Vermont Statehouse to temporarily shut down next week

Published: Mar. 13, 2020 at 10:31 AM EDT
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The Vermont Legislature will adjourn Friday for a week-long break amid concerns over the coronavirus.

The Joint Rules Committee approved measures Friday morning for the temporary adjournment until March 24, or possibly longer if needed.

"The reason we have a week rather than a few days or

something like that is because of the science we've read about low long germs can stay on hard surfaces and that kind of thing," said House Speaker Mitzi Johnson, D-South Hero.

During the week, lawmakers, staff, and the general public will be closed off from the Statehouse. Key committee work will still occur remotely.

State IT experts are looking at using online video conferencing which will allow lawmakers and the public to participate.

"We are setting up an infrastructure and doing some trial runs

to make sure that if we have to be out of here for a few weeks or a month or two months, we have a system that allows the legislative work to continue to be done while allowing public access to the decision making process," said Senate President Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden County.

Lawmakers won't be able to vote on any bills. For that, they have to be

physically present at the Statehouse.

Governor Phil Scott agrees with the decision to close and says government needs to work together. "They've been keeping me apprised of their action and we'll work with them and we'll get through this. That's the part that everyone has to understand -- that we're all in this together and we'll figure our way out of this," he said.

But there are other concerns. Lawmakers also have to pass a budget before July first. Top lawmakers say they're taking the situation one day a time. "There's no urgency in the short term to figure out the budget

and all the must pass bills, they dont have to pass next week," Ashe said.