Alive or dead? Here’s a status report on legislative issues

By: - March 5, 2021 4:05 pm
he State Capital of Iowa is reflected by the Henry A Wallace Building

The State Capitol of Iowa is reflected by the Henry A Wallace Building on Nov, 6, 2018 in Des Moines. (Photo by David Greedy/Getty Images)

More than 375 bills ranging from allowing home delivery of alcohol to keeping Iowa on daylight savings time year-around have cleared the Iowa Legislature’s first major hurdle.

Many others have failed to advance past the so-called “funnel.” The Legislature’s self-imposed deadline required many bills to clear at least one committee by the end of this week to remain eligible for debate. Bills dealing with school bathroom use by transgender students, cities’ regulation of certain dog breeds, and reinstatement of the death penalty were among those falling by the wayside.

Bills that survived this round now have to make it through one full chamber and be eligible for debate by the opposite chamber by April 2.

Here’s a sampling of the bills consider “alive” and “dead” after the funnel.

Alive after first funnel

Abortion:

  • A proposed constitutional amendment in Senate Joint Resolution 2 declaring there is no right to abortion in the Iowa Constitution.
  • House File 383 would require “informed consent” be given in advance of prescription of medication intended to end a pregnancy, including disputed information that “it may be possible” to reverse a medication abortion.

Alcohol delivery: Retailers would be allowed to deliver alcohol through third-party vendors under Senate File 408.

Biofuels: Gov. Kim Reynolds has proposed a state biofuels standard and a change in tax credits meant to require retailers to sell higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel. Retailers and trucking organizations are opposing Senate File 481, while farm groups support the move. 

Birth control:  Over-the-counter delivery of certain birth control medication would be allowed under House File 434.

Bottle bill: At least three bills are still alive. 

  • Senate File 470, would allow retailers to opt out of taking containers if there is a redemption center within 20 miles. It also would raise payments to redemption centers.
  • Senate File 565 would require an accounting of unredeemed container deposits. 
  • Study Bill 252 would allow retailers to decline to take bottles and can returns if there is a redemption center in the area. 

Broadband: The governor’s proposal in Senate File 390 and House Study Bill 133 would spend $450 million a year over three years on Empower Iowa grants for projects that provide service at a minimum of 100 megabits per second for both downloads and uploads in areas with no service or lower-speed service. 

Censorship: 

  • Senate File 402 would ban the state and local governments from having contracts with or offering aid to “certain companies that censor online content.” 
  • House File 633 would fine social-media companies that “censor” constitutionally protected speech.

Child care: The Iowa House passed six bills last month dealing with child care, which has been a priority of business groups that see the lack of affordable child care as a barrier to attracting workers.

  • House File 230: Increases the net income threshold to claim the early childhood tax credit from $45,000 to $90,000. The bill passed 90-1.
  • House File 370: Creates a tax credit of up to $150,000 to encourage employers to provide child care to their employees. The bill passed 88-6. 
  • House File 260: Allows unregulated home child care providers to care for up to six children, as long as one of them is school aged. The bill passed 70-24.
  • House File 292: Increases the reimbursement rate for the state child care assistance program. All child care providers would be brought up to the 50th percentile of the market rate. The bill passed 90-4. A similar bill passed the House in 2020.
  • House File 302: Creates a gradual phase-out program for families whose income rises while using state child care assistance. The legislation is intended to avoid a sudden drop in assistance if a parent receives a salary increase, known as the “cliff effect.” A similar bill passed the House in 2020. The bill passed again, 94-0.
  • House File 301: Creates a state matching grant program to communities that fund the child care WAGE$ Iowa program that supplements educator salaries, or other programs to support and retain teachers. 

Daylight saving time: Iowa would remain on daylight saving time year-around under Senate File 335.

Direct care workforce: House File 692 would expand the state’s registry of direct-care workers to include not only the certified nurse assistants who work in nursing homes and care facilities, but all types of direct-care workers.

