BOSTON (SHNS) – Ninety-six percent of state representatives and 98 percent of House staffers have provided proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or requested a religious or medical accommodation as of Wednesday, Speaker Ronald Mariano’s office said.
Implicit in the statement from Mariano’s office is that six or seven of the 159 representatives will not be allowed to participate in House sessions in person since they are considered to be not in compliance with the order the House adopted in September to require that all House members and employees physically working at the State House be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Human Resources and the [House COVID-19] Working Group will continue to work with Members, supervisors, and employees to increase vaccination rates,” a Mariano spokeswoman said in a statement. “Under the House’s Working Group reopening plan, those designated as Phase 1 personnel who are in compliance with the order can work in person at the State House. Members who are not in compliance are required to continue working remotely, including participating in session, until they are in compliance.”
House lawmakers and staff were given until Nov. 1 to show proof of vaccination or seek a medical or religious accommodation if they want to work physically from the State House, regardless of whether they are considered “core” House employees and part of Phase 1 of the House’s plan to reopen the State House in four phases. A policy memo sent to representatives and staff in October said that anyone in violation of the House vaccination policy “may be subject to discipline,” but it did not spell out any consequences.
The order the House passed in September directed the working group to develop disciplinary procedures for members in violation of the order, including the possible loss of access to personal and committee staff. Speaker Pro Tempore Kate Hogan said that the time that disciplinary decisions may need to wait until after House leadership obtains a better understanding of how many legislators and staff are already vaccinated.
While the number of representatives choosing to attend formal sessions in person has increased over the past few months, a majority of House lawmakers still participate remotely. Informal sessions are still sparsely attended save for two to three lawmakers tasked with advancing that day’s work. On Oct. 18, Senate President Karen Spilka said 100 percent of lawmakers and staff in her chamber filed an attestation or an exemption request by the Senate’s deadline. About 4 percent were working through a religious or medical exemption application or finalizing their second vaccine dose, she said.