State lawmakers will convene for at least two in-person sessions next month, but committee work will be conducted remotely because of the ongoing pandemic, legislative leaders announced Friday.

Senate President Troy Jackson and House Speaker Ryan Fecteau said in a news release that the Legislature will convene in person on Jan. 5 and Jan. 26. Legislative committees, however, will continue to meet remotely in January because of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases that is filling hospitals and expected to get worse following the holiday season.

“Unfortunately, we are in the middle of an unbelievable crisis with the COVID-19 surge affecting Maine and New England,” Jackson said. “With the holidays around the corner, the Maine Legislature plans to operate under the COVID-19 health and safety protocols established last year. We simply can’t afford to put our families and communities at risk or further stress our hospitals, health care providers and front-line workers.”

Leadership said that public testimony could be provided to committees in writing at mainelegislature.org/testimony. Anyone interested in testifying live before the committee is encouraged to register at least 30 minutes before the hearing is scheduled to begin. Remote meetings will be streamed online.

The State House is open to the public, but pandemic precautions remain. That includes a requirement that people wear masks, unless they are alone in an office, at their own cubicle and able to socially distance, or in the third balcony at the State House.

Fecteau said lawmakers must continue to take care to protect the health and safety of the state’s nonpartisan staff, the public and lawmakers. He said remote meetings allow for greater public participation.

“Last session, we had Mainers calling in and Zooming in to participate in public hearings from every corner of the state – from barns, kitchen tables, garages and shops,” Fecteau said. “It was incredible to see how everyday people could participate and get engaged in the political process without having to drive to Augusta.”

“I’m happy to report that the same level of transparency and access will continue this session, with public hearings and work sessions streaming live online,” he added. “Ultimately, I remain committed to the safety and health of the nonpartisan staff, the public and the lawmakers at the State House.”


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