The Vermont Legislature appears poised to begin its 2022 legislative session remotely after all.
Changing course a week before giving in, lawmakers cited the Omicron variant of Covid-19 as the reason for their reluctance to return to Montpellier.
The Joint Rules Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend that the House and Senate kick off the 2022 session on Jan.4 remotely. As part of the plan, lawmakers will tentatively return to the Statehouse in person on January 18, two weeks after their start date.
During those two weeks, the committee said it wanted to keep tabs on the number of cases, hear from public health experts and decide on a longer-term path forward.
The committee’s decision has yet to be approved by the House and Senate Rules Committees. Senate Rules have already decided to start remotely for the first week of the session, and House Rules met on Tuesday afternoon.
The joint committee’s decision came in an approximately 20-minute hearing, less than two weeks after the same committee voted in favor of a plan to return to an in-person session with rules for vaccination, testing and masking. Tuesday’s livestream started over an hour late.
The committee hearing on December 16 lasted for several hours, during which members heard from Tim Lahey, an infectious disease physician at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Lahey said at the time that the risk of the coronavirus spreading on Capitol Hill was, in most situations, low with proper precautions in place.
Lawmakers said on Tuesday that the Omicron variant has since changed the situation. They did not hear any testimony.
This story will be updated.
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