As the General Assembly prepares for a special session next week and the upcoming regular legislative session, Maryland House Republicans say they want to maintain some procedures established during the COVID-19 pandemic, in an attempt to continue “a new layer of transparency and openness to the legislative process.”
Minority Leader Jason C. Buckel (R-Allegany) and Minority Whip Christopher T. Adams (R-Middle Shore) wrote, on behalf of the Maryland House Republican Caucus, in a letter to House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) that they want to continue a two-day notice of committee voting sessions and live-streaming voting sessions, even after the pandemic subsides.
“If this can be achieved in an environment when less staff are on hand, there should not be a problem providing this level of transparency once normal operations resume,” they wrote.
The General Assembly will convene on Monday in a special session to determine congressional districts for the next decade and will meet again on Jan. 12 to begin the annual 90-day legislative session.
The Maryland Republican Caucus also requested to maintain the option for the public to testify remotely and a 24-hour notice of bills coming to the floor on second and third reader — policies that developed because of the COVID-19 pandemic — when the legislature returns to pre-pandemic times.
Although they sought to continue the option for the public to testify remotely in the future, House Republican leaders also asked that the public be allowed to testify in-person if they wanted to.
“While we support keeping remotely-delivered testimony as an option, our citizens have the right to come before their representatives to advocate for or against policies that impact them,” they wrote.
And testimony should not be limited to a specific number of witnesses, as these “arbitrary limits are antithetical to open government,” they continued.
They also requested that all members participating in a meeting virtually should be “attentive and stationary” on camera in order to preserve dignity and decorum. “We have witnessed members in various scenarios during committee hearings, some that do not always appear safe, much less completely professional,” they wrote.
The speaker’s chief of staff, Alexandra M. Hughes, said that she personally discussed with Buckel before the letter was sent that the COVID protocols for the upcoming legislative session will be public on the Maryland General Assembly website sometime this week.