Divisive concepts: Iowa’s schools would not be able to include “divisive concepts” in staff trainings under House Study Bill 258, which passed in the House Judiciary Committee. The Senate Education committee moved a similar bill, Senate File 478.

Driving:

Elections: 

  • Both the House and Senate have approved Senate File 413, a sweeping election bill which shortens absentee voting periods, enacts earlier poll-closing times and imposes felony penalties for violations of election laws by public officials, among other provisions.  Gov. Kim Reynolds had not yet signed the bill as of March 5.
  • Voting rights would be restored for felons who have discharged their sentences under House Study Bill 231.

Executive orders: House File 481 would prohibit state and local governments, and any entity that gets money from them, from complying with a presidential order that “restricts a person’s rights or which the attorney general has determined to be unconstitutional.”

Freedom of speech: Senate File 478 would require First Amendment training for faculty, staff and students of public universities.

Gambling:  Betting on electronic sporting or “e-sports” events would be allowed under House File 439.

Guns: 

Housing:  

  • Cities would be prohibited under House File 720 from enforcing ordinances banning discrimination by landlords against tenants using federal housing assistance.
  • The governor’s affordable housing proposal in House File 582 would offer housing assistance, housing tax credits, added workforce housing incentives, loan guarantees for downtown revitalization projects, eviction prevention assistance and disaster housing recovery assistance.

Hunting/fishing: Senate Joint Resolution 16 proposes a constitutional amendment providing that hunting, fishing and trapping are “a valuable part of our heritage” that should be preserved.

Immigration: Employers could face loss of business licenses for knowingly employing undocumented workers under Senate File 339.

Insulin:  

  • The monthly out-of-pocket cost for insulin would be capped at $100 under House File 263.
  • House File 262 would allow pharmacists to refill up to a month’s worth of a prescription without a doctor’s sign-off in emergency situations.

Laser assault: Pointing a laser to temporarily blind another person would be a crime under House File 198. The bill exempts games like laser tag.

Littering:  New penalties for littering could include the loss of hunting and fishing licenses and state park camping privileges under Senate File 465.

Marijuana: Possession of 5 grams or less of marijuana would be downgraded to a simple misdemeanor under Senate File 533.

Mobile home parks: House File 442 would regulate various aspects of the relationship between a mobile home or manufactured home owner and the owner of the mobile home park or property where the dwelling is located.

Parental rights: House File 714 would state that parents have a fundamental right to “direct the upbringing, rearing, associations, care, education, custody, and control” of their children. 

Parks improvements: House File 749 would provide $3 million annually for three years for park repairs and improvements.

Pet shops: Cities could not restrict certain operations of pet shops or zoos under Senate File 483.

Police:

  • Senate File 479 would cut off state aid for cities that “defund” or cut police budgets.
  • House Study Bill 266 would allow a police officer to file a civil claim against individuals who file a false report against them. It would also include officers, judges and prosecutors in address confidentiality programs.

Pregnancy:   

Sexual abuse/assault:  

  • Senate Study Bill 1017 would eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse in the first, second or third degree, kidnapping or human trafficking involving a minor. 
  • House File 603 would create a forensic examiner program for training, certifying and providing technical assistance to sexual assault forensic examiners and nurse examiners.

 Schools:

  • Both chambers approved and the governor signed Senate File 160, which  required  K-12 schools to offer 100% in-person instruction by Feb. 15.
  • Both chambers approved and the governor signed Senate File 269, which increases supplemental state aid for schools by 2.4% or about $36.5 million for the next school year.
  • The Senate advanced an education bill proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. Senate File 159 would create new avenues for charter schools to form in Iowa and would fund scholarship programs for some students to attend private schools.
  • The House split the bill into several parts. The House Education Committee did not consider the bill on private school vouchers, but they did approve House Study Bill 242, which would allow charter schools to operate independently of public school districts.
  • Parents could request that their child repeat a grade due to COVID-19 disruptions at schools under Senate File 90.
  • House File 415 would require public and certain nonaccredited private schools to display the American flag in classrooms and start each day with recitation of the pledge of allegiance. 

