House lawmakers leave chamber empty amid COVID-19 pandemic

Updated: Mar. 26, 2020 at 2:14 PM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - In a rare moment the House floor stood nearly empty as Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon gaveled in the chamber Thursday morning.

As expected, a quorum, the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present to make the proceedings of a meeting valid, was not met due to the coronavirus, so lawmakers could not conduct business.

"We've got people that are touching every area of the state coming into one room. Into one place and conducting business," McCutcheon said. "That is one of the things that I as speaker am very mindful of that. The health and welfare of the members."

The House chamber was disinfected and cleaned, but McCutcheon said a new date for the legislature to convene has not yet been set. The 2020 regular legislative session ends May 18. Lawmakers had originally planned to use that time to pass the budgets, local bills and legislation dealing with prisons and mental health.

But the virus has thrown a kink in those plans.

“It is very difficult for us in this chamber to conduct business and keep a six-foot rule,” McCutcheon said.

Only reporters and some staff members stood in the House chamber as McCutcheon gave his remarks and fielded questions. McCutcheon said when lawmakers return, the budgets, local bills and bills dealing with the economy will be the top priority.

McCutcheon said it is too early to tell if the governor will call a special session.

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