Senate to block public access to committee floor

The Senate meets in Nashville on June 1, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

The state Senate will continue to bar public access to committee meetings during the upcoming legislative session. According to guidelines shared with members, the restrictions will mirror the COVID-19 mitigation steps taken by the upper chamber last summer.

The House is expected to continue to allow access by lobbyists and other members of the public.

Here’s is the memo sent by Senate Clerk Russell Humphrey:

To:     Members of the Senate, 112th General Assembly

From:   Russell A. Humphrey, Chief Clerk

In consideration of the infection rates and State of Tennessee COVID-19 guidelines, Mr. Speaker McNally and Senate Leadership have set the following protocols:

  *   The Senate side of the first floor of the Cordell Hull Building and the Senate Hearing Room are only to be utilized by Senators and authorized staff.

  *   On the 7th Floor of the Cordell Hull Building only Senate Members, Senate Staff, and appointments pre-scheduled by the pubic are authorized on the floor.  Please notify Ms. Connie Ridley of Senators appointments with members of the public the afternoon in advance.  Once appointments are concluded, guest must leave the floor.

  *   The Senate Chamber and the Senate Hearing Room are arranged to provide seating at a minimum physical distance of six feet. Only Senate Members, limited Clerk’s staff, and a press pool reporter are allowed in the Senate Chamber.

  *   Members are requested to wear face covering that covers both the mouth and nose while in public areas, including the Senate Chamber and Senate Hearing Room.

  *   Staff are required to wear face covering that covers both the mouth and nose while in public areas, including the Senate Chamber and Senate Hearing Room.

  *   Testimony in Committee meetings by non-members will be conducted remotely only. Please let the Chairman’s office know if you have someone to testify on a matter.

  *   Due to space limitations, seating is limited to staff and press in the Senate Hearing Room and the Senate Gallery.

  *   No accommodations are available for Days on the Hill or local, regional or state Leadership Groups.

These protocols shall remain in effect until further notice.  Mr. Speaker McNally ask you to be flexible, as these will change as conditions improved. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

12 Responses to Senate to block public access to committee floor

  • Avatar
    James White says:

    Are they going to ‘live’ stream (and not cut off when they want something secret)?

  • Avatar
    Beatrice Shaw says:

    who wants to go to a Republican political meeting anyway? I say good riddance

  • Avatar
    MARLE says:

    Over a month ago Rep Byrd pleaded for prayers saying his doctors were considering a ventilator for his treatment. In fact he was placed on a vent. Nothing here has updated his condition.

    4 days ago this went out:
    He has stopped giving public updates on social media, but WPLN News obtained an update written by his sister, Brenda Byrd McWilliams.

    “His body [is] so weak…he can’t do anything without assistance,” she wrote. “As I’ve said before…David has a long and tough road ahead of him. He isn’t even aware that several of his friends, family and constituents are going through the same thing he is.

  • Avatar
    Jonathan Swift says:

    So members are “requested” to wear face covering that covers both the mouth and nose while in public areas, including the Senate Chamber and Senate Hearing Room, while staff are “required” to wear face covering that covers both the mouth and nose while in public areas, including the Senate Chamber and Senate Hearing Room.

    What can possibly be the justification for this policy? Are our Senators so superhuman as to be immune to catching and/or spreading the virus?

  • Avatar
    steve cates says:

    If David Byrd is not able to serve, he should resign!

  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    Can the FBI still enter if they wear masks or is there a separate meeting room downtown designated for that?

  • Avatar
    LeeAnn C. says:

    I’ve been very impressed by the live stream video of committee meetings and the session. I’m curious regarding how many members of the public actually tune in. I know how few show up in person, when allowed. Pitiful level of public interest in details, but plenty complain.

    • Avatar
      Taxpayer #314 says:

      That is why the republicans can run roughshod over the public, nobody comes to listen, nobody pays attention and few people care, until your senator is arrested.

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  • Avatar
    Taxpayer #314 says:

    I hope no one missed the important phrase in the article that helps explain all this secrecy. The House will “continue to allow Lobbyists into the chamber” – how convenient. That is the republican way.

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