Seriously, this Republican insistence that we stop all work in the General Assembly until everyone can safely resume their duties at Legislative Hall in person is as transparent as it is cowardly. [Update: The House Leadership has also responded below]/
Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, D-Newark, Senate Majority Leader Bryan Townsend, D-Bear/Newark and Senate Majority Whip Elizabeth “Tizzy” Lockman, D-Wilmington, released the following statement today in response to Republican leaders calling for the Delaware General Assembly to resume session in person:
“We are all eager to return to in-person meetings in Legislative Hall when it is safe to do so.
But the Minority Party’s suggestion that we cannot or should not continue our work before that happens flies in the face of what Delawareans demanded at the ballot box last fall.
Delawareans have been asked to make dramatic changes in how they conduct business, and they’ve adapted time and time again. They deserve the same nimbleness from their elected representatives.
Our virtual legislative session has resulted in unprecedented public involvement as evidenced by last week’s Senate Judiciary Committee, which may have been the most well-attended committee meeting in the history of the Delaware General Assembly. More than 800 people were able to attend that meeting – four times the fire code occupancy limit of the largest room in Legislative Hall. Public comment was strictly held to one minute per person for people on both sides of the debate, specifically so we could hear from as many people as possible.
Thousands of constituents also have communicated with members of the General Assembly on gun safety issues by email, by telephone and in person over the last several years.
Each and every one of those Delawareans had a chance to participate in the legislative process without anyone having their health or safety put at risk by someone who refuses to admit COVID-19 is real, refuses to be vaccinated, or refuses to take the most basic precaution to protect themselves and their neighbors.
Again, we will return to the Legislative Hall when it is safe.
In the meantime, we will not be bullied into delaying legislation broadly supported by Delawareans of both political parties. We will not be bullied into putting the public’s health at risk. And we will not be dissuaded from governing, especially at a time when Delaware is just beginning to recover from this pandemic.”
In response to the statement from House and Senate Republican leaders regarding legislative session, House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf and House Majority Leader Valerie Longhurst issued the following joint statement:
“On March 29, we met with House Republican leaders and discussed tentative plans for a phased-in return to in-person legislative session this year. We asked for their input and we had a productive conversation. Rep. Short and Rep. Dukes thanked us and agreed with the preliminary plans.
“So we’re deeply disappointed to see the Republican leadership ignore this collaborative process in their comments to the press. It’s especially frustrating because they know they can call us anytime and discuss concerns they have rather than sending statements to the media.
“Since the pandemic began, we have involved the minority caucus in decisions about House operations. In those meetings, they tell us they appreciate the effort. In public, they try to score political points and claim they’re being railroaded.
“Throughout this entire pandemic, we have been guided by one simple principle: Follow the science to protect the health and safety of the staff, lawmakers and public who take part in the legislative process. This is why we have taken precautions such as the virtual session, which has allowed for record public participation in our committee hearings. That is why we are encouraging everyone to get vaccinated, because the sooner everyone has been innoculated, the sooner we can begin to return to a recognizable legislative session. Currently, less than 20% of Delawareans have been fully vaccinated, so we have to continue those efforts.”