Georgia lawmakers leaders are “reevaluating” plans for the legislative session in light of the coronavirus pandemic, Speaker David Ralston said.
The House of Representatives suspended its page program and stopped allowing guests Wednesday, and the Senate has not yet made any changes. Ralston urged the public not to come to the Capitol and instead watch legislative proceedings on free live streams.
But since those decisions were made, “the reports have gotten a little — well, more than a little more concerning,” Ralston said as the House gaveled in Tuesday.
The coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday, and Georgia has 31 presumed positive cases. The NBA suspended its season Wednesday night after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the virus, and the NCAA announced its men’s basketball tournament would be played without fans in attendance.
House Democrats called for an early end to the session Thursday morning. Ralston said he’d met with Gov. Brian Kemp before house session began, and planned to meet with him and Senate leaders at lunchtime to determine future plans.
The House will complete “Crossover Day,” the deadline to pass bills in at least one chamber, Thursday, and Ralston will be at the Capitol Friday, but plans beyond that are up in the air, he said.
“We are working together with the governor and the Senate on a course of action that will be most beneficial to the health and safety of our members, our staff and the public,” Ralston said. “This is one of the hard decisions we have to make. Whatever you decide, someone’s going to take a poke at you, but the best step at this time is to err on the side of caution.”
No decision has been made, but Ralston promised legislators an update later Thursday.
Ralston received a bipartisan standing ovation from his House colleagues for his actions in response to the coronavirus. Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, thanked Ralston for his actions on the House floor.
“I want to commend the Speaker on the extraordinary steps he took to keep us safe,” Beverly said. “This coronavirus is a pandemic and we’ve never been through anything like this before.”
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