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New health, security measures will greet legislators in new session

The 2021 session starts Monday.

ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers will reconvene Monday in a legislative session that will be unlike any other – with new security, new health protocols and new restrictions on the public.  

The Georgia constitution requires the legislature to meet annually, and that seems to trump state rules restricting large gatherings. So, the legislature will meet in person at the Capitol, as scheduled, starting on Monday.

There are 180 desks in the House chamber, but fewer than half the members will have seats there. 

About half of the House members cast out of the chamber will be participating remotely in what was once the Supreme Court chamber, about 300 feet away.

The remainder will sit in what’s usually the visitor gallery, one floor above the House chamber.

Remotely-assigned lawmakers will use new electronic pads to cast votes. During the latter part of last year's session, they had to verbally cast "aye" and "nay" votes that took excruciatingly long. 

Last year, the Capitol installed metal detectors that also measured the body temperature of people entering the building. Those will be used again.

Lawmakers and staff will be required to get COVID tested twice per week. 

Security changes are also obvious outside the Capitol. A new permanent metal fence is under construction, and temporary fencing has been semi-permanently positioned for the duration of the session.

Visitors inside the Capitol will be urged, but not be required, to wear masks. However, legislators and staff will be required to do so. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be wearing them properly.

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