STATEHOUSE (Aug 27, 2020) – Just as the COVID-19 pandemic has effected nearly every part of Hoosiers' lives, it's also impacting the way state lawmakers meet and prepare for the next legislative session, according to State Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne).
Typically, legislators convene in person at the Statehouse in Indianapolis during the summer and fall months to do a deep dive into policy issues and make recommendations for legislation to be considered during the next session of the Indiana General Assembly. On Wednesday, Carbaugh chaired the first meeting of the House Interim Study Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance in the House Chamber with two committee members joining via Zoom and several members of the public providing testimony remotely. The meeting was also livestreamed online.
"Adhering to social distancing guidelines in a committee room can be challenging, but we're making it work through the use of technology," Carbaugh said. "Having the ability to host hybrid meetings, meaning participants are both in-person and virtual, ensures we can continue our work while keeping the process safe, transparent and open to the public. I'm really encouraged by how well we were able to adapt to these changes with only minor hiccups in the process."
During the meeting, legislators who participated remotely appeared on two large TV screens in the House Chamber. Members of the public provided their testimony remotely from a separate room at the Statehouse, but could be seen and heard on the monitors in the House Chamber. According to Carbaugh, the microphone and podium were sanitized after each person testified.
Officials from the Indiana Department of Financial Institutions and Indiana Department of Insurance were able to testify in the Chamber about the impact COVID-19 has had on their agencies. Over the next month, the agencies are expected to provide final reports to the committee, including any requests for legislative changes needed due to the pandemic. Additional testimony was heard on medical payment coverage, and a discussion on the emergency and recovery report required by the Legislative Council. The meeting lasted nearly three hours.
Carbaugh said in May, the Legislative Council created a new, six-member Legislative Continuity Committee, which has focused on how the legislative branch can better prepare for future emergencies. The committee is tasked with looking at alternate communication methods, safeguarding vital legislative records and the continuity of legislative functions during a crisis.
Through this committee's recommendations, a model emerged for interim study committee meetings to follow. By studying what happens, the committee hopes to develop a solid plan as they head toward the start of the 2021 session in January to ensure public transparency and openness.
Visit iga.in.gov to watch archived video of this and future meetings.
State Rep. Martin Carbaugh (R-Fort Wayne) represents House
District 81, which includes a portion of Allen County.
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