CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There are a number of scenarios under consideration by legislative leaders on how next year’s regular legislative session may look if the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
“We’ll have something. It remains to be seen exactly what it is,” House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, said during a recent appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
The legislature has a constitutional obligation to pass a budget for the state but some other things are optional, Hanshaw said.
“We will do that. It’s just a question of what else we will do and how far we will go in terms of business of the legislature,” Hanshaw said.
Even in the best of times the capitol during a legislative session is a great place to get sick, Hanshaw said.
“We don’t want to contribute to that,” he said.
Social distancing would have its challenges. Most of the committee rooms are small and there are standing-room-only crowds at times for even routine business.
Hanshaw said the House staff and House Clerk’s Office have been doing research and while there appears no path to be able to hold floor sessions remotely, it’s possible committee meetings could be. He said floor votes on bills could be done in person but on a staggered schedule to limit the number of people in the capitol at any one time.
The House refers most bills to at least two committees, Hanshaw said that also may change as part of the COVID response.
“Maybe we don’t do that this coming session, maybe we identify the bills that we believe we want to get across the line and become law and refer those to only a single committee to limit the amount of time that members have to spend in close proximity to each other,” Hanshaw said.
The legislature is scheduled to meet for one day in January to begin the session and then break for a month to allow the winner of the governor’s race to prepare for inauguration and the session. The 60-day session would begin in earnest in early February.
Hanshaw said there’s also the possibility lawmakers could agree to delay some of the business usually done in a regular session until later in 2021 when a special session will be held on redistricting.
“We know that will happen regardless so the question of how much business must we do during the regular session in February is colored a bit by the fact that we know we will be coming back into session later in the year,” Hanshaw said. “Things that ought to be done but don’t necessarily have to be done could theoretically be punted to that session later in the year.”