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Lawmakers Balancing Health and Transparency at the Capitol

January 6, 2021
Lawmakers Balancing Health and Transparency at the Capitol

Lawmakers are said to be from every corner of the state of Texas getting ready to return to the State Capitol for the start of the 87th legislative session.

However, Texas still does not have an official plan for how the upcoming 87th Legislative Session will operate during the pandemic.

Lawmakers: House of Representatives are Working a Plan

Moreover, the Texas House of Representatives has come up with what they are calling a framework for the upcoming opening ceremony. This will show the first glimpse of how the lawmakers plan to balance transparency with COVID-19 pandemic precautions.

State Representative James Talarico, a Round Rock Democrat, said the in-person attendance for this important ceremony will have limits.

Lawmakers Attending the Ceremony Will Have to Follow Social Distancing Protocols

Members will be spread out further apart than they are known to be usually, said Representative Talarico. He added and explained it will look much different visually than in years past.

Often, in a typical session, there is very huge attendance on the first of this session. Usually, there would be a lot of people packing in the galleries. This is throughout the Capitol. In fact, everyone wants to participate and be there to see what is really going on. This is according to Mark Wiggins, a lobbyist with the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

Limits to Media and Guests Attending

As a result, the House Administrative Committee’s plan will limit media. In addition, to the guests to the galley. This measure has created some concern about transparency if that process should in fact continue through the session.

Finding a Middle Ground with Competing Interests

In trying to balance two competing interests this places House leaders in a tough position, said Representative Talarico.

There is on one side the health of legislators and the staffers and the general public. Yet, there is a need for an open democratic system during the legislative session, Representative Talarico said.

Helping to bridge the gap of access, lawmakers hope virtual meetings and testimonies can do this.

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