State LegislationWith 2021 upon us, state lawmakers are returning to their respective capitols to start their 2021 legislative session. However, this year, state sessions will look extraordinarily different than years past, as the current health pandemic rages on across the country.  

An even greater challenge most states face is that their legislative chambers are not designed for social distancing. Even if a state capitol has a large meeting space, that only helps one chamber, leaving the second chamber trying to find a location to meet. We got a preview of the challenges many states face earlier this year when Virginia lawmakers reconvened in large outdoor meeting spaces for a special session, one that was marred by technological and logistical challenges. But of course, in many states inhospitable weather prevents states from conducting sessions outside.  

There is a myriad of solutions to overcoming the difficulty of safely and legally operating sessions. Some states, such as New Mexico and Washington, are operating sessions fully online via Zoom and other platforms. A fully online session does not solve all the problems however, because states must still allow local citizens and businesses participate in the legislative process through offering testimony at committee hearings, sending in letters, or meeting with legislators. Virtual committee hearings are not without their challenges, from legislators crashing zoom hearingsgeneral IT issues, and of course, the dreaded “you’re still on mute” line.   

Other states are attempting to operate in-person, meeting in large event spaces located through their states capitol. Even that does not solve all the problems, as health measures require lawmakers to limit contact with others, preventing them from meeting with constituents and businesses. 

The result from the various state legislative session restrictions requires pivoting and adapting to efficiently and effectively engage with key lawmakers across the country. AEM is utilizing its resources to virtually advocate on behalf of our members across the country. We will continue to engage with lawmakers to stress the need to support our industry’s policy priorities in 2021, including infrastructure investment, workforce development programs, and rural broadband.

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