BOSTON (SHNS) – In the eyes of the Republican lawmaker who participated in a working group’s deliberations about reopening the State House, the proposal to bring people back into the building in four undated phases is “too vague in some key areas.”
Rep. Kimberly Ferguson, a Holden Republican, joined other representatives in discussions over the summer about how the House should proceed after more than a year and a half of mostly remote operations. The working group’s seven Democrats published their recommendations Monday, but Ferguson did not sign onto the document.
“I appreciate the hard work that was done by the members of the House Working Group to attempt to develop a safe and responsible reopening plan for the House, and I have the utmost respect for them,” Ferguson said in a statement to the News Service on Tuesday. “Since my first meeting with the Working Group on July 29th, I felt that we have had some very productive discussions. I am concerned, however, that the proposed reopening plan which was sent out to members yesterday is too vague in some key areas, and also that I had no opportunity to discuss the report with my colleagues in the House Republican Caucus before it was released.”
The working group suggested bringing more people back into the State House in four stages, starting with representatives who wish to vote in person and “core staff,” and ending with the general public in the fourth and final phase. Members did not suggest dates or any durations for the reopening process, which would also affect the Senate, the Baker administration and other constitutional officers who work in the building.
“My personal feeling is that we should have extended the emergency House rules from October 1st until January 1st so that the Working Group could have additional time to develop a more robust reopening plan, including setting clearly defined benchmarks and goals for moving to each phase,” Ferguson said.
The panel also called for imposing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on all representatives and House staff, which will be subject to a vote on an order that could emerge as soon as Thursday. Anyone who fails to disclose their vaccination status will be ordered to continue working and voting remotely.
More than a dozen representatives, mostly Republicans, have backed legislation that would ban limiting access to public buildings — including the State House — and some private businesses based on vaccination status.