The legislature is meeting this week to allocate a planned sum of about $ 328 million for COVID-19 relief. State estimates last week suggested that one in 41 Coloradans was contagious with the virus.
There is a statewide mask mandate, and security protocols approved by the Legislature prior to the special session stated that “masks should be worn at all times in the building or anywhere in the building. Capitol complex ”. Lawmakers have been asked, but are not required, to wear masks when seated at their desks on the bedroom floor.
Some Republican lawmakers chose to do without masks for part of the day on Monday, and Democrats who control majorities in both chambers – and, therefore, procedure – were unwilling to try to force a Changing behaviour.
About half of Colorado Senate Republicans in attendance for the special session are not wearing masks. pic.twitter.com/OngPQQZEfR
– Alex Burness (@alex_burness) November 30, 2020
“Yes, (masks) may be required, and they are generally required. The question is how is this applied? Said Senate Majority Leader Steve Fenberg, D-Boulder. “It’s not like someone is going to do it, when someone takes off a mask, immediately requiring them to put it on. If you think about it, the problem is what if and when someone refuses? Which will happen, just to make a point, not because they don’t really want to wear masks. ”
Many want to make this point, GOP State Representative Matt Soper of Delta said in an interview last month.
“In general, the feeling is that if you wear a mask, you are a supporter (of Governor Jared) Polis. If you don’t wear a mask, you are a true patriot. And it’s not so much a question of masks. It’s about being told you have to wear a mask, ”he says.
On Monday, however, Soper was among the Republican representatives who wore masks in the House.
As the special session began, about half of Senate Republicans and about half of House Republicans could be seen unmasked on their bedroom floors in various locations.
Leaders from both chambers have safety precautions in place for meetings during the emergency session, including providing K95 masks and rapid tests, as well as limiting the size of audiences and offering more options. for remote testimonials.
– Saja Hindi (@BySajaHindi) November 30, 2020
House Speaker-designate Alec Garnett, D-Denver, said on Sunday that no member could be forced to follow pandemic protocols when each member was elected.
Representative Hugh McKean, a Republican from Loveland who will be the Minority Leader next year, was among the House Republicans wearing a mask on Monday. He said he would do what needs to be done to make sure other representatives can come into the building and represent their constituents.
He told other caucus members that the best practice is to make sure members are as safe as possible, but they won’t be required to wear masks.
“At the end of the day, it’s each member’s decision to do what they’re going to do,” he said.
Representative Cathy Kipp, Democrat of Fort Collins, expressed frustration over the lack of facial coverings by fellow Republican and tweeted a photo Monday morning from Representative Larry Liston, R-Colorado Springs, smiling and wearing his mask on his head.
– Cathy_Kipp (@Cathy_Kipp) November 30, 2020
“Not wearing a mask us (sic) thing, making fun of it like that or falling down the aisle without a mask to greet your coworkers is just offensive,” she wrote.
Liston dismissed the complaint, telling the Denver Post he was just a “goof” and was behind the plexiglass divider in his own seat. Lawmakers have said he sometimes wears a mask in the Capitol, depending on how far away he is from others or if this was planned. (He wore a mask while speaking to the Post.)
But Kipp told the Post that during an alarming increase in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, she hoped all members would follow protocols and be more aware of their colleagues and non-partisan staff.
When asked if he was concerned the Special Session was a COVID-19 spreading event, Fenberg replied, “Yes, this is concerning.
Senate Minority Leader Chris Holbert R-Parker has previously questioned the constitutionality of applying a mask rule for lawmakers. Democrats say the speaker of a chamber – in the case of the Senate, President Leroy Garcia, of Pueblo – has the power to enforce the mask mandate, according to the rules of the legislature.
But before lawmakers returned to Capitol Hill, Garcia told the Post he wasn’t sure he could wield power and force people to put on masks.
” What are we going to do? Maintain them? They are elected, ”he said.