The Delaware General Assembly will reconvene Tuesday, March 9, in a virtual format due to the ongoing public health risks posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House and Senate will return to session for four weeks of committee meetings and floor votes. Both chambers will continue to operate in the same virtual-session format used in January. Because the vast majority of Delawareans have not been vaccinated and case numbers remain elevated, Legislative Hall will remain closed to the public indefinitely.
“Although we have made good progress in combatting the virus, administering more than 228,000 doses of the COVID vaccine, we still are in a situation where we cannot fully open the building safely,” said House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth. “As I have stated numerous times, the health and safety of my fellow legislators, our staff and the public are my primary responsibilities. Remaining in virtual session for the time being is critical to that goal.”
Schwartzkopf and Senate President Pro Tempore David Sokola, D-Newark, noted that the virtual session enabled residents to more easily attend and participate in public committee meetings. The House and Senate’s 22 combined committee meetings averaged 64 attendees each, well above the numbers permitted by most committee meeting rooms in Legislative Hall. Floor sessions are also viewable both live and anytime afterward at legis.delaware.gov under the “Meetings and Archives” tab.
“One of the more positive outcomes of this pandemic has been the enhanced ease and convenience with which the public is able to actively participate in the legislative process from the safety and comfort of their own homes,” Sokola said. “Our public health workers deserve an enormous amount of credit for the strides they have made in vaccinating our state’s most vulnerable residents, but we are not yet in a position where we can safely return to the world we left one year ago. Fortunately, the General Assembly has proven that we can continue to debate and pass meaningful legislation that will improve the lives of Delawareans, even when we are not all in the same room together.”
Currently, the House plans to hold committee meetings on most Tuesdays and Wednesdays during the next four weeks, with floor votes scheduled for Thursdays. House committee meeting schedules can be found here. The House agenda can be found here.
The full Senate will continue to convene at 2 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Committee meetings will be held primarily on Wednesdays with some hearings scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays as needed. The full Senate may convene at 4 p.m. on Wednesdays to consider gubernatorial nominations and other business. Resolutions and legislation also may be considered on those Wednesdays.
Schwartzkopf and Sokola are continuing to monitor the situation regarding COVID cases, vaccinations and other relevant information about the virus. Staff is working diligently with all available resources to develop plans that would allow the Legislature to safely return to some form of in-person session this year, provided conditions continue to improve and vaccinations continue to increase. The situation will be continuously re-evaluated as new information and data become available.