Most of the 150 members of the Iowa House and Senate are back in the capitol today after an 11 week hiatus as the governor asked Iowans to avoid meeting in groups of more than 10.
As is their custom, lawmakers began their workday with a public prayer. In the House, Republicans who control the agenda invited Democrat Ako Abdul-Samad, a state representative from Des Moines, to deliver it.
“Dear God, we come to you in trying times,” he began. “We come to you when our nation is in turmoil, when our state is in turmoil.”
Abdul-Samad has been out in Des Moines area protests, trying to cool tensions and prevent violence.
“Dear God, give us strength to be able to stand together, to work together. Give us strength to be able to reach out to one another no matter what ethnicity, no matter what religion, no matter what political discipline,” Abdul-Samad prayed. “Give us strength to be able to understand that we must respect and love each other.”
Abdul-Samad also referred to those who’ve died and lost loved ones to COVID-19. Senate President Charles Schneider, a Republican from West Des Moines, opened senate business at nine o’clock and, after Schneider’s rap of the gavel, Senator Craig Johnson of Independence asked for a moment of silence in honor of those who’ve died of the virus.
Most of the Democrats in the legislature are wearing face masks, including House Minority Leader Todd Prichard of Charles City.
“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen of the House,” Prichard said. “I’m smiling underneath the mask.”
The legislature has changed some of its rules, making the House and Senate floors off-limits to all but lawmakers and a few key staff. Normally the House and Senate chambers are jammed with clerks, pages and lawmakers.
The House and Senate are now being used for all business, including committee meetings, to allow for social distancing among lawmakers. Legislators have reserved larger spaces for their private meetings, like the Capitol’s Law Library, which has 45 feet of space between the floor and ceiling.