Remote Rules for Legislative Session Increase Public Access to General AssemblyFebruary 2, 2022
Speaker of the House Matt Ritter and House Majority Leader Jason Rojas announced the remote access rules for the beginning of the 2022 legislative session of the General Assembly which opens Wednesday, February 9.
Public Hearings and committee meetings that are held for organizational purposes, raising bills or voting on resolutions will be held remotely during the month of February. A decision on committee meetings that hold votes on bills, will be made towards the end of February. All remote rules will be revisited throughout the session, which runs through May 4.
Zoom public hearings, members of the public will once again be able to testify remotely from the safety and convenience of their home. “We fully expect to revisit this as more data comes in toward the end of the February and into March. It’s important to be flexible and follow the numbers. Data will drive our decisions,” Speaker Ritter said.
Thanks to the option for members of the public to testify about proposed bills via Zoom, the amount of public hearing testimony submitted to the Judiciary Committee for example increased by 44% from 2017 to 2021, from 1,500 pieces of pre-pandemic, in-person public bill testimony submitted in 2017 to 2,162 pieces of remote-only public bill testimony submitted in 2021 during the pandemic.
"As we have all lived through over the past two years, COVID-19 is continually changing – requiring us to continually reassess our response," said Majority Leader Rojas. "As we look toward the 2022 session, preserving the public's ability to engage in the policy making process and hold their elected officials accountable is one of our highest responsibilities. We expect to have a full agenda that includes helping to manage the state's response to the ongoing pandemic, working to reduce costs for working families and small businesses, and ensure that we continue to build a stronger, more compassionate and equitable state. Today’s announcement recognizes that we will continually evaluate public health data to keep everyone safe – the public, staff, and legislators – while ensuring public participation and access."
The number of public hearings held by legislative committees in pre-pandemic 2019 and pandemic 2021 remained essentially unchanged: 163 in-person public hearings in 2019, and 157 online public hearings in 2021. Public hearings for the legislature’s three most high profile committees – Judiciary, Appropriations and Finance – actually increased by 10% from 2019 to 2021. Public Health Committee public hearings increased 25% from 2019 to 2021.