PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A 11-page report on COVID-19 procedures titled “Special Preparations for the 2021 Legislative Session” is circulating among South Dakota lawmakers.
Topping the list for the January 12 opening is a statement that senators and representatives will wear masks — with some caveats.
“Senators not wearing a mask must, as much as practical, remain a minimum of 6 feet away from LRC staff and session staff,” the document states, referring to the Legislative Research Council. “Representatives would be expected to wear masks, except when talking in committee or on the House floor.”
It adds, “All non-Senators would be required to wear masks during Senate committee meetings and while occupying space that is under the jurisdiction of the Senate. Signs will be posted.”
Incoming leaders for the House of Representatives and the Senate conferred with members of their chambers in developing the plan in recent days.
“It’s as final as we get in a changing world. Seriously, we need to keep watching the numbers,” said Senator Lee Schoenbeck, a Watertown Republican.
Remote participation by a legislator will be allowed by the chamber’s presiding officer under one of three situations: The member has COVID-19; the member is in quarantine; or the member or a person in the household has a pre-existing medical condition that requires the member to stay remote.
During committee meetings, members and the audience will be allowed to choose where they sit in the rooms and seating might be limited. Committee chairpersons will decide whether remote testimony is allowed. LRC staff and committee secretaries will participate remotely, with committee chairmen and vice-chairmen assisting in taking notes.
Food and beverages can still be served in the president’s and speaker’s lobbies behind the Senate and House chambers, provided the items are available in a COVID-safe manner.
There will be an intern program and a high-school page program, but interns will be expected to pick up some responsibilities that legislative session staff had done in the past, and pages will need to arrange housing that meet LRC standards.
Administrative staff at the front of the House and Senate chambers will be protected by sneeze guards. Temporary sneeze guards will be available for lawmakers at their House and Senate desks.
Temperature checks will be administered when entering the Capitol and the two legislative chambers.