Arkansas Lawmakers to Meet Again Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas lawmakers will meet as planned for this year’s legislative session amid the coronavirus outbreak, but leaders hope to wrap up work in less than two weeks, the state Senate’s president said Friday.

Senate President Jim Hendren said the Legislature will move forward with the session focused on the state’s budget starting Wednesday. Hendren said legislative leaders hope to end the session by April 17 or 18.

The session is taking place after two members of the state House tested positive for COVID-19. Arkansas has had at least 687 cases.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

The session will have the same social distancing restrictions as last week, when lawmakers met in a marathon special session to approve a $173 million coronavirus fund. The House met in a 5,600-seat basketball arena instead of the Capitol. Both chambers will again allow members to vote by proxy.

The Senate and Joint Budget Committee will also have restrictions on the number of members allowed in the room.

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