As I write this update, the first funnel is almost complete. It is hard to believe that we have already completed our eighth week of the legislative session. In this week’s edition, I want to address the state’s COVID response and some other news around the state.
Many of you have been asking what the legislature intends to do with COVID-19 and how the legislature is responding to the pandemic. The House passed SF 364, a bill to give Iowa taxpayers much needed relief by exempting pandemic related grant monies, such as those from the Paycheck Protection Program, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. In total, SF 364 grants about $128 million in tax relief to individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis. In order to fund this measure, the remaining monies within the Taxpayer Relief Fund for FY 21 and some of the remaining ending balance will be used to prevent a budget shortfall.
In response to issues with vaccine scheduling and rollout, the Iowa Department of Public Health has released the webpage vaccinate.iowa.gov. This website gives locations of where the vaccine may be available. This week the first shipment of Johnson and Johnson single-dose vaccines was delivered to the state and put into the arms of Iowans. With this expansion of vaccines also increases our allotment to around 100,000 doses per week. As of Thursday morning, there has been over 350,000 Iowans who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine.
A new second amendment protection bill was presented to the Public Safety Committee in the House. The bill passed out of committee and will be considered for a full floor vote in the House. Some highlights of the bill include: clauses to make it harder for criminals to purchase a gun, increases a punishment for selling a firearm to someone who cannot purchase one from an aggravated misdemeanor to a Class D Felony, and creates the opportunities for EMT’s who work on tactical response teams to carry a firearm while on duty. This bill also allows permitless carry of a firearm, but still requires retailers to submit an NCIC background check when a firearm is purchased from a retailer.
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach have announced that the annual Morel and Oyster Mushroom Hunting Workshops will begin in March. There are two separate online workshops either Saturday, March 20, or Saturday, April 3 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Preregistration is required by March 18th. For more information, contact the Plymouth County Extension Office at (712) 546-7835 or the Woodbury County Extension Office at (712) 276-2157. In order to sell Morel or Oyster Mushrooms in Iowa, a certification of completion of the workshop is required.
This year Iowa will be celebrating 175 years of statehood and various events will be held throughout the year and throughout the state to celebrate this milestone. For more information on Iowa History or statehood celebration events visit iowaculture.gov/history/IowaHistoryMonth.