The Legislative Council voted Thursday to reopen the State House to the public an May 24 on the condition that all visitors wear masks.

The building has been closed since March 2020 to comply with physical distancing and other safety restrictions imposed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The council voted 6-2 Thursday to reopen the building, with one member absent and another abstaining. Lawmakers have been meeting at the Augusta Civic Center, which has space to allow for social distancing.

“After months of doing our part to keep our constituents, colleagues, and staff safe, we can finally reopen the State House to the public and begin moving toward normalcy,” Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Aroostook, said in a statement. “We are so fortunate that the Maine Legislature did not experience the devastating outbreaks and heartbreaking tragedies that we saw in the legislative bodies in other states. While I’m disappointed that some of my colleagues voted against safely reopening the State House, I look forward to returning to the Senate Chamber so we can end this session by delivering some much needed relief to our constituents.”

Thursday’s vote followed a lengthy discussion about how to implement a safe return, said House Speaker Ryan Fecteau, D-Biddeford.

“This is yet another major leap toward normalcy,” Fecteau said.

The full Legislature will resume holding floor sessions at the State House on June 2. Legislators have updated the COVID-19 Prevention Policy to eliminate social distancing requirements, but will still require lawmakers to wear face coverings in shared spaces. Legislative committee work will continue to be conducted virtually through the end of the session.

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