SACRAMENTO — The California Assembly will be trading its Capitol chambers for a downtown NBA arena when it kicks off the new session Dec. 7 in an effort to limit coronavirus spread.
Speaker Anthony Rendon said Wednesday the extra space and better air filtration at the Golden 1 Center will help keep lawmakers, staff and the press safe. The Senate, meanwhile, will still convene in its regular chambers, President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said in a statement. Neither chamber will allow guests, including lawmakers’ families.
“Moving this event away from the Assembly Chambers and not allowing guests to attend were difficult decisions to make,” said Rendon, a Democrat. “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 arena, home to the Sacramento Kings’ NBA team, is several blocks from the Capitol.
Lawmakers will be sworn in at the December meeting for the new two-year session, and they will return for work in January. The Assembly has 80 members and the Senate has 40.
Atkins, who is also a Demcocrat, said health officials deemed the Senate’s distancing and screening procedures, as well as its air filtration systems and no-guest policy, as sufficient to meet in the chamber safely. The Senate has 40 members.
“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,” she said in a statement
Coronavirus cases are on the rise across California. In the spring, both chambers suspended their sessions to avoid spreading the virus. After they returned, several lawmakers and staff contracted the virus.
When Republican Sen. Brian Jones tested positive for the virus after attending a caucus meeting in August, Atkins barred members he’d had contact with from the chamber, instead requiring them to participate and vote virtually.