Week nine of the session is over, which means we are right at 60 days completed with 40 to go. This was another busy week as we are passing around 15 bills per day. Next Friday will be the last funnel, so I hope floor debate will slow and we can focus on the budget.
As the weather warms up, people are ready to finish up here and go home. Golf courses are starting to open, and there are plenty of robins around, so I guess it is time to finish the State budget and wrap things up.
On Monday afternoon, Senators and Representatives were given a briefing on the coronavirus by the Department of Public Health. This time of year, thousands of people come to the Capitol. At times, there may be 300 or more people in the Rotunda directly outside our chambers.
Sometimes there are so many people crowded in such a small space that it is difficult to even find a lane to walk through. Of course, these folks are here to see their Legislators and we do everything we can to accommodate them. At this time, there are no plans to close the Capitol building to the public.
This is a frequent scene from Monday-Thursday. As you can imagine, there are some lawmakers who are concerned about this many people congregated in one place and is there a chance that someone may be contaminated with the virus. We do not know the answer to that, so people are taking extra precautions to help prevent an outbreak here. There is no panic here, but people are concerned.
The Governor has declared a disaster in order to be able to utilize all available resources, and make sure Iowa is prepared in case this virus expands quickly. At this time, there are no plans to shut down the State Government, but things can change in a hurry, and it is best to be ready to respond with a plan.
Monday was childcare day in the House as we prepared to debate seven bills related to this issue. The bills centered around individual tax credits, provider rates, facility tax credits, developer credits and grants for daycare providers to advance in their efforts to attain an education degree.
While several of these proposals passed the House, some of them were withheld from the calendar because of technical glitches, but they were minor setbacks and will be debated.
After both chambers have had a chance to work on the legislation, we should have a clearer picture of exactly what will be sent to the Governor.
The high school tournaments wrap up this week, and then it is on to March Madness for both men and women’s college basketball teams. It is fun to witness how much people enjoy watching basketball and the way these young athletes compete. As of Thursday morning, the NCAA is saying the tournaments will take place, but without fans in the stands. I am not so sure that will be the case since conference tournaments, including the Big Ten have been called off. They are getting pressure from outside sources to cancel the games altogether. I hope that does not happen.
Finally, the Revenue Estimating Conference met on Thursday to provide the Governor and Legislature with new revenue projections. The three-member panel raised projected revenues for the current fiscal year, and lowered them for the next fiscal year. What these amounts to is there will not be a big change to the budget proposals currently being offered by House Republicans. Responsible spending in the past will ensure that we will be able to fund our priorities as we move to wrap up this session.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home at 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is P. O. Box 398, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at [email protected]