Capitol Report -- May 17
May 18, 2020
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld, Katie Graham
Momma always Told Me, Wash your Hands… COVID-19 continued to influence the activities at the State Capitol this past week. On Monday, May 11, Governor Reynolds announced that she would be following a modified self-quarantine plan following her visit with President Trump at the White House and Vice-President Pence’s trip to Iowa the week before. The Governor said she would be taking additional steps out of an abundance of caution after learning two White House staffers had tested positive for COVID-19, neither of which the Governor said she came into direct contact with.
* * *
Miracles do Happen, Everyday… On Wednesday, March 13, the Governor announced a number of businesses, including restaurants, fitness centers, barber shops and salons, would be allowed to reopen by the end of the week, in the 22 counties where they were still closed. All are subject to certain capacity limitations and social distancing requirements. Other businesses, like bars, theaters and casinos have been ordered to remain closed in all 99 counties until Wednesday, May 27. Governor Reynolds said the first phase of the state’s response to COVID-19, i.e. stabilization, is ending and we are ready to move on to the next phases, recovery and growth.
* * *
And be Patient. That’s an adjective, not a noun. The Legislative Council met on Thursday, May 14, to extend the legislature’s suspension until Wednesday, June 3. On June 3, the legislature plans to reconvene, amend their rules regarding the second funnel and finish the second funnel just two days later, on Friday, June 5. The Legislative Council did not set a specific date for adjournment but said lawmakers can expect to be in Des Moines for floor debate the week of June 8. Speculation has it that they hope to be done with their work and adjourn sine die by Tuesday, June 16.
* * *
Strict health and safety protocols will be in place at the State Capitol during the time the legislature is in session. Anyone accessing the building must enter through doors designated for their entry (west doors for the public) and will be subject to health screenings, including temperature checks. Face masks will not be required but will be available for anyone wishing to wear one. Hand sanitizer stations will be located throughout the building.
All committee and subcommittee meetings will take place on the floor of the House or Senate chambers. Lobbyists and other members of the public wanting to speak on a bill will be required to do so from a designated spot in the House and Senate Galleries. Access by lobbyist and the public to the Galleries will be limited to specifically designated areas. Communications with legislators will occur via phone, email or text as there will be no doorkeepers, pages or clerks to deliver messages. All subcommittee and committee meetings, and floor debate will be livestreamed and televised on the legislature’s website.
Also on Thursday, the Governor and legislative leaders issued a press release asking the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) to meet prior to the legislature reconvening to provide an update on the impact of COVID-19 on the state’s finances. The REC’s revised estimates will be used to create the FY 2021 budget.
* * *
Final Words. If the legislature does adjourn the 2020 session by mid-June, it will not go down as the longest session in Iowa legislative history. The longest regular legislative session was in 1978, when the legislature met from January 9 to July 15, for a total of 188 days. The longest special session began on December 4, 1923 and ended on July 30, 1924. Including a recess from April 22 to July 22, that session lasted 239 days. As Momma always said, “Things could be worse!”