State lawmakers in the House will return to Legislative Hall for proceedings later this month, but the building will remain closed to the public.
House Speaker Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth Beach) said beginning April 29, lawmakers will return to the capitol building for an in-person hybrid session day for floor votes and party caucuses. He said representatives will Zoom into session from their Legislative Hall offices.
"This is made possible because the vast majority of the Representatives and essential staff will have been fully vaccinated by that date," said Schwartzkopf in a prepared statement.
Legislative Hall has been closed to the public since March of 2020 when the pandemic struck. It will remain closed to the public with the exception of elected officials and essential staff being permitted. Social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines must be followed.
“As I have stated numerous times, the health and safety of fellow legislators, our staff and the public are my primary responsibilities. Remaining in virtual session has been critical to that goal,” said Schwartzkopf. “However, we are thankfully in a position where lawmakers and staff have been able to get vaccinated, which greatly reduces the risk to them and their families, and we can begin the process of resuming in-person session.
“Returning to session in person will give us the opportunity to discuss issues and interact with each other in a way that is both familiar and more productive for many members. However, it will require us to first ensure the safety of all those who would be present, and to plan for contingencies. The health and safety of all those involved is our top priority. This is a deliberate process that is being guided by the science and recommendations from experts.”
The decision comes after former gubernatorial candidate and attorney Julieanne Murray filed a lawsuit that seeks to force the General Assembly to restart in-person proceedings. But Schwartzkopf said the lawsuit had no bearing on their decision.
“I want to be clear that this return to an in-person session has been discussed for months among staff and legislators and was not prompted by some outside pressure,” Rep. Schwartzkopf said. “In fact, this plan was vetted by the leaders of both caucuses last month, as will our ongoing efforts to conduct legislative business on the House floor.”
Lawmakers return from Easter break April 20 and will meet virtually for the upcoming week-and-a-half.
The state Senate is working towards an in-person return to the chamber on May 11.
"We plan to allow for senators to be socially distanced on the floor and permit witness testimony via Zoom. In the meantime, we continue to monitor the rate of cases and hospitalizations in Delaware, both of which are currently on the rise. We are committed to safely reconvening in person while preserving the record virtual public engagement we have seen in recent months," said Senate Communications Director Scott Goss.