response package ready for consideration. (added 3/17/2020)
Pennsylvania The House convened on Monday with limited staff on hand and a plan to move as quickly as possible on legislation to allow members to return home. The Senate, which canceled its Monday session and told staffers to work from home, is scheduled to return on Tuesday (updated March 16, 2020).
  State Capitol has temporarily suspended tours (added March 14, 2020).
  The House changed its rules to allow (but not require) members to vote from home or elsewhere without being present in the House chamber (added March 16, 2020).
Rhode Island House and Senate sessions and all committee hearings for the week of March 16-20 have been cancelled (added March 14, 2020).
Tennessee The Capitol is closed to the public through the end of the month. The state's legislative office building will also be shuttered to everyone except General Assembly members, staff and media (added March 16, 2020).
Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick has canceled Senate committee hearings this month, citing concerns about the coronavirus (added March 12, 2020).
Utah A last-minute bill is being drafted to allow lawmakers to meet without being in the same place, the latest response by the Utah Legislature to the new coronavirus outbreak (added March 12, 2020).
  New guidelines issued by legislative leaders earlier this week ask lawmakers to refrain from face-to-face meetings with guests and to conduct business remotely using technology if possible, according to UtahPolicy.com (added March 12, 2020).
  The Senate voted 28-0 to pass SJR 16 and sent it to the House for consideration. It would allow remote meetings of the legislature (added March 12, 2020).
Vermont Vermont Legislature to suspend session through March 24 (added March 14, 2020).
  Lawmakers are building a contingency plan should coronavirus make it to the statehouse (added March 12, 2020).
  Restricting public access to State House, canceled “non-essential” gatherings through March 31 (added March 12, 2020).
Washington Legislature adjourned on March 12, 2020, after 60-day session (added March 12, 2020).
Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Administration officials announced Thursday they have canceled all tours of the State Capital until further notice (added March 12, 2020).