Capitol Update

Quote

Capitol Update

I recently read a Facebook post from a fellow pork producer.  He talked about keeping a positive attitude and working at controlling the things that we can control during this pandemic. Do not worry about the things we cannot.    It reminded me of meeting I had with my accountant back in 1998 during the downturn in the pork prices at that time.  Anyone who was a pork producer back then remembers it well.  As we sat in that meeting, my spirits and attitude was about as low as I can remember during my farming career.

As the discussion continued, he pulled out his legal pad and wrote something on it.  He then slid it over to me.  He wrote “It will get better!”  He signed Duane Murken and dated it.  When I asked if he could guarantee that statement, He said you can take that to the bank.  He was right.  It did get better.  To this day, I have that on my desk to review from time to time.

This message is not just for us in the pork industry, it’s for everyone.  So if you are feeling down, reach out and talk with someone, get help.  It will get better.  Times will change and we will get through this.  Be Positive.  Be Safe.

Legislature Planning to Resume Session in June

About two months ago, the Iowa Legislature suspended its session as a precaution to prevent further spread of COVID-19. Prior to doing so, lawmakers passed a bipartisan plan that stabilized the state budget, ensured continuation of essential government services, and provided Governor Reynolds with additional tools to manage the disease outbreak.

In recent weeks, the situation in Iowa, and much of the country, has significantly improved.  Governor Reynolds has taken significant steps to reopen our communities and economy so Iowans can get back to normal life.

With this in mind, it is clear that it is time for the Legislature to get back to Des Moines and complete its work. Leadership has announced that the Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, June 3 and get back to work. When lawmakers return, Iowans can expect lawmakers to address their priorities and pass a conservative and responsible state budget plan.

To protect the health and safety of legislators, staff, and the public, additional precautions will be implemented at the Capitol when the Legislature reconvenes. Additionally, all House committee meetings will be live streamed so that Iowans can follow legislative business and ensure transparency.

Voting in the June Primary

Vote Absentee

The easiest and safest way to vote in this year’s primary is by requesting an absentee ballot and voting from the comfort of your own home. You can do this by downloading an absentee ballot request form and mailing it into to either the Jones or Delaware County Auditor’s office (request forms must be received by the Auditor by May 22). Once the Auditor receives your request, they will mail your official voting ballot. Fill it out and return it as soon as possible to ensure it arrives on time and your vote is counted!

Vote on Election Day

As always, you’ll continue to be able to cast your ballot and vote on Election Day at a polling station. However, with the COVID-19 outbreak, some counties have reduced the number of polling locations to protect their poll workers and voters. If you live in a county that has done this, be sure to double check your polling site before leaving and expect the possibility of longer than usual wait times in line. Also make sure to practice proper social distancing and good hygiene!

If you would like more detail on any of these issues or something else, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I will be monitoring my email daily, if you have any questions or concerns please email or call my cell phone.  My email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or call at 319-480-1997.

Capitol Update Week 15

Quote

When Should Iowa Reopen the Economy?

Ever since the COVID-19 outbreak first made its way to Iowa, our families, small businesses, and communities have been impacted in ways they have never been. In this era of social distancing and uncertainty, many have lost their jobs and businesses have had to shut their doors (some have done so for good).

As the public health situation begins to improve and the time is right, we must begin the process of reopening Iowa’s economy and get people back to work. We should do this as quickly as we can in the safest way possible.

While the vast majority of Iowans have largely remained healthy during this unprecedented time, we must continue to be smart about reopening the economy. We want to get people back to their families, social lives, churches, schools, and jobs as soon as possible and in a reasonable and responsible manner.

Some models have predicted that Iowa will reach its “peak” in late-April or early-May. If we reopen too early, we risk the possibility of creating a new wave of illnesses and deaths. If we delay, some families could be financially devastated and shuttered businesses may never come back. It’s all about finding the right balance and planning accordingly.

Iowans can do both.  We can fight COVID-19 by adding health precautions to protect ourselves and each other but also get people back to work and have Iowa thriving again.

