Special Capitol Report
March 30, 2020
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld, Katie Graham
Frozen. That’s what’s happened to the legislative timetable with the suspension of the 2020 session on March 16. The legislature’s decision to suspend its activities for 30 days followed Governor Reynolds’ recommendation the day before to close all Iowa schools for four weeks. At that time, the Iowa Department of Public Health had confirmed 18 Iowans had tested positive for COVID-19 and that we had “community spread” in the state. Legislative leaders said when they return, the legislature would pick up where it left off, the final week before the second funnel. Even though it’s only been two weeks since those statements were made, a lot has happened that could change not only how long they are in session when they return but also what actions they are likely to take.
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Lightning Speed. As we continue to adjust to our “new normal” of working at home and practicing “social distancing,” the actions our elected officials are taking at every level of government have been hard to keep up with. Governor Reynolds issued her first emergency proclamation on Tuesday, March 17 and ordered the closure of all restaurants, bars and fitness centers, and limited mass gatherings to 10 people or less. She also took action to “authorize all available state resources, supplies, equipment and materials to combat the spread of COVID-19.”
On Sunday, March 22, the Governor issued a second emergency proclamation. She expanded the list of retail stores required to close to include barbershops, salons and massage therapy businesses. She also provided regulatory relief from certain professional licensing requirements and authorized remote notarization and witnessing of documents.
And just four days later, on Thursday, March 26, Governor Reynolds issued a third emergency proclamation. In her latest proclamation, the Governor directed the suspension of all non-essential, elective surgeries and dental procedures, payment for telehealth services at the same rate as in-person health care services, and the closure of additional retail stores including book, clothing and home furnishing stores. The Governor has said repeatedly that she has no plans to issue a Shelter in Place order stating she believes all the actions she has taken so far are the equivalent of Shelter in Place.
Governor Reynolds holds daily press conferences in which she gives an update on the number of positive COVID-19 cases, the number of negative tests and the number of COVID-19 related deaths. At her press conference today, she announced the current number of positive cases is 336, an increase of 38 since yesterday. The number of Iowans that have tested negative is 5013 and the number of deaths is four. The Governor’s press conferences are held at 2:30 each day and can be viewed on her Facebook page.
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Never the Same. This is a defining time in our state, in our nation, and in our lives. We will be stronger for it – barbells are as scarce as toilet paper. They are gone from store shelves and not available online. Clearly for many, “working from home” also means “working out at home.” And we’ll all be smarter – our mothers used to tell us to “go wash your hands.” Boy, was Mom smart, and now we all are.