Taxes on COVID-19 aid: The House and Senate have passed different versions of Senate File 364, which would allow businesses to exclude any Paycheck Protection Program loans from their net income. The House version also includes federal pandemic unemployment assistance and state COVID-19 grants from the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Finance Authority or the Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. 

Traffic cameras:  Traffic cameras would be prohibited except for a section of Interstate 380 through Cedar Rapids under Senate File 516.

Trucking company liability: Trucking industry employers would be shielded from liability under House File 772 for deaths, injuries or other damages caused by their employees. Noneconomic damages from motor vehicle accidents involving a commercial driver would be capped at $1 million per plaintiff.

 Unemployment benefits: Senate File 492 would impose a one-week waiting period before the start of unemployment benefits, reduce benefits for families with more than two dependents and eliminate expanded plant-closing benefit periods.

Universities: House File 496 would ban tenure for faculty at state universities. 

Vaccines: 

Workplace:

  • Senate File 496 bars employers from entering into  noncompete agreements with “low-wage” workers who make $14.50 an hour or less.
  • Using “synthetic urine” to defraud a workplace drug or alcohol test would be a crime under House File 285, which has passed both the House and Senate.

(Note: Some bill numbers may have changed from previous coverage and many bills listed here have companion legislation in the opposite chamber.  For complete lists of bills currently eligible for debate, see the House calendar and Senate calendar. Bills passed by both the House and Senate so far this year are listed here.)

Dead after first funnel

(Note: There are numerous ways for lawmakers to resurrect “dead” bills, including amending language to other bills. Bills exempt from the funnel deadlines include those dealing with appropriations, taxes and fees, government oversight and those sponsored by legislative leaders.)

Bully Breed Ban: Senate File 143 would prohibit counties and cities from having bans on certain dog breeds

Campus mask policies: Colleges would have faced state penalties if they required the use of masks off campus under House Study Bill 162

Congressional perks: House Joint Resolution 3, proposed a constitutional amendment would prevent Congress from exempting itself from federal laws, remove benefits members receive after leaving office, limit pay raises, eliminate a congressional health care system and require members to participate in Social Security and to purchase retirement plans.

Cursive instruction: Schools would have to teach students how to write in cursive under Senate File 89.

Death penalty: Senate File 82 would make the death penalty available for first-degree murder that also involves the kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor. 

Fireworks: Cities or counties would be able to regulate sales or ban fireworks under Senate File 99 if there is a threat to public safety.

Flex fuel vehicles: House File 73 would have required a certain percentage of vehicles sold at retail outlets in Iowa to be flex fuel models.

Homemade food: Homemade food could be sold without state regulation under House File 319.

LGBTQ rights:  

Livestock confinements: Senate File 282 would ban construction of new livestock confinement operations in Iowa.

Medical cannabis: Senate Study Bill 1177 would slash fees paid by the manufacturers of medical cannabis and create an income tax deduction for business expenses associated with manufacturing or dispensing medical cannabis. Sales taxes from medical cannabis would be diverted to pay for state administration and testing.

Minimum wage increase:  House File 122 would gradually raise the state minimum wage from the current $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.

Misconduct by school officials:  Senate Study Bill 1213 would create new penalties for school officials who “knowingly and intentionally” violate state law.   

Political ideology: House Study Bill 67 would define political ideology as a protected class under the Iowa Civil Rights Act. 

Racial profiling: Both the House and the Senate considered Reynolds’ “Back the Blue” legislation in several parts. Neither chamber took up the racial profiling ban within the proposal.

Teaching about slavery: Under House File 222, K-12 schools and colleges would lose some state funding if teachers used “1619 Project” materials dealing with slavery.

University politics: Senate File 292 would require the Iowa Board of Regents to survey employees of state universities about their political affiliation.

Vaccines:  House File 247 would prohibit schools and child care centers from requiring vaccinations.

Katie Akin, Perry Beeman and Clark Kauffman contributed to this report.

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