Last week, President Trump released guidelines for reopening the economy, but he is leaving it up to individual states to determine their best course of action. This makes sense, especially when you look at how differently COVID-19 is impacting regions like the Midwest and Northeast.

Here in Iowa, people are eager to reopen the economy and return to normal life. Iowa is in a much better position than other states like New York and New Jersey. In many of the more populated states, people live in incredibly close quarters and have a significantly higher risk of spreading COVID-19 to each other. Iowa doesn’t have this problem in most areas of the state.

Governor Reynolds has indicated that when it is time to reopen, she may do so using a regional approach or on county-by-county basis. This strategy will help us manage “hot spots” in the state while also getting folks back to their normal lives in areas that haven’t been impacted as badly.

Iowans are resilient and genuinely want to look out for their friends and neighbors. We have seen an outpouring of support for our health care workers as individuals and businesses have stepped up to make face masks and shields. We have seen people supporting their local restaurants and small businesses in droves to make sure they are still around after COVID. We have seen communities come together to keep spirits up in the face of this invisible enemy.

There is no doubt that Iowa’s best days lie ahead.

As always, I will be monitoring my email daily, if you have any questions or concerns please email or call my cell phone.  My email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or call at 319-480-1997.  Be safe.

 

Capitol Update Week Fourteen

Quote

Region 6

Based upon outbreaks in long-term care facilities, severity of the illnesses, and the rate of hospitalization in Region 6 of Iowa’s Regional Medical Coordinator Center has been elevated to a level 10 on the assessment scale that is being used by the Governor and the Department of Public Health.

Region 6 includes Allamakee, Benton, Black Hawk, Bremer, Buchanan, Clayton, Delaware, Dubuque, Fayette, Grundy, Howard, Jones, Linn, or Winneshiek.

Based on that data, Governor Reynolds issued a new directive for Region 6 that began at midnight last Thursday and continues until 11:59 on April 30, 2020. The directive basically requires gatherings only include members of the same household. Weddings, funerals, and other spiritual or religious gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited, and such gatherings with fewer people may continue.

The penalty for violating this directive will be a simple misdemeanor and that can be written by law enforcement. This directive leaves the previous proclamations in place with the exception of the additional limitations (household members only) on social, community, recreational, leisure, and sports gatherings. There have been no additional changes to any of the counties outside of Region 6.

School Closure Update

In addition to the additional restrictions on Region 6 announced Thursday, the Governor and the Iowa Department of Education announced Friday, that all school districts and nonpublic schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year and will continue to offer continuous learning to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This also includes the cancellation of spring sports activities.

The governor and the Iowa Department of Education also announced that the state of Iowa will:

  • Waive instructional time requirements for the remainder of the 2019-2020 regularly scheduled academic year for schools that continue to provide continuous learning services.
  • Require schools to submit a Return to Learn Plan to the Iowa Department of Education by July 1 outlining ways they will address disruptions to learning as a result of COVID-19.
  • Waive the requirement that schools start no earlier than Aug. 23, allowing school districts and nonpublic schools to make local decisions about the length of their 2020-2021 academic year.  This means they can extend the school year by starting earlier than Aug. 23rd.

An announcement on summer sports activities and when other school-sponsored activities can resume will be made by June 1.

For more information, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s COVID-19 Guidance and Information webpage.

Lastly,

As always, I will be monitoring my email daily, if you have any questions or concerns please email or call my cell phone.  My email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or call at 319-480-1997.  Be safe.

 

Capitol Update Week Thirteen of the 2020 Session

Quote

Legislative Council Meets

On Thursday via a conference call, I participated in the Legislative Council meeting, which I am a member of, we extended the suspension of the Legislative session to April 30th.  It was a short meeting with a unanimous vote to postpone the date to reconvene the session.  Unless things change in the next week or so, I would suspect we will move the date further into May.

Shelter in place

Last week Governor Reynolds and Governor Rickets (of Nebraska) spoke with Dr. Anthony Fauci over the phone to discuss “shelter-in-place”. The Governor said the phone call was productive and Dr. Fauci was “100% supportive, saying that Iowa and Nebraska are ‘on the same page’ with guidance he’s providing other states.”

