The 2020 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of March 9, 2020
This week in the Iowa Legislature
As one might expect, the Coronavirus conversation dominated the week as legislators were consumed with briefings as they considered how to respond to their own community’s needs. Late Sunday afternoon legislative leaders announced they would suspend session for at least 30 days. Although we are not sure what that means, we will have a better understanding later today on their plans for getting their work done after they gavel in at 1 pm to take some procedural votes to suspend and likely extend the 2020 session.
Here is your update from last week! On the legislative front it was an unusually quiet ninth week of the session with the exception of advocates coming to lobby for their cause. The House and Senate passed a number of bills to the other chamber in an effort to keep issues alive. The House focused on three key themes including childcare, public safety and healthcare all with a focus on addressing workforce development while the Senate continued to work on their versions of workforce development legislation. The Governor signed more than a dozen bills, including SF 2142 State School Aid, which sets the growth for schools at 2.3%, adding $85.5 million in funding.
Revenue Estimating Committee (REC) Reduces Budget Projections
The REC moved their spring meeting up one week and met on Thursday morning. This was a much-anticipated meeting for legislative leaders as they were looking for direction on what to do with budget targets in light of what is happening across the globe and in our markets amidst this public health crisis. On Thursday Senate leaders said they were about 2 weeks behind schedule on releasing budget targets and they had hoped to have them within the next 7-10 days. We understand with the suspension of session that budget chairs will continue to have conversations amongst themselves.
The REC adjusted its budget estimate for FY 2021, reducing it by about $12 million, from $8.249 billion to $8.237 billion. This estimate accounts for about 1.8% growth over the previous year. They also estimated that the current year’s revenues will increase by about $76 million more than the December estimate. REC members expressed concerns about the potential impact of the coronavirus but didn’t have hard evidence yet to make dramatic changes to the estimates.
COVID-19 Virus Update
Highlights of the week, noting that things were changing by the hour. 1. The 2020 Legislative Session has been suspended for at least 30 days. 2. The World Health Organization officially labeled it as a pandemic. 3. There are 18 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Polk, Dallas, Johnson, Allamakee and Pottawattamie counties. 3. As of Saturday, the Iowa Department of Public Health confirmed community spread of the virus, and the Governor announced greater precautions should be taken including limiting gatherings of 50 or more which includes schools, churches and yes the legislature. Several post-secondary education institutions have moved to online classes through April at which time they will reassess the situation. In the meantime, major workplaces, retail business, and places of worship are closing their doors.
Child Care Legislation Advances
This week child care consumed much of the House’s time, passing bills aimed at increasing provider CCA reimbursement, addressing the child care cliff effect, and incentivizing businesses and developers to offer and develop child care facilities for employees respectively. Child care has been a major topic of conversation as legislators recognize it as a workforce issue, ensuring that parents are able to work while their children are in a safe environment. These bills now move to the Senate, where Human Resources Committee Chair, Sen. Sweeney, has committed to moving these policy bills through committee. Senate subcommittees on the bills began on Thursday.
New Director for Department of Education Announced
Dr. Ann Lebo was appointed by the Governor to be a part of her executive team to serve as the new director of the Department of Education. She didn’t waste any time starting her new role on Friday (3/13). Most recently she was the Executive Director of the Board of Educational Examiners, and prior to that, worked as a principal, teacher and coach.
We really have no idea what to tell you other than the legislature is shut down for at least 30 days. We assume leaders and budget chairs will continue to work from their homes and offices. The AS office will continue to be open and we will be available for meetings and conference calls to discuss strategy during this unusual circumstances.
Friday was the June primary election filing deadline. We will have a complete election update for you in the next couple of days.
Please expect email updates from us as information becomes available, otherwise we will plan to send weekly updates as information becomes available.
Dates to Note
- April 13: Session will tentatively resume
- April 21: 100th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires