COVID-19, What Does It Mean for State Legislative Sessions?

While millions look towards the federal government to respond to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, state legislatures throughout the country are confronting serious questions about keeping their citizens safe. As states consider emergency supplemental funds, enhanced public health measures, and even whether to officially encourage individuals to fist bump rather than shake hands (Alabama SJR 40), legislators must also get the normal business of the year completed in a shortened election year — all while protecting themselves from contracting COVID-19. 

In this unconventional environment, several states have taken extraordinary steps to end legislative sessions early. While four states did not have legislative sessions this year and eight adjourned on schedule (or with slight adjustments for unrelated reasons), below are some of those states taking measures to wrap up activity early over coronavirus concerns. This does not include the many other legislatures which have decided to close public facilities or events to the public to limit exposure.

  • Colorado – The General Assembly fast-tracked a proposal to give state parties flexibility to delay assemblies and conventions, which legislators viewed as must-pass before a potential temporary shutdown. 
  • Connecticut – Lawmakers ended activity early last week to make way for intensive, four-day cleaning. While legislative activity is set to resume this week, lawmakers are already discussing moving up consideration of the state budget in case the virus forces a permanent closure. The legislature also extended some committee deadlines and voted to allow legislators to vote by phone at the committee level.
  • Delaware – The Delaware General Assembly postponed legislative sessions for this week, with the expectation that legislators will return March 24 after re-evaluating conditions at that time.
  • Georgia – Initially scheduled to adjourn April 3, the Georgia General Assembly indefinitely suspended activity following the adoption of a budget, with 11 legislative days to be made up in the future.
  • Illinois – Both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly canceled their sessions for a week, with plans to resume on March 24.
  • Kentucky – The state canceled two days of scheduled meetings on Friday and Monday, with the expectation that legislative business will resume on Tuesday.
  • Missouri – The Missouri Senate postponed legislative activity through this week, while the House is accelerating budget consideration to facilitate an extended leave.
  • Vermont – The Vermont Legislature will adjourn for the entirety of this week with a plan to return on March 24, with the option to extend that date further if necessary.