Governor Reynolds has faced pressure from the media to issue a “shelter-in-place” order. She has resisted such efforts so far, stating that Iowa is already doing the same things, sometimes more, than what other states with formal orders are doing.

Follow Grocery Shopping Best Practices during COVID-19

Best practices while grocery shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic is a hot topic.  I read this article and thought it should be passed on.  It was written on April 6th, 2020, by the food safety, nutrition, and wellness specialists at Iowa State University.  They want Iowans to know some key considerations to safely shop for groceries and stay well.

Can I get sick with COVID-19 from touching food or food packaging if the coronavirus was present on it?

 According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, currently, there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the transmission of COVID-19.

Like other viruses, the COVID-19 virus seeks a living host, preferring humans, to survive and thus COVID-19 does not survive long periods of time (more than a day) on surfaces or objects such as door handles and stainless-steel tables.

What steps can I take to minimize risk when shopping at the grocery store?

 Prepare a list of the items you need at the store to minimize the amount of time within the store.  Shop during hours that will be less busy, such as early in the morning and later at night.  Before heading for the store, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.  Do not go shopping when showing symptoms or if you think you have been exposed to the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of cloth face masks when shopping in grocery stores where social distancing is not possible. CDC states that “cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators.”

Use pick-up or home delivery options with local stores if available.  When using a shopping cart you should sanitize the cart and basket handles before and after use. Grocery stores should have sanitization wipes near the entrance of the store.

Always try to maintain social distancing of 6 feet as much as possible while shopping. Use your eyes and not your hands. Avoid touching surfaces or items unnecessarily. For example, avoid touching or picking up produce and then placing it back on the shelf.  Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or face.

Use self-check lines instead of a cashier. This minimizes the person-to-person interaction, and machines are cleaned regularly.  Avoid using cash and opt to use a card or an electronic means to pay. If you use the card to purchase, sanitize after use with a sanitizer wipe.

Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer after you shop.  Handwashing is preferred over gloves. Research has shown that most consumers use gloves inappropriately. Specifically, consumers have been shown to touch their face with the gloves on.

What are grocery stores doing to minimize my risk?

 Most stores are following CDC guidelines on cleaning and disinfection. Many stores have reduced their open hours to allow for cleaning and disinfection between days.  CDC also recommends asking all employees if they are sick and instructing them to stay home. In addition, most stores have a strict questioning process to ensure employees stay home if they have symptoms.  Stores may also be providing sanitizer to customers and asking sick customers to leave.  When you get home with your groceries, there is no need to clean and sanitize the outside of the food packages, but it is a good practice to wash your hands after you have put away all the groceries.

Lastly,

If you would like more detail on any of these issues or something else that you would like verification or information on, don’t hesitate to contact me.  I will be monitoring my email daily, if you have any questions or concerns please email or call my cell phone.  My email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or call at 319-480-1997.

Capitol Update Week 12

Quote

Governor Recommends Schools Stay Closed

 

On Thursday, April 2nd, Governor Reynolds recommended that Iowa schools remain closed until at least April 30.

Prior to suspending session, the Legislature waived missed school days up to April 13. Because the situation was continuing to evolve, the Legislature also gave the Governor the authority to waive additional missed school days. She can do this on a statewide or district-by-district basis.

Parents can find several tools and resources to help their kids continue learning on the Iowa Department of Education’s website. https://educateiowa.gov/pk-12/resources-support-learning-during-covid-19

Legislative Session Will Remain Suspended

Following the Governor’s recommendation that schools remain closed, leaders in the House and Senate announced that the suspension of the legislative session will also be extended until at least April 30. The Legislative Council which I was appointed to, will meet soon to formally extend the suspension.

No “Shelter-In-Place” Order Needed at This Time

While some are calling for a shelter-in-place, Governor Reynolds says she is looking at the data and following the advice of public health experts who say that such a measure is not necessary at this time. Governor Reynolds has stated that her decision could change depending on what new data shows.

