DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds is taking her annual Condition of the State address from day time to supper time.
In a break with tradition, the Republican governor will address a joint convention of the 89th Iowa General Assembly at the Iowa Capitol beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, rather than the typical 10 a.m.
Iowa PBS will broadcast the speech live and other news and social media options are available to view it online.
Reynolds said that “because of the year we’ve been through,” she wants to speak with Iowans directly at an hour when more people are home and can watch.
The coronavirus pandemic that hit Iowa last March forced her to temporarily shut down schools, businesses and many normal functions to slow the viral spread. Then the Aug. 10 derecho hit, adding billions of dollars in losses.
“I wanted to take the opportunity to speak directly to Iowans and try to hit as many as I can,” the governor told reporters last week. “It’s an opportunity for me to talk about what we’ve been through, talk about how I think we will move through this and we will come out stronger and better than ever.
“Not to talk to just the Legislature, but to all Iowans about the year that we’ve been through,” she added. “I think to really to continue to provide hope about with the vaccine and where we’re at as a state and what I see moving forward.”
With Iowa’s coronavirus positive cases hovering around 300,000 and deaths topping 4,100, COVID-19 mitigation, vaccination and the pandemic response — along with focuses on education, economic recovery, safety, tax and budget issues and criminal justice reforms — are expected to factor heavily into Reynolds’ remarks to legislators, judicial and executive branch officials and Iowans.
Perhaps the most vivid reminder of how the pandemic affects and divides Iowans will be on display for the speech in the House chambers, where there likely will be a patchwork of spectators both unmasked and masked. House Democrats, citing “lax protocols and superspreader potential,” indicated that some of their members would be watching the governor’s address remotely instead of in person on the floor.
“It is not an organized boycott or protest of any kind,” said House Democrats’ spokesman Dean Fiihr in a memo to reporters.
On the Senate side, Democrats cited “weak protocols” in saying they had informed the governor’s office they expected to watch her speech, Wednesday’s Condition of the Judiciary address by Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen and Thursday’s Condition of the National Guard address by Iowa National Guard Adjutant Gen. Benjamin Corell remotely.
Against that backdrop, Reynolds is expected to sound themes of optimism, economic rebound and resiliency, telling reporters “we are so ready to turn the page on 2020.”
“In 10 months, Iowans went through a pandemic, civil unrest, a significant drought and a derecho. A word I think that we use a lot to describe Iowa and Iowans is resilient,” she said.
The governor said past budgeting decisions and the aid of federal stimulus money for government, businesses and individuals — with another $1.25 billion in federal CARES Act money on the way — enable the state to weather the pandemic and remain in a somewhat strong but cautious financial position with surplus funds heading into a new round of budgeting.
At the same time, she said the economic uncertainty brought on by the pandemic means she won’t be reintroducing her Invest in Iowa tax-swap proposal. But she will be pushing funding priorities that include a “sustainable” money source for adult and children’s mental health.
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Reynolds also is expected to address educational challenges that have arisen in managing the COVID-19 pandemic with a new emphasis on giving parents and students the option to receive 100 percent in-person instruction “safely and responsibly” in K-12 schools amid concerns that student achievement is dropping.
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