By CBSMiami.com Team

TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – With committee meetings starting this month in advance of the 2022 legislative session, the Florida Senate is not planning to limit public access as the state continues battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, sent a memo Friday to senators acknowledging questions about COVID-19 protocols. “At this point, I anticipate the Senate will remain open to visitors during our interim committee weeks,” the memo said.

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“As always, senators and staff can decide whether or not to schedule in-person meetings in their individual offices. In consultation with our infectious disease consultants at Tampa General (Hospital), I will continue to monitor the evolving status of the pandemic and will not hesitate to implement enhanced protocols if necessary.”

During the 2021 session, the Senate took a series of steps, including preventing members of the public and lobbyists from attending committee meetings in person, to try to stem the spread of COVID-19.

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Lawmakers will return to Tallahassee during the week of Sept. 20 for the first round of committee meetings leading up to the 2022 session, which will start in January.

The state during the past two months has been battered by a surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths because of the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, a Lakeland Republican who is one of Simpson’s top lieutenants, pointed Friday to a need to adjust to the continuing pandemic.

“If it’s something that is going to be with us, we can’t just all go in our homes, shut the door, not have business, not work and not be able to conduct ourselves in a way with the community,” Stargel said. “So, we are going to work with it the best we can this year.”

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CBSMiami.com Team