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Indiana lawmakers plan session shifts amid coronavirus worries

Indiana State Capitol

Plans presented Wednesday would have House committees meet in government center conference rooms that are larger than those available in the Statehouse, which first opened in 1888.

Posted: Sep 9, 2020 1:10 PM
Updated: Sep 9, 2020 7:34 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indiana lawmakers are preparing to partially move some of their 2021 legislative session activity out of the Statehouse over coronavirus concerns.

A joint House-Senate committee on Wednesday endorsed a plan aimed at allowing the 100-member House to hold its floor sessions and committee meetings in the auditorium and conference rooms of a state office building next to the Statehouse in downtown Indianapolis.

The 50-member state Senate is planning to keep meeting in its Statehouse chamber but will convert its public gallery into seating for senators in order to allow sufficient distancing when the legislative session starts in January.

Proposals presented Wednesday would have House committees meet in government center conference rooms that are larger than those available in the Statehouse, which first opened in 1888.

Those testifying about bills being considered, however, would have to speak by video from other rooms and the public could only watch floor proceedings from video monitors outside where the House and Senate would be meeting.

Committee members decided against using the nearby Indiana Convention Center for the legislative session, citing concerns about cost and the further distance from the Statehouse.

But the convention center could be used as a location for the governor’s annual State of the State speech to all 150 lawmakers.

The preliminary plan would have House members meeting for debates and votes inside three conference rooms combined into a single space inside the Indiana Government Center South building, which is connected by tunnels to the Statehouse.

“The government center offers us an alternative to be in one space as a chamber,” said Republican Rep. Matt Lehman of Berne, who is chairman of the Legislative Continuity Committee. “We can move back here in a day, but we can’t move there in a day.”

Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis said he wasn’t certain the convention center should be eliminated from consideration as the Senate hasn’t yet tried having its members work from the public gallery.

“I would not want to be one of the people in the balcony, with my laptop on my lap and papers on the floor and somebody trying to come down the aisle to hand me a paper,” DeLaney said.

Coronavirus concerns have led to changes for state lawmakers across the country.

For instance, the Michigan Legislature has been meeting this summer in the state Capitol, with some House members sitting in the public gallery for additional spacing. Illinois lawmakers moved to Springfield’s convention center for its meetings in May.

Indiana lawmakers haven’t yet set rules on the wearing of face masks and whether legislators or staff members will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing.

The House chamber is typically a crowded place during legislative sessions, with House members packed near each other at 100 desks and dozens of staff members and guests often on the floor as well.

A review determined up to 120 people could fit throughout the House floor’s desks and seats in the balconies and gallery with six-foot distancing, said Adam Baker of the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

The government center conference rooms could accommodate 110 people with desks.

“In no way am I suggesting, just to be clear, that this will be like a normal session,” Baker said. “This is all about space. As you socially distance, it is all about space availability.”

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1524527

Reported Deaths: 20751
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion2077652558
Lake1010411517
Allen946081024
Hamilton73638551
St. Joseph65362761
Elkhart50026632
Vanderburgh48959530
Tippecanoe44411338
Johnson38772527
Hendricks36850462
Porter34709476
Madison29301547
Clark26328328
Vigo25941346
LaPorte23600313
Monroe23478249
Howard22382381
Delaware21877370
Hancock18857220
Bartholomew18433216
Kosciusko18124203
Warrick17207215
Wayne16474303
Floyd16129257
Grant15566299
Morgan14615232
Boone13622138
Noble11983142
Shelby11877152
Dearborn11825113
Henry11771201
Marshall11444171
Dubois11418152
Jackson10772104
Cass10380143
Lawrence10308221
DeKalb10292132
Huntington10277140
Gibson9749126
Montgomery9377144
Knox9162125
Harrison9157117
Whitley886771
Steuben8739105
Jasper8325116
Putnam8306100
Clinton827596
Miami8249135
Jefferson8030127
Wabash7914139
Ripley7278116
Adams6713103
Daviess6661130
Scott663586
White624484
Greene6159112
Clay615275
Decatur6062120
Wells6001120
Jennings600081
Fayette5886122
Posey561648
LaGrange535797
Randolph5171129
Washington511470
Owen5068100
Fountain482580
Spencer457456
Sullivan449866
Starke443986
Fulton440393
Orange435083
Jay419964
Rush418839
Perry397555
Carroll384549
Franklin382850
Vermillion363562
Pike327845
Parke327338
Tipton320675
Blackford275955
Pulaski275375
Newton235461
Brown233556
Benton221521
Crawford220132
Switzerland201414
Martin191822
Warren179522
Union172619
Ohio125216
Unassigned0759

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 2496243

Reported Deaths: 31987
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin2696772100
Cuyahoga2600613087
Hamilton1742641756
Montgomery1162791651
Summit1084961418
Lucas929121193
Butler82981963
Stark766321431
Lorain63976809
Warren52895489
Mahoning50955930
Lake47462611
Clermont46371452
Delaware40674220
Trumbull39527790
Licking38492416
Medina38487427
Fairfield35469349
Greene33906435
Portage32283366
Clark31960453
Richland29400444
Wood29143301
Allen25702403
Miami23931408
Muskingum23316255
Columbiana22903409
Wayne21965365
Tuscarawas19512428
Erie18531224
Ashtabula18489362
Marion18456235
Scioto17888214
Ross17287260
Pickaway16251181
Hancock16004232
Geauga15456229
Lawrence14746186
Belmont14033248
Union1403384
Huron13838184
Jefferson13519261
Sandusky13180200
Athens12624107
Knox12037201
Seneca11934204
Darke11316202
Ashland11157184
Washington11009172
Auglaize10785147
Crawford10333178
Shelby10308160
Brown9972145
Fulton9661154
Highland9632151
Guernsey9612122
Defiance9486137
Logan9403147
Clinton9299132
Mercer9015112
Madison8971111
Preble8428170
Williams8263138
Putnam8024136
Champaign7974113
Ottawa7909123
Jackson7763121
Perry7415102
Coshocton7345136
Morrow723984
Fayette703292
Pike658489
Hardin6532133
Gallia634391
Adams6159127
Van Wert6025121
Henry598196
Hocking5835105
Wyandot498894
Carroll4961101
Holmes4857167
Paulding421665
Meigs397774
Monroe313868
Harrison296362
Noble295652
Morgan289448
Vinton254646
Unassigned08
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