CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — The New Hampshire House isn’t prepared to run an election for speaker or conduct its business for adopting rules in a remote meeting or hybrid situation, the acting House speaker said.
Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, expressed his opinion in a message in the House calendar on Friday after talking to staff.
Packard said a drive-in style meeting that’s under consideration for January “will satisfy our need to meet in-person for the purpose of balloting and voting. It will dramatically reduce or even eliminate the need to interact with each other. We will be protected from unnecessary risk and from the elements by our vehicles, and we will meet or exceed every CDC and Public Health recommendation.”
Packard is acting speaker of the 400-member, Republican-majority House.
Democrats have advocated that legislators meet virtually, and the state Supreme Court found that holding House sessions remotely would not violate a constitutional provision about what constitutes a quorum.
“Representative Packard and I both have seen the effectiveness and accessibility of meeting remotely, as recently as this week we we met together on Zoom with the House Rules Committee,” Democratic Leader Renny Cushing, of Hampton, said in a statement Friday. He also noted the court ruling, saying that meeting remotely is a “legal and effective way to continue operating while the danger of the COVID-19 pandemic persists.”
The House had been meeting at the University of New Hampshire’s ice arena to allow for greater social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. Packard has discussed meeting at a UNH parking lot.
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