The Legislative Council met on Thursday to discuss continuing the pause in the 2020 Iowa legislative session. All members were present except for Sen. Randy Feenstra, who was absent from the call-in meeting.
Sen. Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) proposed remaining adjourned until at least April 30, 2020 at 10 a.m. That adjournment could be shortened or further extended.
Rep. Todd Prichard (D-Charles City), the House Minority Leader, asked how long Whitver envisioned legislators working when they return.
“That is still up in the air,” Whitver said. “When we left, we had 30-some days left of session. I don’t see a situation where we come back and finish the 30-35 days or whatever. It really depends on if we’re able to come back on May 1 or if we’re pushed back to June, July or whenever. All of that is to be determined. I would expect as we get closer to being able to come back, whether it’s two weeks in advance of 10 days in advance, we’ll have a better idea of what that will look like. But as of right now, it’s hard to answer that question.”
Prichard then asked what conversations are currently happening in terms of the budget for the next fiscal year.
Whitver said there are a lot of discussions and there are two big uncertainties that face the state. The first is what the CARES Act does and doesn’t do. The state is working to figure out what resources are coming from the federal government and what those can be used for. The second, he said, is what shape the state revenues will be in when legislators do return.
“As of right now, that is an impossible question to answer,” he said. “We’ll need a lot more information about what’s happening in our economy before we’re ready to put that budget together.”
Prichard asked if the revenue estimating conference would reconvene.
“That is to be determined,” Whitver said. “Until we have an economy that’s back up and running and we know what is back online and what businesses are back open, you really can’t have an REC. We’ll have to determine if we call them back and when at a later date.”
Prichard asked what Whitver envisioned would be priorities in terms of policy legislation.
“Again, that is to be determined,” Whitver said. “I think it largely depends on if we come back April 30 and we’re ready to go again or if we’re pushed off until June, July, August or whatever it is. That has a big bearing on it. We just need to sit down with leaders of the House and try to figure out what policy we want to continue to pass.”
Whitver said he told all of the members to continue working with their House counterparts on bills that they’ve been working on.
Prichard said when session resumes, it will be important to work on healthcare policy.
“I think we’ve seen a lot of stress on our healthcare system and probably a lot of areas where, if we had known what was coming, we would’ve been more prepared,” he said. “I would hope that as we come back in the session we’re not in too much of a hurry to simply close down the session and go home when there are a lot of issues to address with the healthcare system, that we’re prepared going forward for the next emergency.”
Whitver said he appreciates Prichard’s sentiment and agrees there is policy work to be done. And, just as important as healthcare policy, economic policy will be important too.
“Over the last three years we built the best economy in the history of this state and we’re going to do what we can to build it back as fast as possible,” Whitver said.