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(INDIANAPOLIS) — Legislators finished the 2020 session just as the coronavirus pandemic was

taking off. They’ll open the 2021 session on Tuesday with the virus’s spread at new heights.

Tuesday’s session is largely ceremonial — the real work starts in January. But legislators must pass

a new two-year budget and new maps for Indiana’s nine congressional districts. And both parties say

they plan to fast-track a bill to prevent lawsuits against businesses, nonprofits and schools from

people who claim they caught coronavirus there.

The House and Senate are requiring staffers and media to wear masks, and “strongly encouraging” it

for legislators. Some members have been vocal mask opponents. Senate President Pro Tem Rod

Bray (R-Martinsville) says it’s not practical to block senators from voting. Instead, he’s appearing to

legislators to understand they’ve got critical bills to pass, and it’ll complicate that work if the House

or Senate has to pause its work because members or staffers are sick, or quarantining because of

contact with someone who is.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Taylor (D-Indianapolis) predicts an outbreak will force a recess at some point. He says it’s disappointing legislators can’t be relied on to follow the same precautions

elementary school students have been observing faithfully.

The Senate is trying to reduce the strain on legislative staff by limiting senators to 10 bills apiece.

The House already has that rule, even when there’s not a pandemic. Bray and House Speaker Todd

Huston (R-Fishers) predict there will be fewer laws passed this year, because of the increased

difficulty of scheduling hearings.

The House announced last week it will conduct most of its work, including committee hearings,

across the street from the statehouse in the Indiana Government Center to allow for greater social