IssuesState HouseStatewide NewsMajority of Texas House Members Want to Limit Public Access to Capitol During Session

A survey conducted among Texas House members shows that a majority favor precautions such as face mask requirements when the Capitol is reopened for session.
August 14, 2020
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Texas House Administration Committee Chairman Charlie Geren (R-Fort Worth) released survey results to members regarding their views on reopening the Texas Capitol, particularly with the legislative session slated to begin in January.

Around two thirds of the 150-member body responded to most of the 38 questions.

The overwhelming majority of members said that they favored taking health precautions including mask requirements in common areas (83 percent) and requiring temperature checks upon entry (87 percent).

Asked when they believe “the Texas Capitol should be fully reopened to the general public,” a number of members indicated they wanted to wait until there is a vaccine for COVID-19, a substantial decline in cases, or reopen sooner with safety precautions.

Several others said that the Capitol should reopen when the next legislative session begins, and a handful indicated they wanted it to reopen immediately.

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The State Preservation Board Agency closed public access to the Capitol on March 18 and has not reopened since.

At the end of May, the Texas Department of Public Safety took further steps to limit access to capitol grounds after protesters destroyed and defaced public property.

In response to other questions on the surveys, members said that they:

  • Opposed allowing public groups to reserve public spaces in the Capitol (61 percent);
  • Favored limiting tours to specific areas of the Capitol” (79 percent);
  • Favored suspending tours of the Capitol (61 percent);
  • Favored “limiting public access to the Capitol to individuals who have business in the building” (54 percent);
  • Favored member- and staff-only entrances (86 percent);
  • Favored “permitting visitor groups in the House Gallery during session” (51 percent);
  • Favored visitor groups in the gallery with limited sizes (64 percent);
  • Favored suspending floor recognitions (59 percent);
  • Favored a face mask requirement “during session and any other legislative activities” (75 percent);
  • Opposed a face shield requirement (57 percent);
  • Favored daily temperature checks (85 percent);
  • Favored COVID-19 testing requirements (73 percent);
  • Favored requirement for routine testing for all lawmakers (63 percent), as opposed to lawmakers presenting symptoms (26 percent) or no requirement for lawmakers (11 percent);
  • Favored requirement for routine testing for all House staff (64 percent), as opposed to staff presenting symptoms (27 percent) or no requirements for staff (10 percent);
  • Favored spacing House Members across the floor and gallery (54 percent);
  • Favored keeping the Members’ Lounge open during session (76 percent);
  • Favored limiting floor access to essential staff during session (79 percent);
  • Plan to welcome guests and hold meetings in their offices (68 percent);
  • Want the House to “offer sanitized rooms that could be scheduled by [their] staff for the purpose of holding meetings with the public” (83 percent);
  • Plan to use video conferencing to meet with constituents and lobbyists (92 percent);
  • Plan to limit staff and interns during session (61 percent);
  • Do not plan to limit outside food and beverage in their offices (66 percent);

The legislative session is scheduled to begin on January 12.

The full survey results can be found below.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.