The Iowa Legislature convened today to begin the 2021 legislative session, with lawmakers hoping to make the assembly as normal as possible following a 2020 session that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

That session was suspended on March 16 and lawmakers didn’t reconvene until June 3, forcing them to rush to approve a state budget before the fiscal year ended June 30, leaving many issues that had gained traction before the interruption unfinished.

This year the Business Record plans to expand its coverage of the Legislature as we strive to better keep you informed of the issues that may affect you the most.

From tax reform to child care, expanding the state’s broadband system, justice reform and mental health funding, our plan is to provide you more coverage in 2021 to help you make decisions that are important to your business. We’ll be watching potential bills to decriminalize marijuana, measures that could affect parental choice when it comes to education and what happens with the state’s bottle bill.

One thing is clear, much of what will be debated this year will happen through a lens of recovery as the state continues to pull itself out of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

Our plan is fairly simple. We hope to provide coverage that looks ahead to the upcoming week, provide end-of-week reviews so you know what has happened, and provide occasional daily coverage as warranted. 

Our coverage will officially kick off tomorrow with a legislative forecast panel where we will sit down with folks from local business and nonprofit groups to see what their priorities are for the 2021 session and what issues they will be closely watching.

Those panelists are:

  • Joe Murphy, executive director, Iowa Business Council.
  • J.D. Davis, vice president for public policy, Iowa Association of Business and Industry.
  • Dustin Miller, executive director, Iowa Chamber Alliance.
  • Dave Stone, advocacy officer, United Way of Central Iowa.
  • Andrea Woodard, senior vice president for government relations and public policy, Greater Des Moines Partnership.

To register for the legislative forecast panel discussion, scheduled from 11:30 am. to 1 p.m., click here.

We will still rely from time to time on aggregated content from other sources, particularly those who are members of the Iowa Capitol Press Association (of which we are a member) to round out our coverage, but our goal in 2021 is to provide an expanded and enhanced level of coverage on legislative issues that affect the state’s business community.

We also have sat down with legislative leaders and local lawmakers ahead of the 2021 session to see what their expectations and priorities are, and what issues they will be closely watching.

Look for that coverage along with a story from tomorrow’s panel discussion in the Jan. 22 Business Record and at businessrecord.com

Although lawmakers are hoping to resume business as close to normal as possible, there are restrictions and protocols that were outlined in a Jan. 6 memo to lawmakers, legislative staff and the public. Democrats say those measures being taken in the Republican-controlled House and Senate are not enough and have announced stricter measures they will be taking, including requiring masks in all Democratic offices, required daily health screenings and social distancing.

If you have story ideas about issues going on at the Statehouse, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at michaelcrumb@bpcdm.com