Iowa Legislative Report

Iowa Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 88 th General Assembly, 2020 Session

Week 12: April 3, 2020 Fitzgerald, Smith & Associates, Lobbyists We didn’t produce a weekly update last week because quite frankly, there were more questions than answers as to what would be taking place in the Legislature. The unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has the governor’s office, legislature, state departments and private industry back on their heels trying to find ways to function and provide services.

These entities seem to be getting a better handle on this crisis as far as mitigation goes but make no mistake, it is far from over.

Here is what we know. The Legislature will remain recessed until April 30 th along with the school systems and non-essential businesses. At this point, April 30 th is the goal, but some seem to think another extension may happen for the legislature to come back into session. Unless we have ideal weather, allowing for a swift spring planting season, it is assumed that session will not resume until the crops are planted. Granted, this is an assumption with far too many variables and unknowns. When the legislature does return to finish the business for the 2020 session, we do know it will function much differently than a normal session.

Resolving the state’s budget will take priority over everything else. This will be a difficult task as it is assumed that the states will suffer reduced revenue from what was projected in the last Revenue Estimating Conference. Spending priorities will have to be adjusted because of the reduced revenue as well as the possible need to provide future emergency funding due to the shutdown of business and industry. Federal stimulus funding will also impact our states budget. Shortened sessions will also lessen the number of policy bills that will move through the chambers. The Governor and legislative leaders will negotiate a few priority bills and the rest will be pushed back to next year. Even though both legislative chambers and the Governor’s office are led by Republicans, we can’t assume they will agree on policy priorities. They must pass a budget by June 30 th, but they don’t have to pass policy bills.

Despite all the chaos taking place in our state, we are continuing to advocate for The Academy’s priorities. The Licensing bill was successfully defeated in committee while the legislature was still in session. There will still be a few policy bills as well as budget bills available as vehicles to amend this language on once they resume session. The good news is that there will be fewer bills available to use. The bad news is that it will be an accelerated session once they return and some of the normal sub committee and committee work will be bypassed making it much more difficult to track. We are reaching out to legislators trying to secure assurances that this bill will not surface again this year.

Unfortunately, it is still to early to determine how the states revenues will end up and in turn how the states budget will look. It is likely that our revenue numbers will be down so the budget priorities will need to be readjusted. How this plays out for the states nutrition and wellness programs is yet to be determined. There is obviously going to be a large number of Iowan’s unemployed (at least in the short run) so the need for these programs will grow. We are working through the federal stimulus package just released to determine what Iowa’s restrictions and options are as well as communicating with our federal leaders on a subsequent stimulus bill that is in the works as week speak.

The Covid-19 virus has fundamentally changed the way many do business in the state and that includes our lobbying team. We are a relationship business and although the communication methods may have changed, our advocacy hasn’t. We are still reaching out to Legislators via text, email and phone calls. We have started to hold video calls with members of both chambers to discuss policy and budget outlooks which, until the virus is contained, is the closest we can get to face to face contact. We are in a very fluid time right now as our state learns to navigate through this unprecedented pandemic. It’s assured that schedules for the legislative session will change many times in the coming weeks and we intend to keep you up to date with the most current information available.

As always, feel free to contact us if you would like specific details on a bill or the legislative process in general.

Jeff Smith Maggie Smith-Fitzgerald

Matt Fitzgerald Jerry Fitzgerald


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