North Dakota lawmakers are convening this week to set COVID-19 guidelines for the upcoming 2021 session.

The committee is expected to pass a joint mandate requiring all lawmakers to wear masks and social distance while they’re in the main chamber rooms.

CARES Act funding is being used to ramp up live video technology so that each lawmaker can separate into individual offices, where they can participate in the session remotely.

“There are more huge issues that we need to deal with, and if we’re going to get them done, we’ve got to be here,” said Sen. Rich Wardner, the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Dickinson. “Keep in mind that if someone isn’t comfortable or doesn’t want to wear their mask in the chamber, they can go to their office space and Microsoft Teams in, and they won’t miss a beat.”

Rapid testing is also on the debate table this week.

Lawmakers are deciding whether to conduct tests twice per week, or just once per week.

The goal in the next couple days is to allow the legislature to move forward with the session on time.

“It’s paramount for us to do our job. We can’t wait until May or June,” said Rep. Chet Pollert, the Republican House Majority Leader from District 29.

The legislature will vote on the official COVID-19 guidelines Thursday morning. We’ll also hear Governor Doug Burgum lay out his budget plan Thursday.

The official session kicks off January 5th.