DENVER – Colorado lawmakers on Wednesday approved, on party-line votes, resolutions to allow the House and Senate to vote remotely during floor sessions during public health disaster emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
The House and Senate resolutions allow the House Speaker and Senate President to allow remote participation and voting on the floor during declared public health emergencies, but do not apply to committees, where lawmakers and citizens will have to show up in person in order to testify and speak.
The Senate rules require one of several conditions be met in order for a senator to participate remotely. Senators would have to be in an increased risk group, have a member of their household who is part of an increased risk group whom the senator would come into contact with, or be exhibiting symptoms of COID-19 or had exposure to someone with the virus.
Republicans did not support either measure, arguing that the lawmakers were elected to serve their constituents in person at the Capitol. The GOP lawmakers have sparred with Democrats, who hold the majority in both chambers, over rules regarding returning to the Capitol and remote or proxy voting.
Democratic leaders said Wednesday that the passage of the resolutions will allow members who are most at-risk from the novel coronavirus to do their jobs without putting themselves or others at risk.
“Unprecedented times call for innovative solutions, and that’s exactly what this resolution represents,” Rep. Brianna Titone, D-Arvada, said in a statement. “Remote participation will allow lawmakers to represent their communities without risking their lives so we can responsibly pass legislation that helps Coloradans get back to work safely, supports hardworking families and small businesses, and protects our communities.”
“At the same time, there still exists a clear and present danger from COVID-19 — making it critical that we adopt flexible, adaptive policies that allow institutions to continue essential business while protecting vulnerable participants,” Senate President Leroy Garcia, D-Pueblo, said in a statement.
Lawmakers returned to work Tuesday after more than two months away from the Capitol due to COVID-19. There are new temperature check requirements; House lawmakers’ desks have partitions in between them, lawmakers are mostly wearing masks and there are some lawmakers working from the gallery.
They also have a just a few more weeks to finalize a balanced budget that includes billions in cuts as they work to pass COVID-19-related bills and postpone bills they had high hopes for before the pandemic started.
Colorado is at least the 16th state to have allowed remote participation for their legislatures.