Legislators are gathered at the Iowa Capitol today with an unprecedented agenda.
The plan is to as quickly as possible pass bills that will keep the government operating, give schools authority to teach students online and grant the governor new powers to act during the COVID-19 emergency. The 2020 Iowa Legislature will then be suspended — for at least 30 days.
Representative Cecil Dolecheck, a Republican from Mount Ayr, offered the opening prayer in the House.
“Dear Lord, we are faced with uncertain times with the advent of the COVID-19 virus,” Dolecheck prayed. “…I pray that the decisions we make are done with wisdom, compassion, and faith at their main core. Dear Lord, I pray that these decisions might not only provide a measure of protection, but also a certainty of what may lie ahead.”
Senator Craig Johnson, a Republican from Independence, delivered the opening prayer in the Senate.
“We are especially prayerful for all who ill, healing and for their caregivers,” Johnson said.
After briefly convening in open session early this afternoon, members of both the House and Senate went into private meetings to discuss the scope of the bills they’ll be voting upon as soon as possible. While the plan is to suspend meeting as a group for at least 30 days, Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley told reporters lawmakers will continue to talk via phone and conduct business via video conferences.
“I just want to be clear our expectation isn’t say, ‘Everyone go home and we won’t speak for 30 days,'” Grassley said. “That’s not the expectation of the legislature.”
Lawmakers do expect to return at some point this spring — or perhaps even this summer — to take action on a variety of policy proposals. That includes bills that would change the state’s medical-marijuana program and resolutions outlining proposed constitutional amendments on abortion and felon voting rights.