Politics

Vermont Statehouse will reopen to the public July 6

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The Statehouse halls are empty in this May 18, 2021, file photo. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

The Vermont Statehouse will reopen to the public next week, marking a return to normal operations after the 15-month Covid-19 shutdown.

Janet Miller, the Statehouse sergeant-at-arms, briefed legislative leaders Monday about her plans to allow the public to tour the building beginning July 6. Miller told the Joint Rules Committee that the Statehouse will be open from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. on weekdays. Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. will be added as of July 17.

Signs near the entrance will ask that, if people are not vaccinated against the coronavirus, they wear masks while in the Statehouse.

Lawmakers will come back to the building July 15 for in-person for summer committee meetings, using space in the Statehouse and other rooms in Montpelier’s Capitol Complex.

The Vermont Legislature has been working via Zoom since March 2020.

House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, told the joint rules panel Monday that Gov. Phil Scott’s decision to lift the coronavirus state of emergency when Vermont reached an 80% vaccination rate had changed the thinking around reopening the Statehouse. Before Scott rescinded the emergency order, Krowinski and other leaders had been working on a reopening date in early August.

“That has moved up our timeline a couple of weeks, but staff is working hard to ensure that July 15 we’ll be ready to have in-person joint meetings at the Statehouse,” she said.

However, visitors and lawmakers will have to venture outside the Statehouse if they’re feeling peckish.

“We’re still working with our cafeteria vendor as to when we can open,” Miller said. “When they do open it will either be Aug. 1 or Sept. 1.”

Meanwhile, the Legislative Advisory Committee on the Statehouse — assigned to report by Aug. 15 on how best to reopen the building in 2022 — held its first meeting last week. One idea discussed: requiring proof of vaccination for people to enter the Statehouse. The 13-member panel is scheduled to continue the discussion Tuesday.

Lawmakers and stakeholders have long said that reopening the Statehouse this summer can be a test for what should happen next January, when legislators, lobbyists, journalists and members of the public are expected to be in the Statehouse.

“We may see some things that we need to tweak or modify — anything to accommodate situations that are coming up,” Miller said Monday. “This is a trial run, and we’re going to do the best we can.”

The Statehouse is Vermont’s third, opening in 1859. The two earlier statehouses were also in the same neighborhood.

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Kit Norton

About Kit

Kit Norton is the general assignment reporter at VTDigger. He is originally from eastern Vermont and graduated from Emerson College in 2017 with a degree in journalism. In 2016, he was a recipient of The Society of Environmental Journalists' Emerging Environmental Journalist award. Kit has worked at PRI's weekly radio environmental program, Living on Earth, and has written for the online news site Truthout.

Email: [email protected]

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