DES MOINES, Iowa – Early Tuesday morning, the Iowa Legislature passed a series of resolutions to pause the legislative session for 30 days while the state works to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The Iowa Senate and Iowa House waived the requirement for Iowa schools to reschedule days canceled following Governor Reynolds’ recommendation, in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. On Sunday, March 15, 2020, Governor Reynolds recommended Iowa schools cancel classes for four weeks. Any classes previously scheduled from March 16, 2020 to April 12, 2020 will not be required to be rescheduled.
Senate File 2408 also included a supplemental appropriation to continue the current budget for July and August 2020, if needed. The spending for these months will be at the current rate of funding in FY 2020 and only go into effect if the Legislature is unable to meet again prior to the end of the fiscal year. However, education funding will increase to reflect the agreement made by the Legislature earlier this year, which provided schools with an additional $99 million.
This resolution includes a $91.8 million supplemental appropriation for this current fiscal year, approximately $525,000 of that amount is appropriated to the State Hygienic Lab for additional COVID-19 testing. The remainder of the $91.8 million is for Medicaid, Hawk-I, and the Glenwood Resource Center. The bill also increases the Governor’s transfer authority between budget line items in the state budget.
Additionally, Senate File 2408 permits Governor Reynolds to access the Economic Emergency Fund (EEF) during these 30 days for needs related to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Legislature permitted Governor Reynolds to spend up to 10% of the EEF to address the needs arising from the virus. Additionally, the Legislative Council may approve up to a total of $196 million in funding without the Legislature convening.
All of these laws are passed as session law. Session law means the policy passed on Tuesday will be temporary and only to address the current public health situation. They are not implemented as a permanent part of the Iowa code. SCR 102 adjourned the Iowa Legislature until April 15, 2020. Senate Concurrent Resolution 102 also pauses current legislative deadlines. If needs arise, the Legislature may reconvene before or after April 15.
“The decision to pause session was difficult, but after many conversations with public health experts, I know it’s the right one. The last thing we want to do is put the public, press, staff or legislators at risk,” Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said. “The additional tools that we have provided the Governor with tonight will ensure that she can effectively manage a rapidly changing situation. Iowans should know that they have a strong leader in Governor Reynolds and should feel confident in our state’s response to COVID-19.”
“The goal of pausing session is to protect higher risk members of the Legislature, staff, and public potentially at risk during the legislative session and follow the expert guidance provided by the Center for Disease Control and Iowa Department of Public Health,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said. “Additionally, at this time, the focus of state government needs to be on managing the COVID-19 outbreak.”