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Monday, January 11 was the first day of Iowa’s legislative session. This session is scheduled to last 110 days which leads to the final day being April 30. Due to Covid, this session will be like no other. In order to meet constitutional requirements and pass a budget we must gavel in the second Monday of January.

Several changes in how we do business have been made. The Capitol is open to the public. There is no mask mandate but masks and face shields are suggested. There are masks and face shields available to those who wish to wear them. You are encouraged to bring your own. The first day of session saw most people wearing masks, many without, and only a couple of face shields. The public will have their temperatures checked at the security screening points.

Guided tours of the Capitol are canceled Monday through Thursday while we are working. Friday and Saturday will offer a limited tour.  We will not be able to take constituents up into the main dome this session. Finally, rooms in the Capitol will not be available for public groups to reserve for events such as legislative receptions or lunches. This was a disappointment for me, as I schedule and facilitate the weekly legislative Bible study on Thursday mornings. For this session, I will gather with interested senators to continue the forty-year tradition to study the Word and pray for our state.

In the chamber, we will see the media move off the floor and up into a reserved section of the gallery overlooking us. Subcommittees are going to be the largest change. We will have subcommittees by video conferencing. Our young pages are being trained to operate the audio and video equipment to provide a more stable and prepared experience and to save time. This will be a good experience for our high school pages and will make them more a part of the daily workings of the Senate. I welcome that. Legislators and staff may be in the same room or separate rooms based on distancing considerations or preference.

Full committee meetings will happen in the Senate chamber to provide enough room, with senators sitting and speaking from their desks. In both committee meetings and full senate debate, senators must be physically present in order to vote. We are not doing virtual voting or debate.

This session will be a challenge for many, but I am confident the Iowa Senate with a Republican majority will deal with the challenges and finish with a conservative budget and policies that will make Iowa stronger going through the pandemic and for years after.

Author: Jason Schultz

State Sen. Jason Schultz served three terms in the House prior to being elected to the Iowa Senate. Schultz served seven years in the National Guard and served as volunteer fire fighter for the Schleswig Volunteer FD for 13 years, two years as the department's chief.