Governor Reynolds has already taken significant action to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 such as closing non-essential businesses, suspending non-essential surgeries, and encouraging Iowans to stay at home and practice social distancing.

While many states have issued formal “shelter-in-place” orders, they often don’t do much more than what’s already being done in Iowa. In fact, some of the actions that Governor Reynolds has taken are often times stronger than what other states have done, even though they have a formal order in place.  I have been looking at the differences between Shelter in Place orders in the states around us and what Governor Reynolds has put in place here in the state.

What I am finding is that there isn’t a whole lot of difference.  Minnesota has a Shelter in Place but over 70% of their business are considered essential services.   That percentage is close to where we are here in Iowa also.  I do believe people should be doing a better job at following the rules Iowa has put in place, such as keeping a 6 foot distance, and gathering in groups less than 10.  Staying away from public places such as parks or playgrounds maybe should be considered also.

I would hope Iowans would grasp the severity of the situation we are in and do the right thing by keeping their distances, washing their hands often, covering their mouths when coughing or as suggested to wear a mask when out in public, isolate when you are sick and stay at home as much as possible.  I do have faith in Governor Reynolds that she is looking at the data and getting good advice from the Iowa Public Health.

Some of the additional reasons against a shelter-in-place order in Iowa include:

  • Iowa’s population density is much smaller than most states (The New York City metro area’s population density is nearly 100x larger than Iowa’s)
  • Iowa does not utilize mass public transit which often spreads disease
  • Iowa does not have large apartment buildings where thousands of people live
  • A shelter-in-place order would strain local law enforcement resources

Iowa SOS Makes Voting in the June Primary Easier

On June 6, Iowa will hold its primary election for federal, state, and local candidates.

To keep Iowa voters safe and healthy amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Secretary of State Paul Pate announced this week that he will mail all registered voters an absentee ballot request form. Because we are uncertain what things will look like in June, this will allow Iowans to receive a ballot and vote by mail in the comfort of their home.

Ballot requests will be mailed out in mid- to late-April. More information can be found on the Secretary of State’s website.  https://sos.iowa.gov/elections/electioninfo/absenteeinfo.html

Lastly,

This week I received calls on regulations that due to shutdown of governmental offices are making things harder to achieve as we move towards the planting season.  I worked with Innovative Ag Services and Secretary Naig to get commercial applicator licenses to some of their new hires.  Temporary CDL’s seems to be an issue also, after talking with the Iowa DOT, they directed me to their website where you can apply for one online.
https://www.news.iowadot.gov/newsandinfo/2020/04/iowa-dot-to-issue-restricted-commercial-drivers-licenses-remotely.html

If you would like more detail on any of these issues or something else that you would like verification on don’t hesitate to contact me.  I will be monitoring my email daily, if you have any questions or concerns please email or call my cell phone.  My email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or call at 319-480-1997.

Week 11 of the 2020 Session

Quote

While the Legislature was not in session this week, things continued to evolve as state and national officials work to slow the spread of COVID-19. As legislators, we are continuing to work… answering emails from constituents, fielding phone calls from local officials, and keeping you all updated on what actions the state is taking to keep our families and communities safe and healthy.

Since the Legislature suspended its session, the Governor has exercised her emergency powers in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in Iowa. Among these orders includes the closing of businesses where people tend to congregate, such as bars and restaurants, entertainment venues, and salons and barbershops, among others. Many state departments have also taken action to help Iowans such as pushing back tax deadlines, extending unemployment benefits to workers impacts by COVID, and providing child care resources for parents working in essential industries.

While the Governor has not ordered a “shelter in place” or “stay at home” order, Iowans are encouraged to remain home and self-quarantine. This and other common sense practices like washing your hands, covering your sneezes and coughs, etc., will significantly help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The Governor is also holding regular press conferences to keep the public informed on the state’s response. These press conferences are held at 2:30 pm, Sunday-Friday. Many TV news stations broadcast the press conference live or you can watch on the Governor’s Facebook page.

This is a difficult time for many small businesses so we must all do our part to show them our support. While restaurants are prohibited from dine-in customers, several are offering curbside and to-go orders. Other small businesses, like salons and retail stores, are selling gift cards and certificates that can be used once the Governor’s order is lifted.

