IOWA LEGISLATURE

Coronavirus, health care, education likely to top Iowa House Democrats' agenda

The House of Representatives chambers are seen at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyt
The House of Representatives chambers are seen at the Iowa Capitol in Des Moines on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019. (Andy Abeyta/The Gazette)

Bringing COVID-19 under control and keeping the focus on health care and public education will be priorities for Iowa House Democrats when they return to the Statehouse in January.

“We need to get on top of COVID-19 so it’s under control and people feel safe to return to work and return to their lives,” said House Minority Leader Todd Prichard. “We’re really not going to get back to normal until we’ve got COVID-19 under control.”

The state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic must be Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ top priority, Prichard, a Charles City lawyer, said Monday, a day the state reported 4,055 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the running total of Iowans who have tested positive to nearly 157,000 and the number of deaths to 1,846.

The state must reverse those numbers to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed “and so we can get small businesses back open and people feel comfortable going out and shopping and going out to eat or those types of things,” Prichard said.

Prichard plans to stay on as leader when a smaller Democratic minority meets virtually Saturday to elect leadership and make plans for the session that opens Jan. 11. Democrats now hold 47 of the 100 House seats, but saw that fall to 41 in the Nov. 3 election.

“I’m obviously disappointed in the result,” Prichard said. “We were optimistic with the candidates that we ran and the campaigns we were running ... (but) it just fell flat with the electorate.”

The simplest explanation, he added, was President Donald Trump “had an upward effect for Republicans on the ballot.”

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Despite the election results, Democrats “still represent a significant portion of the population and significant and important viewpoints of people throughout the state,” Prichard said. “Just because we had an election doesn’t mean problems went away.”

So Democrats will be looking for opportunities to work with the Republican majority, which on Monday re-elected House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford and House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl of Missouri Valley.

“Obviously, with the pandemic, our focus is going to be on making sure that Iowans have access to the health care they need,” Prichard said.

Access to education and job training so Iowans are able to make a living wage to support themselves and their families will continue to be a priority for House Democrats.

“So our priorities are still focused on improving the lives of people in the state,” he said.

Comments: (319) 398-8375; james.lynch@thegazette.com

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