As millions of Californians prepare to go under new stay-at-home orders triggered by dwindling intensive-care unit beds, state lawmakers will gather in Sacramento on Monday to take the oath of office.
Members of the state Assembly will meet — physically distanced — in the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento to be sworn in.
Sacramento County health officials recommended using the NBA arena for the Assembly’s ceremony instead of swearing-in smaller groups in the chamber, said Katie Talbot, a spokesperson for Speaker Anthony Rendon. Legislative leaders also considered moving the event outside.
“Because the Golden 1 Center facility was donated to the Assembly for this session, it was the least expensive and safest option. Renting tents for outdoors would have increased costs,” Talbot said.
The Sacramento Kings provided the stadium free of charge, according to a usage agreement reviewed by CapRadio. Use of the arena floor, digital screens and additional COVID-19 sanitation measures would normally cost more than $10,000 to rent.
Unlike in years past, lawmakers’ family and friends are not permitted to attend the swearing-in, also called an organizational session.
"Moving this event away from the Assembly Chambers and not allowing guests to attend were difficult decisions to make," Speaker Rendon said in a statement. "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."
Talbot says there are also options for Assembly members who cannot attend, or are not comfortable doing so. “Members can be sworn in by multiple people, including judges,” she said.
State senators will take the oath of office in the Senate chambers at the Capitol. Some will also have the option to be sworn-in remotely, from their district offices, according to the Senate President pro Tem’s office.
“The Senate continues to communicate with Sacramento County Health officials to make sure that our constitutionally-required organizing session is safe for senators and staff and meets the appropriate guidelines laid out for essential business,” pro Tem Atkins wrote in a prepared statement. “We have carefully balanced the constitution's requirements with the need to accommodate vulnerable members while we perform this essential function.”
Sen. Steve Glazer, who is in his sixties, said he has requested to take the oath of office remotely, from his district office in Orinda.
“Out of abundance of caution and given the rise in infection rates across the state, I chose to be safe” the Bay Area Democrat said in a phone interview Friday. “The Senate and the pro Tem have made a variety of arrangements available to us and it seemed like the prudent course.”
Glazer said he supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new regional stay-at-home orders, which take effect when ICU capacity dips below 15%. Counties in the San Joaquin Valley and Southern California regions will implement the public health orders on Sunday.
A group of Bay Area counties announced Friday they will preemptively impose new business restrictions as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations reach dangerous new heights across California.
As of Sunday, ICU capacity in the Greater Sacramento region was at 18%.
“The Legislature will continue to partner with the governor to provide relief to businesses [and] help to renters and landlords” during the upcoming session as the pandemic continues to rage, Glazer said.
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