As of Wednesday it had been 1 year, 3 months and 18 days since the Vermont Statehouse was closed to the public by Gov. Phil Scott’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order.
Next week, people will be welcomed back to the building known as “the People’s House.”
The Statehouse, one of the state’s signature buildings and a treasure trove of Vermont history, will reopen to tours the morning of Tuesday, July 6, Sergeant at Arms Janet Miller told the Legislature’s Joint Rules Committee on Monday.
A number of legislative summer study committees will also return to Montpelier on July 15, the Joint Rules Committee said.
However, live and archived footage of House and Senate floor sessions and committee proceedings is set to continue through the summer and next year, even if the two chambers are no longer legislating over Zoom.
Both Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint and Speaker Jill Krowinski have committed to continuing that video access to the public, as it proved popular with constituents for whom geography, work and family responsibilities make in-person attendance difficult. Members in the Bennington and Windham delegations have also supported continued video access.
Starting July 15, committee members may attend and take part in proceedings by phone or video, but will only be allowed to vote in person, Balint said Tuesday. That’s consistent with the Legislature’s rules before the pandemic, Balint said.
Whether masks will be required of unvaccinated people entering the Statehouse still remains to be determined. But the Legislative Joint Advisory Committee on the Statehouse on Tuesday decided against requiring proof of vaccination to enter the building.
The committee, which is working to determine how the Legislature, staff, lobbyists, reporters and visitors will return to and interact in the Statehouse and the Capitol Complex, voted to encourage, but not require, that visitors be vaccinated. Its recommendations are due August 15.
Balint said legislative leaders are trying to determine how to reopen the building to the public “as safely as we can for all Vermonters.”
“My own daughter is not vaccinated yet, and lots of people are walking around with compromised immune systems and can’t be vaccinated,” Balint said. “It’s going to take a while to figure out two to be in tight spaces with each other again.”
The Statehouse will be open Monday through Friday from 7:45 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. for self-guided tours. Saturday hours will return from 11 a.m to 3 pm. on Saturday, July 17.