As Iowans, we know how important it is to take care of our own. Let’s make sure we are supporting those who have supported us in the past!

Key Updates from the Week

Governor Announces Small Business Relief

This week, Governor Reynolds announced two rounds of assistance for small businesses who have been affected by COVID-19. They include:

  • Iowa Small Business Relief Grants – Grant awards ranging from $5,000-$25,000 for businesses with between 2-25 employees. Applications due on March 31.
  • Iowa Small Business Tax Deferral – The Iowa Department of Revenue is allowing sales/use and withholding tax deferral for businesses affected by COVID-19. Applications due on March 31.
  • Targeted Small Business Sole Operator Relief Fund – Grant awards ranging from $5,000-$10,000 for sole proprietorship or single member LLCs that are also certified as Targeted Small Businesses. The business must have been in existence for 12 months prior to April 10, 2020.

More information and full eligibility requirements can be found at IowaBusinessRecovery.com.

Early Voting Extended for June Primary

Secretary of State Paul Pate has extended the absentee voting window from 29 to 40 days for the Primary Election that is scheduled to be held on June 2. The Secretary of State’s Office is encouraging Iowans to vote by mail beginning April 23. Iowans can already request absentee ballots.

To download your absentee ballot request form, visit the Iowa Secretary of State’s website.

Eviction and Foreclosure Protections

Through emergency orders, the Governor has temporarily suspended evictions for renters and foreclosures of residential, commercial, and agricultural real property. Individuals must continue to pay rent, mortgages, and leases, but they are protected from losing their homes while the proclamation is in place. For renters, a tenant who doesn’t pay rent is still subject to penalties listed in their lease agreements, and landlords can still add late charges and other financial penalties.

Lastly,

These are just a few of the issues that came across my desk this week.  Things seem to be changing almost hourly at times.  If you would like more detail on any of these issues or something else that you would like verification on don’t hesitate to contact me.  I will be monitoring my email daily, if you have any questions or concerns please email or call my cell phone.  My email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or call at 319-480-1997.

 

Capitol Update Week 10

Quote

COVID-19 Update

House and Senate Suspend Legislative Session

Out of an abundance of caution related to COVID-19, leadership in the Iowa House and Senate have made the decision to suspend the legislative session for a minimum of 30 days. The decision was made in consultation with the Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office following the announcement of “community spread” in Iowa. The Legislature is following recommendations from the Center for Disease Control related to mass gatherings to protect vulnerable populations.

This was a decision that was not made lightly but is in the best interest of the public, press, staff, and legislators.


Schools

Governor Reynolds has recommended that Iowa schools close for a minimum of four weeks to prevent further spread of COVID-19. In response, the Legislature has waived the requirement for schools to make up days through April 12. After that, the Legislature has provided the Governor with the ability to forgive school days statewide or on a district by district basis. This decision will provide Iowa school districts with the certainty that they need to make decisions locally and move ahead this school year.


Workers and Businesses

Governor Reynolds has also announced assistance for workers and businesses impacted by layoffs related to COVID-19. Iowans who have been laid off due to COVID-19 or have to stay home to self-isolate, care for family members or due to illness related to COVID-19, may eligible for unemployment benefits, provided they meet all other eligibility requirements, and work search requirements will be waived.

Taking Care of Yourself and Others

During this time, we must all do our part to prevent the spread of illnesses and protect our health care system from becoming overburdened.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus in the first place. This is especially important for people who are at a higher risk of getting very sick (older adults, people who have serious chronic medical conditions). If you are feeling ill, contact your primary care provider or your local county public health agency if you have any questions.

Prevention of COVID-19 is the same as that for other respiratory illness (like flu):
• Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper arm/elbow.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home if you’re sick.
• The CDC recommends wearing a facemask if you are sick or if you are caring for someone who is sick. Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.

Lastly

I will be monitoring my email daily, if you have any questions or concerns please email or call my cell phone. My email is lee.hein@legis.iowa.gov or call at 319-480-1997. Be safe.