Public to be allowed back into State House, hearings to remain virtual
MARYLAND – As legislators prepare to return to Annapolis on Wednesday, they’ll have to work around new COVID-19 guidelines.
The public will be allowed back into the State House, as well as the House and Senate office buildings. That’s something they weren’t allowed to do in 2021, due to the pandemic. “You get a lot of feedback from your constituents when they come up to talk about their opinions on legislation. This year, having access to the building again will give us a little bit more of a sense of normalcy,” said Delegate Carl Anderton.
But one thing that’s not changing are virtual hearings. They will be held online for at least a month in the Senate, and possibly for the entire three-month session in the House. “The ability to have aisle conversation is stripped away because we’re doing it electronically instead of sitting next to the person. Then you’re able to lean over and say ‘Can you explain what’s going on here?’ or I can explain to them what’s going on,” said Del. Anderton.
As lawmakers prepare for the hybrid operations, Del. Anderton says finding a balance between in-person and virtual meetings will be crucial. “Folks that live in western Maryland or here on the Shore that don’t want to drive to Annapolis to testify on a bill can just sit on a laptop and make their voice heard,” he said. “But, you can have a more frank, honest conversation than in virtual, about an issue that’s impacting your neighborhood or your state, versus doing it virtually.”
Moving forward, Del. Anderton says he’d like to see a plan that uses the best parts of each medium. “I think the goal in the future is to find a way to intertwine in person versus virtual. There are true benefits to use virtual, and there are benefits to sitting across from each other,” he said.