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Davis Brown Government Relations Report

May 1 Update - State and Federal COVID-19 Response - May 1, 2020

Federal Update

This week, as states around the country began slowly re-opening, the federal guidelines were allowed to expire signaling a shift in focus from quarantine to containment. The second round of Paycheck Protection Program funding has begun to be distributed through banks to businesses seeking to maintain continuity during the quarantine. A number of issues have arisen with this round of PPP funding which has caused the pace of distribution to slow relative to the first round of funding.

Congress continues work to put together the next recovery package, referred to as Phase 4, but the House and Senate are far from agreeing on the timing or content of that package. 

Timing of Phase 4

Earlier in the week, the plan was for both chambers to return to Washington D.C. next week to begin working in earnest on Phase 4 but U.S. House leadership announced that they would not be coming back next week, citing advice from the Capitol Physician’s office, but did commit to coming back the week of May 11. The House is also pursuing plans to conduct business remotely. 

Following a meeting of the Virtual Congress Task Force, House Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) released a statement, “It is my hope that we will also have at that time bipartisan agreement on a change to House rules to permit both remote voting and remote committee work.”

Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) still plans to bring the Senate back into session on Monday, May 4. The Senate plans to vote on confirmations, but it is unclear whether the Senate will act on any coronavirus-related legislation. 

What will be in Phase 4? Infrastructure, direct business support, liability protection for employers?

House Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) emphasized that the next bill the House takes up will be a comprehensive response package, and not just additional funding for the PPP. Pelosi said her goal for the fourth coronavirus response package is to provide nearly $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments with infrastructure investments, including broadband. House Majority Whip Clyburn (D-SC) said House Democrats soon be would unveiling their plan for investing over $80 billion in broadband expansion. 

Senator McConnell has made it clear that while “we have an equal interest in doing an infrastructure bill, we don’t have an equal interest in borrowing money from future generations to pay for it.” He and members of his caucus have referenced an infrastructure package being worked on separate from Coronavirus response with the possibility of it taking shape later this summer based on a highway bill that passed the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee last year. Sen. McConnell did make clear that liability protections for employers will be included in any bill the Senate takes up.

Iowa Legislative Update

The Iowa Legislative Council met by conference call Wednesday, April 29, to approve the extension of adjournment until 10:00 a.m. May 15 (authorized by Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 102). This legislative action aligns with the latest Emergency Disaster Proclamation issued by Governor Reynolds on Monday, April 27, ordering the extension of statewide closures and orders through May 15.

The Legislature plans to issue comprehensive health and safety guidelines in advance of returning. Leadership is looking for safe ways for Iowans to be a part of the process when session resumes; in addition to the building being open to the public, the legislature is exploring technology abilities like live streaming.

Leadership emphasized that it is important they get back and get their work done, even though they do not know exactly how that looks at this point. The expectation is that upon return they will be efficient with the body’s time, considerate of who needs to be in the building, and not spend days and weeks sitting in the chambers.

In order to return, the legislature is considering multiple factors, with emphasis on: 

  • When it is safe and responsible to come back—leadership continues to convene with health experts and the governor to monitor the situation.
  • What information they have available to get their work done, including a full analysis of the impact of the CARES Act on the state of Iowa and state revenue projections. 

From here, lawmakers can vote to reconvene the session earlier than May 15 or vote to extend the suspension of the legislative session if conditions warrant. At this time, leadership is not making any predictions and is not ruling out the possibility that they may be unable to return on that date.

Executive Branch Update

On Monday, April 27, the Governor issued her tenth State of Public Health Disaster Emergency Declaration. In following the proclamation issued on April 24, this declaration provides measures for reopening the state of Iowa. Specifically, the proclamation relaxes restrictions in 77 Iowa counties effective today, Friday, May 1, and continues other restrictions until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 15.

In 77 counties, the Governor’s proclamation permits restaurants, fitness centers, malls, libraries, racetracks, and certain other retail establishments to reopen in a limited fashion with public health measures in place. 

For the other 22 counties (Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Dallas, Des Moines, Dubuque, Fayette, Henry, Iowa, Jasper, Johnson, Linn, Louisa, Marshall, Muscatine, Polk, Poweshiek, Scott, Tama, Washington, and Woodbury) all previous restrictions and closures remain in place until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, May 15, unless sooner terminated or extended by the Governor. NOTE: The Governor’s Proclamation leaves certain restrictions and closures in effect for the entire state until Friday, May 15, those are noted in Part 1, Section 3.

In addition, the proclamation lifts all restrictions on religious and spiritual gatherings. Churches, synagogues, mosques, and other hosts of spiritual or religious gatherings must implement reasonable measures to ensure social distancing of employees, volunteers, and other participants, increased hygiene practices, and other measures to reduce risk of transmission of COVID-19.

All other regulatory relief measures that were previously authorized by the governor to have been extended until Wednesday, May 27, unless sooner terminated or extended by the Governor.

The full text of the Governor’s proclamation is available on her website (Part 1, Part 2Part 3) and we are providing a summary of the Governor’s proclamation. Her actions are authorized by Iowa Code Chapter 29C, Emergency Management and Security.

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