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Lawmakers asked to mask and social distance for State of the State speech

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Governor Kay Ivey, masked up for COVID-19 protection

Alabama lawmakers convene today for the start of the 2021 Legislature session. Members of the State House and Senate will be spaced throughout the chamber, gallery and overflow room to maintain social distance during tonight’s State of the State address. Members will also use iPads to vote, saving time and ensuring safety. Mac McCutcheon is the outgoing Speaker of the House. He says providing public access to the legislative chambers has proven to be difficult with the necessary COVID precautions in place.

“I’ve been a strong proponent of transparency and we go down there to do the people’s business, and I feel like people need to be involved," he said. "We need to have input from the public, and because of that, it has been probably our biggest challenge.”

McCutcheon says the upper floors of the House building will be off-limits to the public but they will be able to meet with legislators in large rooms on the lower floors. Despite efforts to make the session “COVID-free,” it may not be free of controversy. Lawmakers are expected to tackle issues like new prisons, a State Lottery, and legalization of medical Marijuana. McCutcheon says agenda items this year also include job creation, protecting businesses from frivolous lawsuits, and making Federal stimulus money exempt from State taxes.

“This is a difficult time, it’s unprecedented in what we’re trying to do, but we want to conduct the business of the State," said McCutcheon. "We’ve got a lot of important issues that we’ve gotta work through, and at the end of the day the most important thing is we want to make sure that everybody’s safe.”

McCutcheon also says passing the annual budget is a priority in the event a COVID-19 outbreak occurs among the legislators. A single positive coronavirus test at New Mexico's State Capitol, known as the "round house," prompted health officials to conduct close to fifteen hundred COVID tests on lawmakers and staffers since mid January.

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