OTTUMWA, Iowa – Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, discussed the Iowa Legislature’s COVID-19 protocols and how Iowans can expect their Legislature to function amid the pandemic.
“We’re trying to have this session as normal as possible, as safe as possible. But also, we want to ensure that it’s very transparent and accessible. So we’re going to do a lot more stuff virtual. Our subcommittees are going to be virtual, where you can sit in your living room and participate in the legislative process. And hopefully, that will keep a few less people coming through the Capitol every single day,” Whitver told The Iowa Torch after a special nominating convention in Ottumwa for the Iowa Senate District 41 special election on Thursday.
“We’re certainly not going to shut out people from the Capitol, but we want people to know that the Capitol is still open, even if it’s virtually to participate in the process,” he added.
Whitver said they would live stream all of the committee and floor votes like they did last session. He says they plan to use Zoom for subcommittee meetings.
“I think, in some ways, this might be the most transparent session we’ve ever had. But it will be unique. It will be different. I’ve told our members it might be inconvenient at times, but the most important thing is we come down, and we accomplish our agenda,” he noted.
He said even if there are inconveniences along the way, he said the focus for Iowa Senate Republicans to do what they need to do to keep the promises they made to voters.
“Whether that takes wearing masks, whether that takes virtual, we’re going to get the get the job done,” Whitver stated.
The Iowa Legislature released the protocols this week. They include:
- Asking staff, legislators, and visitors to stay home if they are ill.
- Legislators are expected to be in the building and participate in committee meetings and floor debates.
- Masks and face shields will be available for those who want them, but they do not mandate their use.
- Hand sanitizers will be provided throughout the Capitol building.
- Visitors are allowed in the building, but they will have to complete a health check questionnaire and receive a temperature screening.
- Guided tours will not be available Monday through Thursday.
Read all of the protocols below:2021 Legislative Session 1.6.2021
Whitver told The Iowa Torch that his three priorities for the session are a balanced, conservative budget, tax reform, and maintaining a pro-job growth environment in the state.
He said the state had the third-lowest unemployment rate in the country before the pandemic due to policies Republicans put into place the last two years.
“We’re going to continue to do that, and we’re going to continue to move it forward,” Whitver concluded.