The Delaware House of Representatives will conduct committee hearings in hybrid format indefinitely, Democratic leaders announced Thursday.
The hybrid format allows members of the public to attend hearings and offer comments in-person, or from the comfort of their homes.
During the pandemic, the General Assembly conducted the majority of its committee meetings and floor sessions virtually.
The House and Senate have resumed in-person floor sessions, which are open to the public and livestreamed on the legislative website.
Committee meetings, which were conducted via Zoom between Jan. 2021 and March 2022, saw record participation as a result of the virtual format.
When the House of Representatives resumed in-person committee meetings at Legislative Hall, legislative leaders decided to continue offering residents a remote participation option.
“COVID reshaped many of our lives, but it also made us think outside the box about how we conduct business,” said House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “One positive change was the increased transparency that has come from streaming our meetings and sessions online. Even as the House has resumed full in-person committee meetings, we have recognized the value of the virtual aspect and have decided to continue this practice.”
Schwarzkopf said that stepping away from Zoom and creating a new system has been a “learning curve,” and asked that residents be patient and understand that staff are managing the in-person meetings as they have always done, now with the added challenge of coordinating the remote option.
“There are going to be issues along the way, but our long-term goal is to increase overall transparency and residents’ access to their government,” he said. “I appreciate the long hours and hard work our staff has put into the process and hope Delawareans will see the benefit to this.”
Because legislators will often have to crowd around microphones to accommodate the virtual meetings, committee hearings will, in many cases, be held in smaller rooms with less space for in-person attendees to comfortably sit.
Lawmakers are encouraging public commenters and viewers to watch live proceedings of hearings on the legislative website by following a link on each committee meeting page.
Those wishing to give public testimony should use the call-in number and password provided on the same page, though the call-in number should not be used primarily for listening to the meeting.
Written comments are strongly encouraged for all persons who wish to provide public comment during a House Committee meeting. All written comments should be submitted to [email protected].
Public comments will be accepted in advance of a committee meeting and by close of business the day after the meeting has adjourned. All public comments are considered part of the official committee record.
The Senate is expected to follow the House’s lead, though no announcements have been made to that effect as of Thursday.
The House will return to session next week.
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