House Democrats Push For COVID Precautions in Capitol

Mike Seals - January 5, 2021 11:03 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma House Democrats filed multiple amendments to the House rules proposed by Republicans for the 58th Legislative Session.

Many of the amendments were designed to help control the spread of COVID-19 and to lead the state by example in how an organization can continue to operate while also valuing the safety and wellbeing of its members and staff. All of the amendments were tabled by House Republicans.

“For the past year, Legislative Republicans have offered very little in the fight against this pandemic,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin. “By their votes today, they are showing that they are going to continue to absolve themselves from leadership responsibilities during this ongoing crisis.”

One amendment, to require members to wear masks, falls in line with the governor’s own mandate that state employees and Capitol visitors wear masks. Despite the governor’s executive order, many House members are still seen in committees without masks.

“It would seem that there is a belief among some of my colleagues that the governor’s executive order only applies to others,” Virgin said. “By putting it in the House rulebook, we can send a clear sign that they too need to protect those around them and wear a mask.”

Other amendments ranged from allowing for members to attend committees virtually but from their offices to removing gender pronouns to form the rulebook.

“The rulebook should be a guide for how members operate while doing the business of the people,” said Rep. Andy Fugate, the House Minority Floor Leader. “Our amendments would increase safety, transparency, public participation and inclusiveness. The majority party rejected these values today.”

House Republicans also blocked an amendment that sought to encourage public involvement in government by allowing virtual public comments to committees.

“Codifying in the rulebook the ability for the public to comment virtually during committees would encourage our citizens to get involved and would allow members to hear from more citizens being affected by the laws we pass,” said State Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-OKC. “This amendment was about increasing transparency, which is becoming more and more scarce throughout our state government.”


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