State House reopens to public for first time in over a year

While lawmakers can agree it was time to reopen the building, they can’t agree on the use of face coverings.
Maine State House
Maine State House(Allegra Zamore)
Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 6:04 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - The State House is back open to the public.

While lawmakers can agree it was time to reopen the building, they can’t agree on the use of face coverings.

Lawmakers we spoke to say they’re happy to see things return to normal and to do their work face to face.

“Getting a chance to talk to people, see their reactions, their facial expressions, hearing their tone or just having a conversation that is heart to heart with somebody in person I always think is better,” said Senate President Troy Jackson.

Social distancing measures have been relaxed, but masks will still be required inside the building even though Governor Mills has lifted the state’s indoor mask mandate.

“We still have a lot of employees that work here, and some of them are compromised health wise and stuff like that, so still nervous. The fact that people can come in is good. It’s nice to see people again in the building but still not out of the woods 100% yet,” said Jackson.

Republican leaders say the state needs to speak with one voice based on science when it comes to face coverings.

In a statement, Senate Republican leader Jeff Timberlake said, “The Governor made her decision based on the latest science from the U.S. CDC and the Legislature should follow that same path.”

Senate President Troy Jackson says they plan to have all bills voted out of committees by the end of the week.

They plan to start meeting as a full legislature June 2nd.

“We have a budget, we’re gonna do a change package on that budget, we’re gonna do the ARPA we did 2000 bills, a lot of them in my opinion are really great bills. We’re gonna finish on time,” said Jackson.

Jackson says the pandemic created a system for people to testify without driving to Augusta, and he’s happy to see this as an option moving forward.

A group of lawmakers, six Republicans and one Libertarian, did arrive at the State House today without masks.

They were stopped by a Capitol security officer who explained the rules before they continued into the building.

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