The primary duty of the legislature is to establish a state budget, but lawmakers face uncertain state tax collections in the midst of a pandemic. The governor and top legislative leaders have asked a state panel to provide a better prediction of the tax-related consequences of COVID-19 closures and job losses.
House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford said he and other Republicans hope to confine state spending plans to projected revenue, rather than dip into the state’s emergency cash reserves.
“Trying to make sure we’re leaving ourselves some room,” Grassley told Radio Iowa. “Not spending every penny that’s available to us.”
Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, agrees that the legislature should stick to a short, agreed-upon agenda, and adjourn quickly.
“The legislature is a risk group,” Bolkcom said during today’s Legislative Council meeting. “We have a lot of members that are 65 years of age and older. We have members with pre-existing conditions that are vulnerable and the virus is deadly.”
Grassley said lawmakers will be able to spread out in the House and Senate, as only lawmakers will be allowed on the floor.
“We are taking a lot of precautions that are going to be very unprecedented that’s never been seen I would say, well, at least not in my time in the legislature to make sure that we’re giving as many opportunities for folks to feel comfortable,” Grassley said during the Legislative Council meeting, which was held by telephone.
Legislative staff and anyone from the public will have their temperature checked before they’ll be allowed in the building. The legislature’s business — from committee meetings to full debates — will be conducted in the House and Senate chambers, and the public may watch a livestream of all proceedings.
(This post has been updated. A previous version indicated legislative leaders plan to conclude the session in three days, but a spokesman for Speaker Grassley indicated the duration could be “a week or two.”)