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Democrats seek virtual option for House committee votes

DES MOINES — Seven Democrats in the Iowa House are not going to the state Capitol, for Covid-related reasons, and House Democratic Leader Todd Prichard of Charles City is again asking Republicans who control House rules to let legislators go online to participate in committee work.

“There are some simple things that the speakers office could adopt in terms of going virtually with committees and allow voting and things like that,” Prichard said, “that allow members of the public participate in the process and be heard at the committee and as well as keep people safe.”

House Speaker Pat Grassley, a Republican from New Hartford, said “proper precautions” are being taken inside the Capitol and staying away from the building is “a personal choice.”

“Iowans all across the state are still getting up, going to their jobs and doing it in as safe and responsible manner as possible,” Grassley said. “I think if we’re going to be expecting our teachers to be doing that…our factory workers and our grocery store workers, I think they would have an expectation of the legislature to be doing the same thing.”

Representative Amy Nielsen, a Democrat from North Liberty, announced on Saturday she had tested positive for Covid. Six other House Democrats are either in quarantine because of a potential exposure to someone with Covid or because they are at high-risk of serious illness if they contract the virus.

Prichard said besides internal House operations, Republicans are ignoring the pandemic from a policy perspective, too, and should be doing things like coming up with a plan to better deploy Covid vaccines.

“I’m hearing from people who are truly suffering with rent and just their daily lives, their jobs and just supporting their family and this is infuriating, the lack of response,” Prichard said, “and so it’s time to get serious.”

Grassley said a series of bills designed to improve access to child care are on the House GOP’s agenda for next week, along with a discussion of how much more state support to send Iowa’s public schools.

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