When America’s state legislators begin meeting for their 2021 sessions, the blunt fact is that many of them won’t be meeting at all. They will be sitting at Zoom screens, talking on their iPhones and looking for other ways to simulate the bill-writing and deal-making that they are supposed to do face-to-face.
Not all the states have made up their minds yet, and all the plans are subject to change, but it’s already clear that there will be at least a fair amount of virus-driven separation. Virginia’s House of Delegates expects to hold all of its sessions virtually. Washington’s legislature is talking about voting in person but running its hearings and markup sessions by remote control. Vermont will call its lawmakers together once, but only to authorize virtual meetings after that. New Jersey, which actually passed a worker-assistance bill this year entirely by phone, will be doing some of that again. There seems almost no doubt that other states will be following suit.