By: Nathan Brown | Arizona Capitol Times
The House chambers have felt a little emptier this year.
A noticeable number of members have been absent forcing leadership at times to appoint new members to committees to replace absentee.
On January 18, for example, 10 House members and six senators were absent and excused. The House and Senate have largely gone back to pre-Covid rules, requiring everyone to show up in person to testify before committees and lawmakers to be in the building to vote.
Masks are “welcomed for all who choose to do so,” said House GOP spokesman Andrew Wilder, but they’re not required, and their use has split lawmakers along party lines, with almost all Democrats wearing them routinely while Republicans do not. Several Democrats have publicly announced they have Covid or have said they plan to avoid the Capitol to the extent possible to avoid the virus.
“The #AZLeg is such a superspreader that I am working outdoors as much as possible,” Rep. Mitzi Epstein, D-Tempe, tweeted on January 19. “Many colleagues reported testing positive for COVID. The GOP rules led to this bad outbreak. Meanwhile hospital officials are imploring people to wear masks, distance and avoid indoor crowds.”
As Democrats slam the GOP for not keeping last year’s rules for remote participation in place, Republicans have been introducing legislation to prevent government entities and employers from requiring masks or vaccinations.