The following is a legislative update from Rep. Todd Prichard of Charles City:
The 2020 legislative session was supposed to adjourn on April 30, but we’ll be heading into overtime next week instead.
Given the challenges we’ve all faced over the last year during the pandemic, it was imperative for lawmakers to take extra time to make sure our recovery and relief efforts reach Iowans and small businesses needing it most.
When session began back in January, Iowa House Democrats started work on our COVID recovery package for Iowans, called Build Back Iowa. It’s a bold relief package designed to help families, small businesses, students, and our dedicated health care workers get through this pandemic and get life back to normal.
We crafted the plan because pandemic recovery isn’t a partisan issue and we were prepared to work across the aisle with Republicans to get it signed into law.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case so far.
The good news is that there’s still time before adjournment to take action and help Iowans turn the page on this pandemic.
We should provide additional support to help small businesses make up for COVID losses. We must invest more to address Iowa’s child care crisis. We should be doing more to keep families in their homes and kids safe in school.
As pressure builds to wrap up the session, I hope the Governor and GOP lawmakers don’t miss the opportunity to do the right thing — put politics aside and focus on recovery and relief.
Keep Iowans Safe, Get Your Covid Vaccine
Vaccine Facts and Myths
Earlier this month, all adults 16 and older became eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination and so far, almost 1 million Iowans have completed the vaccination process. The vaccine is safe, effective, free, and now widely available across Iowa.
Public health officials are encouraging Iowans to get the vaccine as soon as possible to stop transmission of the virus, save lives, and get life back to normal.
Vaccine navigators at 2-1-1 can assist in multiple languages to help set up vaccine appointments. Iowans can also visit vaccinate.Iowa.gov to find a vaccine provider. Many providers including Hy-Vee are now allowing drop-in vaccines and an appointment is no longer needed.
With all the information circulating throughout the internet about the COVID-19 vaccine, it is hard to know the facts from myths. Below are some common questions regarding the vaccine and its safety.
Should I get the vaccine?
Will a COVID-19 vaccine alter my DNA?
No. COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way.
Can the vaccine make me sick with COVID-19?
No. None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.
Is it safe for me to get a COVID-19 vaccine if I would like to have a baby one day?
Yes. If you are trying to become pregnant now or want to get pregnant in the future, you may get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is available to you.
This week, the CDC also updated their guidance on safe gatherings for those who are vaccinated. To learn more about finding credible vaccine information, please visit: cdc.gov/vaccines/vac-
Iowa Lawmakers Call for More Safety at Correctional Facility
After two murders and another violent assault at the Anamosa State Penitentiary last weekend, Iowa lawmakers called on the Reynolds Administration to take immediate action to improve safety at the facility.
Last week, seven Iowa Democratic lawmakers toured the Anamosa State Penitentiary to better understand the cause for rising violence inside Iowa prisons. They reported seeing cell blocks with almost 300 offenders supervised by only two correctional officers. They learned that the facility’s radio equipment and communication system need serious updates and witnessed several blind spots throughout the grounds due to inadequate surveillance or the facility’s architecture.
Following the tour, the lawmakers outlined four main recommendations to improve safety in our corrections facilities: funding to fill and restore public safety positions, giving frontline workers a say in their own workplace, launching an independent investigation, and starting new safety training procedures.
In late March, nurse Lorena Schulte and Officer Robert McFarland were murdered by two inmates while on the job at the prison in Anamosa. On Saturday, there was another violent assault on staff by an inmate.
In addition to the call for more action from Reynolds to improve safety, Iowa lawmakers have requested an independent, federal investigation into the deaths and rising violence in Iowa prisons.
Preliminary Data Released from US Census
While Iowa’s population growth continues to lag behind the rest of the country, the state will keep its four United States House seats. Recently released data by the US Census Bureau showed that Iowa’s population saw just 4.8% growth from 2010, while the country saw a 7.4% growth in population.
As the initial release of the apportionment data signals four seats in Congress, it is still unclear whether the data will be delivered in time for the legislature to approve new districts.
The Iowa Constitution set a deadline of September 1st to send legislatively approved plans to the Governor for state legislative districts. It is still unknown if the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency charged with creating the district maps will receive the appropriate data in time. If the Legislature cannot approve the new district maps, the responsibility then goes to the Iowa Supreme Court.
According to data released by the US Census Bureau Iowa’s population is 3,190,369.
Connecting Iowans to High-Speed Internet
With Iowa ranked 45th in the nation for broadband access, a bipartisan bill to connect more Iowans to high-speed internet was signed into law this week. The bill, HF 848, establishes matching grants for providers who expand broadband in underserved areas.
While there was no funding included in the bill, the grants will likely be funded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which became law back in March.
The grants would go towards developing internet access with download and upload speeds of at least 100 megabits per second. Some grants will allow for lower upload seeds in the most difficult to reach areas.
Officials of some Iowa broadband companies have estimated between $800 million to $850 million is needed to install high-speed service across Iowa, which includes investments from both the public and private sector.
Iowa’s major business organizations have listed statewide high-speed internet access as a top priority as this service is important to attracting and keeping businesses and workers, a point made clearer during the pandemic.
Other Iowa News
REAL ID DEADLINE EXTENDED TO 2023: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the deadline for REAL ID enforcement has been extended to May 3, 2023. To get a REAL ID marked card, federal law requires you to verify your identity by providing the same documentation you provided when you got your first license or ID card. You can use the Iowa DOT’s tool to build a list of documents you need to bring with you at iowadot.gov/mvd/realid/
GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR SUSTAINABLE AG AND POLLUTION INITIATIVES: The State Soil and Conservation and Water Quality Committee (SSWQC) announced grants were available to farmers, organizations, educators, scientists, and institutions to explore sustainable agriculture and nonpoint pollution initiatives. Proposals should address water quality, conservation practices, or soil health through innovative projects or educational or demonstration projects. Grant applications are due by May 21, 2021. It is estimated that roughly $150,000 in grants will be available with individual grants not exceeding $50,000 for projects lasting up to three years. The grants will be reviewed by the Department of Agriculture and Lands Stewardship and the SSCWQC. Funding decisions will be made in June and project funds will be available in July. Grant applications are available at:iowaagriculture.gov/dscwq/
BOATING SAFETY TIPS FOR SUMMER: As the weather gets warmer, more people will be enjoying Iowa’s waterways. It is important to remember the following safety tips so your boat trip on the water is safe and fun. Kids 12 and under must wear a life jacket and it is recommended that everyone wear a life jacket. There must be a lifejacket on board for every person plus a throw away jacket in case of emergency. Check water conditions before heading out, have a sober driver, and carry a fire extinguisher on board. When leaving the water, help stop aquatic hitchhikers by draining all equipment and wash off all plants, animals, mud, and dry the boat before moving it to another waterway. Brush up on your boating skills by taking an education class. The Department of Natural Resources has more boating tips on their website, iowadnr.gov/Things-to-Do/