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N.H. House Set To Meet In Person And Indoors, But Democrats Call Plan Risky

N.H. House members meeting outside in December, 2020.
Todd Bookman / NHPR

The 400-member New Hampshire House has found a new place to meet indoors later this month, but the Legislature's top Democrat is threatening legal action to allow lawmakers who don't want to meet in person due to COVID-19 the right to participate remotely.

In a notice to colleagues Friday, House Speaker Sherman Packard said he continues to research ways for the House to meet remotely but has yet to find a solution that meets what he called the body's "unique needs."

Packard has, however, found a place where he says the House can safely meet in person: the New Hampshire Sportsplex in Bedford. Packard said lawmakers there will have 50,000 square feet in which to maintain social distance - about twice what they had the last time the house met indoors, at UNH's Whittemore Center.

Packard said his office is working with state health and safety officials on protocols for the two-day session on Feb. 23 and 24th, and all members will get safety plans in the coming days.

House Minority Leader Renny Cushing, however, said members, particularly ones with disabilities or health issues, need the option of remote participation.

In a letter to Packard this week, Cushing said requiring lawmakers to meet in person forces those with serious medical conditions to make a life or death choice. He warned it also may run afoul of the Americans With Disabilities Act. He said without accommodation, he could seek what his letter termed “appropriate legal relief.”

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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