State lawmakers return to the capitol amid new COVID-19 measures

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JEFFERSON CITY- The state senate was back in session on Tuesday morning to consider bills covering the governor’s request for additional spending and re-authorizing a federal reimbursement program.

“We come before you today in an extraordinary moment in time, a moment we cannot entirely understand," said Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia. "Extraordinary moments often produce opportunities for courage, bravery, and heroism. And we have seen those traits in individuals and families and businesses across this state over the past several weeks.”

While the building is normally teeming with lobbyists and visitors, state lawmakers returned to a nearly empty capitol building. House and Senate leaders have encouraged people not to visit the capitol this week.

Senate and House leaders have been talking with MU Health and Boone and Cole County public health officials to develop a plan to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus.

There will be a limited number of entrances to the capitol. Rowden said everyone entering the building will have their temperature taken and be asked questions about whether they have recently traveled to a hot spot, are experiencing symptoms, or have been in contact with anyone who has a known case of COVID-19. 

The Senate also started live streaming committee hearings (the House already provides that service).  Leaders will also extend roll call votes to allow Senators who choose to follow the debate from their offices time to get to the floor.

Barriers have been put up throughout the building to limit the areas that members of the public can access. They are restricted to the joint committee hearing room and the Capitol’s fourth-floor visitor galleries. Other areas such as the offices of state lawmakers are off limits. 

On the Senate floor, many lawmakers and staff members wore masks on Tuesday. Every senator, staff member, and visitor was given one when they entered the building on Tuesday morning. They are not required to wear them, but they are encouraged to in order to help stop the spread.

The governor’s request for additional spending is known as the supplemental budget. It includes both federal and state funds to combat the spread of COVID-19 in the state. It has seen significant changes since it was passed by the Missouri House of Representatives in March.

Shortly after 5 p.m., the Senate Appropriations Committee passed the supplemental budget bill.

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