The Legislature reconvened the 2020 Session on Wednesday, June 3 after an 11 week pause due to the Coronavirus. The way everyone is conducting their work is very different than anyway we have operated in the past. Access to policy makers, amendments, and the process is extremely limited.
Both chambers concluded their funnel week late on Friday, the Senate around 10 pm and the House around Midnight. Neither chamber plans to hold floor debate or committee meetings on Monday. However, we understand key members and Leadership will be working on budget targets as they have not yet been announced. Leaders said they will start on budgets next week, and House leaders said they hope to adjourn by the end of the week. Budget targets will be based on the May REC estimates and cuts are anticipated in each budget.
Highlights of the week:
Bills on the move:
- Changes to the Medical Cannabis law and passage of the Hemp Act
- Medical Malpractice and Limited Liability for businesses related to the COVID Pandemic
- The Governor’s Professional Licensure bill is poised to pass. The House and Senate are negotiating the differences in their out-of-state licensure requirements in the bill.
- of Agriculture Omnibus bill which was amended to make trespasses onto food operation properties an aggravated misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class D felony for a second offense
- The County Seals bill which was largely non-controversial was amended in the Senate to include a number of election law changes including prohibiting the Secretary of State from sending absentee ballot requests to registered voters
- Expansion of the Future Ready Iowa Program
- SAVE Athletic Purposes passed the Senate. This new bill requires 60% voter approval rate for SAVE funds to be used for infrastructure for athletics
On Thursday Democrats proposed legislation to address public safety and policing issues. The three points of their Racial Disparity legislation proposal include: ban policy chokeholds, make it illegal to rehire police fired for misconduct, allow the Attorney General to investigate police misconduct.
On Thursday 6/4 Governor Reynolds signed SF 2348 (Discharge of a Sentence) into law. This bill requires all parts of a sentence to be met including restitution fully paid before voting rights are restored. This is contingent on the adoption of a constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights.
Relevant COVID-19 Updates:
Please note that the Governor’s press conferences are changing from a daily occurrence to only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This will continue though the duration of the legislative session.
Iowa’s COVID-19 Cases:
The State’s coronavirus website remains the best location to see the State’s most up-to-date information. As of Monday (6/8) this is the following information available through the State’s coronavirus website. We are 14 weeks into the pandemic being documented in Iowa. There are 21,918 positive cases in all 99 counties, 609 deaths total, and 12,916 have recovered in Iowa. Over 192,950 Iowans have been tested total, meaning 1 in 16 Iowans have been tested. There are 40 confirmed long-term care facility outbreaks.
There are status reports of monitoring and testing of COVID-19 in Iowa provided by IDPH and can be found here. In addition, a public hotline has been established for Iowans with questions about COVID-19. The line is available 24/7 by calling 2-1-1 or 1-800-244-7431.
- On Wednesday, 6/3 Tyson Foods has decided to go back to their pre Covid-19 policies, including attendance, despite having multiple outbreaks at their Iowa plants.
- On Thursday, 6/4 Governor Reynolds announced that Iowa residents would soon be able to reunite with family members- allowing in person visits in long-term care facilities. The Guidelines are modeled after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, and are posted on the Iowa Department of Public Health’s website.
Testing & Treatment:
- The State of Iowa continues to rapidly increase the amount of testing available to citizens. On June 4th around 7,000 tests were administered, the State’s highest mark yet.
- On Monday 6/8 the State announced the opening of five new Test Iowa sites: a drive-through site in Dallas County, and four new clinic sites opening in Page, Union, Carroll, and Crawford Counties.
- On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed the PPP Flexibility Act. President Trump is expected to sign the bill in the coming days. Contact your financial institution to learn how this impacts your PPP loan specifically.
- The Department of Human Services announced the launch of the COVID Recovery Iowa project. This program will allow virtual counseling sessions, along with phone calls for people of all ages to be able to find support and new strategies to be able to help deal with the effects of the ongoing pandemic.
- President Trump extended Title 32 allowing the National Guard to serve for COVID-19 related duties through June 30.
- The Iowa Board of Regents announced a tuition freeze for fall 2020.
- Governor Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Naig and US Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley sent a letter to the USDA asking that liquid egg producers be included in COVID-19 farm relief programs. According to the letter, 70% of Iowa egg producers are liquid egg producers and have been devasted by the loss of sales to schools and hotels.
- On Thursday, 6/4 Governor Reynolds announced that there had been a 50% decrease in the number of initial unemployment benefit claims. She continued to say that the number of jobless benefit claims in early May was around 205,000, and the most recent data shows that has dropped to about 172,000.