“In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, health and safety protocols have been put in place to allow for the Capitol’s reopening while maintaining a safe environment for all visitors, lawmakers, and staff,” the press release reads.
“Preparations to safely conduct business in the Texas House and Senate are ongoing, and each chamber will vote upon their respective rules and protocols at the start of the legislative session.”
The announcement affirms a promise to open the capitol Abbott made last week at a press conference.
Rep. Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth), chair of the House Administration Committee, released a memo of health protocols for the session’s opening ceremony that include required face coverings and testing, no overflow seating, installation of air purification systems above the House floor, and restricted seating arrangements.
The joint announcement comes after the reopening of the grounds last week and quells rising concern from both parties of a completely closed or virtual session.
“I don’t see much public health risk for folks having access to the grounds if they’re not gathering indoors and not gathering in large groups,” Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) told KXAN after the grounds reopened.
“It’s a step in the right direction…I think it should have happened sooner,” Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) said last week.
Fellow Rep. Terry Canales (D-Edinburg) had previously called on the governor to open the grounds, which closed in May due to rising tensions during the George Floyd riots and protests.
“It is time to open the Texas Capitol Grounds,” Canales tweeted. “Please remove the metal barricades, and send the National Guard home. We are not under attack. The Capitol is the people’s house, not a military installation or barracks. For love of Texas, open the Capitol!”