Editorial: ‘Much ado about nothing?’
Here’s a non-starter: closing the doors of Vermont’s Capitol to the public when the 2022 session convenes in Montpelier next year. That was one proposal, among others, recommended by a Burlington-based architectural firm tasked with producing recommendations on how lawmakers could conduct safe in-person business next year.
Fortunately, most legislators have come out against the idea, with Democratic leaders of the House and Senate saying they won’t resume in-person business without providing “some” access to the press and public.
The problem is clear: legislative committee rooms are sometimes small and cramped with limited capacity for Vermonters (and lobbyists) who want to testify and hear testimony on various issues; and the spaces are not well ventilated. Members of the press also need to have access, and it’s the controversial issues, which draw the biggest crowds and might pose the biggest problem. Some legislators have floated the idea of limiting guests to a certain number, but lobbyists and others have suggested that could be perceived as unfair, and that if one person is admitted it should be open to all. Other ideas are being batted around, and legislators said discussions could extend well into the fall.
Hopefully, this is an conversation in search of a problem.
Gov. Phil Scott sees no reason why the status quo can’t return to pre-COVID times by next year. “From my standpoint, my perspective, I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t go back into session after we lift the emergency order (by July 1, 2021 or before). We feel it will be as safe as it was pre-pandemic,” he said.
That’s the simplest way forward: Plan for everything to be back to normal. If it’s not, figure out any restrictions necessary at that point in time, but don’t waste energy over the summer or next fall discussing what may not be.
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