On Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced that the Assembly will be meeting at the Golden 1 Center, a basketball arena in downtown Sacramento for the upcoming session instead of the state Capitol Building because of COVID-19 concerns.
Speaker Rendon said that the Golden 1 Center, the home court of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings since being constructed in 2016, gives lawmakers, staffers, and the press extra space to social distance, as well as offering better air filtrations than the normal Assembly chambers in the Capitol Building.
“Moving this event away from the Assembly Chambers and not allowing guests to attend were difficult decisions to make,” said Speaker Rendon in a statement on Wednesday. “Given the circumstances of rapidly growing COVID-19 rates across the state, we need to do everything we can to keep members, their families, staff, and the public safe.”
The decision, in addition to being influenced by higher COVID-19 rates in the Sacramento area, is also a response to several outbreaks in the Capitol Building earlier this year. An outbreak among a few legislators and staffers in early July caused a delay of the Assembly and Senate from returning from recess, which in turn caused the already compressed summer session to be further compressed by a few weeks. Then in late August, an outbreak among Republican lawmakers caused many to be quarantined, including all but one Republican in the Senate, forcing them to vote remotely and charge Senate Democrats for excluding them based on their party affiliation.
By holding the Assembly in a large, socially distanced area, lawmakers hope to avoid major session shutdowns this December, as well as next year.
“There’s a lot we don’t know just yet,” explained “Dana” a Capitol staffer who may have some duties this coming session in the Golden 1 Center. “No one is saying how much this is going to cost the state, renting out an entire arena like that. Guests won’t be allowed we know, but we know people are looking into exceptions. And we don’t know what will happen if the Kings decide to play there at similar times. Who moves, right?”
“Right now, we just know that when the session starts up next month, the Assembly will be going a few blocks downtown to the arena.”
Assembly to the Arena, Senate stays in Capitol Building
The Senate, which only has 40 members as opposed to the Assembly’s 80, will continue to meet in the Senate chambers in the Capitol Building, also with proper PPE and social distancing being enforced.
Senate President Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) confirmed Wednesday in a statement that guests will also not be allowed in the Senate, meaning both houses will be closed off for only lawmakers, their staff, and the press.
“When Californians are changing holiday traditions and putting off graduations, weddings, and other important events, the Senate wants to make sure that we are conducting this essential public business in a way that reflects the seriousness of the times and respects the sacrifices Californians are making,” noted Senator Atkins in her statement Wednesday.
As of Wednesday, no contingency plans have been announced in case of another outbreak, although it is likely that a system of remote voting, despite being against the state constitution for the Senate, would be put into place, similar to the system quarantined Republicans had to do in August earlier this year.
“There’s a lot of scenarios that the Senate and Assembly had to deal with on the fly last year, like quarantining certain lawmakers, or allowing others to stay at home due to possible COVID cases,” added Dana. “Things will be taken care of when the time comes. That’s for sure.”
The next session, which will include victors from the 2020 election beginning their term, is due to begin on December 7th.