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There will be a number of differences in the Senate rules for the upcoming session, in order to maintain as much distancing as possible. Legislative clerks will not be on the floor, but will work in other rooms. There will be up to 50 senators and some staff on the floor at a given time. Committees will meet on the Senate floor instead of in smaller rooms behind the chamber. Meetings will be broadcast online so anyone interested in watching what goes on, can do so. No in-person visitors will be allowed. The public and members of the press will be seated in the galleries on either side of the chamber. Subcommittee meetings will meet in rooms behind the chamber. They will be broadcast also with no in-person visitors. Members of the public will be able to make comments virtually.

The first day of the new session is Monday, January 12. Members who were elected last November will take their oaths of office. I expect that we will also pass rules for the new session. All standing committees will meet during the first week to get organized and set committee rules.

The Governor’s Condition of the State address will be delivered in the House Chamber, at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 12, rather than at 10:00 a.m., as in the past. This is where the Governor makes her recommendations for the new legislative session. She will also send us her recommendations for the new budget soon.

On Wednesday, January 13, the Chief Justice will deliver her State of the Judiciary address, in the House Chamber.

On January 14, at 10:00 a.m. we will have the Condition of the National Guard address in the House Chamber.

Limited Death Penalty

I will again be sponsoring a bill to reinstate the death penalty in Iowa, for anyone who kidnaps, rapes and murders a minor. I have thought for a long time that we need an additional penalty in that case. The penalty for kidnapping and raping anyone is life in prison. The penalty for murdering the victim is still life in prison. There is an incentive to murder the victim so she cannot testify against the rapist. This is a very narrow bill. It has been hard to get legislative support for this bill, even though the public supports it. 

Constitutional Amendments

Along with a majority of legislators, I will be supporting 2 constitutional amendments that are coming up for approval in their second session. One would place a right to keep and bear arms in the Iowa constitution. Though this right has been in the federal constitution from the earliest days, Iowa is one of 6 states that does not have this protection in the state constitution.

Another amendment states that there is no right to an abortion in the Iowa Constitution. Abortion is never mentioned in the Iowa Constitution, but the Iowa Supreme Court ruled several years ago, that there is a right to have an abortion in the Constitution.

In Iowa, constitutional amendments must pass 2 consecutive sessions of the legislature, and then be passed by a vote of the people to become part of our constitution.   

Broadband

Expanding Broadband will be a topic for the legislature again this session. We have been working on this issue for several years but it is not something that gets done in a year or two. The current COVID-19 crisis, with more people working at home, and more students attending classed virtually, has created an even bigger need for Broadband than before.

Author: Julian Garrett