Capitol Update

Return to Restarting the 2020 Legislative Session

On Wednesday, we returned to the Capitol to restart and work towards the end of this session.  It is a different environment here in Des Moines.  At the Capitol we have our temperatures taken when we enter the building.  Some wear face masks, there are others who have chosen face shields or both and some have chosen to wear nothing.  I have chosen to wear a mask that my mother made for me. Thanks Mom.

We have also limited who is allowed on the House floor to Representatives and necessary staff. The press and public continue to have access to the House chamber with reserved areas in the House galleries. Anyone who visits the Capitol should follow the relevant public health guidance including social distancing and practicing good hygiene.
 
Additionally, we have increased transparency measures so Iowans are able to follow our work in Des Moines. All committee meetings are being held in the House chamber so they can be livestreamed for the public. Subcommittee meetings are also being livestreamed as well as being held in one of our larger committee rooms so people can properly social distance.

A topic that we will have to address is the state budget. Over the last several years, we have made it a priority to craft responsible budgets that values the hard-working taxpayers of Iowa.
 
While revenue estimates were decreased last week, the budget remains in strong financial position compared to most other states. Before we suspended the session in March, this year’s budget had a large projected surplus and our reserve accounts were fully filled. Our commitment to responsible budgeting has put us in a position where we have the ability to react to unforeseen circumstances and invest in key priorities. Before adjourning for the year, we will once again pass a cautious and conservative budget plan for the upcoming fiscal year.

EMS

This week we amended SF 2283 that allows medical care ambulance services or non-transport services to provide EMS training if they have been approved by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The amendment makes it easier for counties to make emergency medical services (EMS) an essential service. This is a relevant issue because many of our rural communities are struggling to maintain an active EMS service.

Current law in chapter 422D only allows for a county to have EMS as an essential service after the county has a referendum to approve it. Then every 5 years there is another referendum to approve or disapprove of it as essential service.  This bill removes the every 5-year referendum.  The bill would allow the County Board to approve EMS as an essential service after a majority of the board votes to approve it twice.

On top of the electing the supervisors that will vote to make EMS an essential service, the voters will have the opportunity at the next General Election or regularly scheduled City Election following the adoption of the resolution by the County Board, the voters of the county shall be given the question to continue the Essential Service.

A local EMS system advisory council to assist in researching and assessing the service needs of the county and guiding implantation of services in that county. The EMS system advisory council shall annually assess and review the emergency medical services needs of the county and shall include the results of such review in an annual report filed with the board of supervisors, which shall be public available.

This bill also allows counties to enter into 28E (joint exercise of governmental powers) with other political subdivisions to work through intergovernmental agreements for EMS.

COVID-19 Liability Protections

Many businesses have expressed concern regarding reopening and the corresponding risk in today’s litigious society. COVID-19 presents unique and unprecedented challenges. Iowa businesses have reacted and complied with proclamations and guidelines. Business and market conditions resulted in some businesses operating, others partially operating, many temporally closing, or a combination of the above. Everyone is facing concerns regarding the corresponding COVID-19 liability risks.

We have worked with Iowa businesses, healthcare providers, and others on a solution. The focus has been on three main areas:

  1. Civil liability for businesses, schools, churches and others
  2. Civil liability for front-line health care workers
  3. Product liability protection

So, who and what would be covered under this legislation? It limits the liability of businesses, schools, churches and other legal entities such as county fairs or festivals.   It includes a safe harbor for compliance with regulations, executive orders, or public health guidance. For example: a restaurant following guidance by limiting capacity and spacing tables, cannot be sued by a customer claiming to have gotten the coronavirus at the restaurant.

It would limit the liability of health care providers.  The bill provides protections for health care workers who responded to the COVID-19 pandemic to keep our friends, families, and communities safe and healthy.

Lastly it limits the liability on products produced and used in response to COVID-19. An example would be, if a distillery modified their process to make hand sanitizer instead of alcohol, and later someone had an allergic reaction to the sanitizer, the distillery could not be sued. Again, if they intentionally used water instead of alcohol to make the sanitizer, they would have no liability protection.

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.

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