The 2020 Iowa legislative session will remain on hiatus due to COVID-19 until at least April 30.

Twenty-three members of the Legislative Council met by phone this afternoon and made that decision unanimously. When lawmakers do reconvene in the state capitol, they’ll have to pass a plan for next year’s state budget. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver of Ankeny said it’s too early to estimate the full impact the pandemic might have on state tax collections.

“As of right now, that is an impossible question to answer based on the fact a large part of our economy is shut down right now,” Whitver said, “and so we’re going to need a lot more information about what’s happening in our economy before we’re ready to put that budget together.”

Lawmakers aren’t yet certain of exactly how much federal aid may be coming the state’s way either.

“People are still trying to sort through that to see what resources are available and how those can be used,” Whitver said during a conference call.

House Democratic Leader Todd Prichard of Charles City suggested lawmakers will face tough decisions when they eventually reconvene.

“There really is a lot to be determined,” Prichard said.

For example, Prichard said it may be necessary for lawmakers to help parts of Iowa’s health care system that have taken an economic hit.

Lawmakers left the capitol on March 17th, planning to restart the 2020 legislative session on Monday, the 13th of April. Key lawmakers made clear their May 1st target date for a restart could be pushed back and some policy priorities may have to wait until 2021.

Today’s conference call was an unprecedented move for lawmakers and the public was allowed to dial in to listen. One unidentified participant could be heard having a separate conversation on what appeared to be his other phone line.