How the Legislature is Functioning in a Pandemic 1

DES MOINES, Iowa — Lawmakers returned to the capitol for the first time in 12 weeks on Wednesday, but the statehouse looks a lot different than before they paused the legislative session in March.

Guests are required to go through a health screening before entering the building, where their temperature is taken and they are asked a few question about their health. This is not required for lawmakers, although House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Prichard is asking his Democratic caucus to go through screening still.

Inside there are masks available, hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the building, as well as signs urging lawmakers to social distance.

Legislators returned Wednesday morning from their more than two-month break during the initial spread of the coronavirus. Over the coming days, they will work to finish passing several policy bills and craft the state budget

During committee meetings, chairs were set up a few feet apart to encourage social distancing. The subcommittee and committee meetings were live-streamed online to encourage the public to watch from home.

Mask-wearing was common but far from universal among legislators and lobbyists.

The session resumed as the state continues to be in “substantial spread” of the coronavirus, and in the midst of a week disrupted by protests in Des Moines and nationwide over the killing of George Floyd.

As the House gaveled in, Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, D-Des Moines, who has worked to create peace between police and protestors all weekend long, led a prayer asking for strength to bridge racial and political divides. 

“We come to you in trying times,” he said. “We come to you when our nation is in turmoil, when our state is in turmoil.” 

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