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State lawmakers plan to return to the Missouri State Capitol on April 27 to pass a budget for next year — depending on what happens with the COVID-19 pandemic between now and then.

House Speaker Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield; House Majority Floor Leader Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold; Senate President Pro-Tem Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan; and Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said in a statement: "The decision to move forward on April 27 was not an easy one; however, it is absolutely critical for the people of Missouri that we keep the state government funded and services operating without interruption. We will use the intervening time to monitor the trajectory of Missouri's coronavirus cases as well as assess the impact of newly issued federal guidance and disaster funds on the state budget."

Missouri's lawmakers met last week for the first time in weeks to pass a supplemental budget to get the state through the rest of the current fiscal year, including the authorization for billions of dollars of emergency federal aid that's begun to come down to the state this week.

There's a state constitutional deadline to pass a regular budget for next year by May 8. The next fiscal year starts July 1.

Though lawmakers from both parties had discussed the idea of missing the deadline and passing a budget in a special session over the summer, that's no longer the plan for the majority in both legislative chambers.

"The General Assembly will continue to adhere to social distancing and infection mitigation procedures when members return," Republican leaders said Wednesday.

"Committee hearings and legislative proceedings will remain open to the public and their testimony. We strongly encourage members of the public to follow social distancing guidelines and participate in the legislative process electronically when possible."

If legislators return to the Capitol on April 27 as planned, anyone who tries to enter the building will likely face the same health screening and social distancing measures in place last week: temperature checks, answering questions about possible symptoms of or exposure to COVID-19, and limited access within the building.

When Rowden earlier this week stated the possibility of an April 27 return, Democratic leaders in both chambers expressed their concerns about that early of a return for lawmakers.

Gov. Mike Parson again Wednesday gave his approval for an April 27 return date, so long as legislators take necessary safety precautions.

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