From a concerned member of the Iowa legislature’s staff. -promoted by Laura Belin
To Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley and Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver:
On November 16, Governor Kim Reynolds signed a new public health disaster emergency proclamation that recognizes the increasing severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in our state. In it, the governor ordered that all “social, community, business, or leisure gatherings or events of more than 15 people” be prohibited in all indoor locations, barring some exceptions.
At peak operation, the Iowa House can have well over 250 people in one large, poorly ventilated room. In similar circumstances, the Iowa Senate can see numbers around 150. The jobs of these people–representatives, senators, clerks, and caucus staff–are vital to the function of the General Assembly, but their sheer quantity and the fact that many commute from all corners of the state creates an incredible risk of infection for all of us. I am concerned for my coworkers, young and old; those with pre-existing conditions and those without them.
Speaker Grassley, yesterday we learned that your grandfather, Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley, tested positive for the coronavirus. I hope and pray that he recovers with haste and your family never has to go endure the pain and grief that millions around the world are going through. His illness, however, shines a light on how vulnerable many of our older legislators and staff are to infection. I love them all dearly and hope you both will act in a way that is informed, compassionate, and will serve to protect our legislators, employees, their families, and all Iowans.
I believe the best way to achieve this is for the Iowa House and Senate to operate as remotely as possible. I have full faith that our leaders on both sides of the aisle can make this happen in accordance with open meetings law and that doing so would help reduce the immense anxiety held by our public employees and their families.
I greatly appreciate your consideration.
An anonymous legislative staff member
Editor’s note from Laura Belin: Bleeding Heartland allows guest authors to publish anonymously, as long as writers don’t use handles as sock puppets or to conceal conflicts of interest, such as promoting a candidate without disclosing paid employment on behalf of that campaign.
Top image: Photo of state capitol building by Joseph Sohm, available via Shutterstock.