Florida Senate eyes social distancing for committees

File photo (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
File photo (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – As a COVID-19 precaution, no more than three state Senate committees will meet at the same time when lawmakers return to Tallahassee next year.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, announced new block scheduling for committees Thursday, as he announced committee member assignments.

“This schedule will allow us to utilize the committee rooms with the largest seating area for Senators, 412 Knott (Building), 110 (Senate Office Building), and 37 (Senate Office Building), to accommodate appropriate social distancing,” Simpson wrote in a memo to senators.

The 60-day regular legislative session will begin March 2. The first of five pre-session committee weeks will start Jan. 11.

The committee assignments came after Simpson on Wednesday announced the leaders of each committee.

Officials have not released plans about public attendance inside the Capitol during the committee weeks and the session. The Capitol has been closed to the public for months because of the pandemic.

The Senate signed a two-year contract with Tampa General Hospital -- at $266.67 an hour for work done by physicians and $200 an hour for work done by non-physicians -- to set up a coronavirus prevention-response plan.