Week #2 was short because of the MLK holiday and much of it was spent getting used to the new “normal”. Several new rules deal with attending meetings virtually. As we all know, many places of employment now allow their employees to attend meetings from remote locations. We, at the Statehouse, have been trying to establish ways to keep elected officials and staff safe.
Committee rules have been set by the majority party. While representatives can attend virtually, they are counted as “excused” and cannot comment or vote. One can watch virtually in a nearby “secured” room and walk over when a vote is called, be counted as present and then, vote.
In subcommittees, where normally the most extensive conversations are carried on regarding a bill, the same rules apply: you must be present to vote or comment although you can put remarks in the “chat” area of the screen.
Meanwhile, the Dress Code was approved which requires jackets and ties for the male representatives, but masks are not required. There are always a few at committee meetings who refuse to “mask up”. As one of my constituents said, “a jacket and tie are not saving lives”.
We are all working out arrangements with our clerks who are allowed to work remotely. It is a challenge, but fortunately my clerk and I have worked together the entire time I have been a representative so at least we tend to be on the same page. However, it’s not like we can hand bills, folders, mail, birthday postcards and certificates back and forth as we normally do. We may have to set up exchanges in previously undisclosed locations!
I am off to a fast start on subcommittee bill assignments. Three of them are from Public Safety: HF 64 supports confidentiality; HSB 76 establishes a safety program for receiving anonymous reports from the public in regards to potential self-harm or criminal acts. The last one, under certain circumstances, would not allow law suits to be brought against gun or ammunition manufacturers.
In Education, I have been assigned to HSB 66 which requires that ALL non-state monies (Federal funds, private and/or public donations) received by educational institutions must be approved by the legislature before dispersal of the funds. So much for local control!
In Information Technology Committee I was assigned a bill that would permit joint financing for operation and services of telecommunications.
In Public Safety, we will be voting on a Constitutional Amendment (similar to the US 2nd Amendment, but not the same) which adds the words “strict scrutiny”. These two words totally change the intent. It would make our current laws dealing with guns unconstitutional. If this passes out of committee and both chambers (which it probably will), it will then go to Iowans for a vote to change the Iowa Constitution.
As always, I look forward to hearing your comments regarding your opinions and your concerns.