Changes coming to the 2021 legislative session

Local News

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Regular Session starts on Monday and it will look much different than in Sessions past. 

There will be temperature checks upon entry to the Capitol and the Big MAC building, there are divided hallways with separate walking directions, some committee rooms will now be “bullpens” for other, larger committee rooms. 

Speaker of the House Matthew Shepherd said, “Probably for the better part of three or four months we’ve been meeting with Senate leadership and the Bureau of Legislative Research but I’m being exactly how best to operate you know under the current circumstances.”

President Pro Temp Jimmy Hickey says that both the Senate and the House are filing identical rules for Covid procedures.  The key is they are identical and can allow for both chambers to put their specific concerns into those rules. 

“We wanted to make 100% sure that we were allowed place in the way that we always do,” Hickey said.  There will be provisions for members to sit in on meeting virtually but they must have video and audio capabilities.  If there is a loss of connection, then members can still vote via audio. 

Committee will attempt to have a more structured schedule than in years past as well.  Bills that are on meeting schedules will be heard that day on what will be called the referral list.  

“Whoever the sponsor is or whoever’s going to present that bill they are they are going to have to get with the chair of the committee and have a scheduled time that they’re going to present,” Hickey said.

Leadership is calling this a “restricted business session” but they will not be limiting the attendance into the Capitol itself.  They are hoping that just the way things will operate will limit some of the attendance.  Shepherd said, “That’s a challenge just because you want to have an open so shouldn’t wanna allow people to have the interaction with a desire and during the regular session but at the same time as we’ve all seen that you know how we can go about business has to change.”

Members will not be able to participate virtually in full chambers.  Some of that is a constitutional issue and some of that is a voting issue.  In the House, members have to be on the network in order to cast a vote, but there could be exceptions made to vote by proxy, which was done during the Special Session, or they can “pair” their votes with another member. 

Speaker Shepherd thinks there is a solid plan in place but has accounted for needed flexibility if things change during the Regular Session, “Just having to monitor in and adjust it on a day-to-day basis but I but I feel like we got the best plan we have we possibly could have I think it’s a planned it makes sense to the membership and swim and I think it’s fair to the membership at also think it’s fair and transparent to the public as well.”

Leadership encourages the public if they would like to watch any of the meeting or full chambers’ sessions that they can find those links on their website HERE

Both the Senate and House will convene on Monday at noon. 

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