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Iowa Legislative Session Suspended At Least 30 Days To Prevent Spread Of COVID-19

iowa capitol
John Pemble / IPR file
The decision to suspend the session follows Gov. Kim Reynolds' announcement Saturday confirming community spread of COVID-19.

Iowa’s legislative session will be suspended for at least 30 days after state officials confirmed community spread of COVID-19 in Iowa, leaders announced Sunday afternoon.

The House of Representatives and the Senate will gavel in at 1:00 p.m. Monday to work on a resolution that would allow state government agencies to keep operating if the suspension lasts into the new fiscal year that starts July 1. The legislature has to pass a state budget each year, but the session will be suspended before lawmakers have a chance to do that.

All committee and subcommittee meetings scheduled for this week have been canceled, including a House Government Oversight Committee meeting about allegations of inadequate care and human experimentation at the Glenwood Resource Center.

Hundreds of people from all over the state typically move through the Iowa Capitol each day during the session.

On Thursday, Republican legislative leaders said the session would continue.

But Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Saturday night that community spread of the disease caused by the new coronavirus is in Iowa. According to public health officials, community spread is determined when they cannot identify where a person got the disease.

A Dallas County resident was the 18th Iowan to test positive for the disease, and the case was not linked to a known risk factor like travel to an affected area, according to state officials.

The session started January 13 and was scheduled to end April 21, but legislative sessions can go longer or shorter than their scheduled length. The suspension will not mean that the session is officially adjourned, so lawmakers can potentially resume their work at a later date.

The Iowa Capitol will not be closed to the public. Members of the public and staffers will have to fill out a health questionnaire and get a temperature reading before entering the building. It opens Monday at 11:00 a.m.

Events, tours and receptions are canceled. Capitol leaders are encouraging people over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions to avoid the building.

Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.