ABI Public Policy: A Look Back, a Look Forward

July 9, 2020 | All in the family JD Davis, Vice President, Public Policy, ABI, jddavis@iowaabi.org

In a normal year, the Iowa Legislature concludes in April, and ABI conducts regional meetings to deliver the policy results to members in May. Then the cycle of public policy development starts over in August with committee meetings to develop ABI’s public policy agenda for 2021.

In a great understatement, 2020 has not been a normal year. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Legislature suspended activity in March until June. During that time, legislators and ABI public policy staff helped their constituents and their members navigate the federal and state government responses to the virus.

ABI members rapidly brought two public policy issues forward that would have a critical impact on how the Iowa economy would rebound as the virus abated and government restrictions were eased.

Unprecedented levels of unemployment had the potential to hit Iowa employers with large increases in unemployment taxes in calendar 2021. Dampening rehiring at just the wrong moment would have created a barrier to economic growth.

As unemployment figures for Iowa were disclosed on a weekly basis, ABI staff was in constant contact with members of Gov. Reynolds’ administration. The governor sought and received clarification of guidance from the federal government on how special funds received by the state to offset the costs of COVID-19 could be allocated. Key was an allowance that those funds could be deposited in Iowa’s unemployment trust fund to reduce the need for increases in unemployment taxes. Thank you to Gov. Reynolds for all your hard work.

A second impediment to growth was concern about an explosion of lawsuits as parties tried to use the court system to set the blame for the spread of COVID-19. By definition, a community-spread pandemic defies such determinations. The Iowa Legislature responded with SF2338, which provides employers with limited liability if they are in substantial compliance with governmental guidelines for confronting the virus.

Together, these two policies will position Iowa to emerge from the pandemic more swiftly and more strongly.

So now where are we? While understanding we must continually monitor the effects of COVID-19 and be prepared with additional policy responses, the ABI public policy team and the member-driven public policy committees will convene in August to plot a course forward for the 2021 legislative session.

The committee meetings will be held virtually by Zoom. Each year, more than 100 different companies participate in the committee meetings, and more than 300 members participate in the policy development process. To learn more about the committees open to all ABI members and to register, visit www.iowaabi.org/events.