Governor’s agenda skates past first legislative ‘funnel’ deadline
Plus: What bills didn’t make the cut
Gov. Kim Reynolds is escorted into the Iowa House of Representatives, on Tuesday evening, Jan. 10, 2023, to give the annual Condition of the State address, at the Iowa State Capitol, in Des Moines. (Pool photo by Kelsey Kremer)
A majority of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ remaining goals laid out in her Condition of the State address in January survived the “funnel” deadline Friday, with several measures she called for already signed into law.
The governor signed her private school scholarship program into law in January, and signed medical malpractice liability limits into law in February. The measures were two of Reynolds’ largest goals for the 2023 legislative session.
Other aims, like restructuring Iowa’s system of state agencies and health care proposals to provide more funding for pregnancy centers, have already met the deadline requirements to stay eligible for debate. Most policy bills needed committee approval by Friday to remain eligible for debate, with multiple exceptions.
Most priority bills from the legislative Republican leaders also survived the deadline. GOP leaders named changes to Iowa’s property tax system as a top goal for the session, and a Senate property tax proposal was exempt from the committee deadline and has already gained approval from the Ways and Means Committee. Other education bills, like Reynolds’ proposal and measures aimed at restricting LGBTQ+ material in Iowa public schools, cleared the committee approval requirement.
Democrats criticized Republicans’ focus on bills limiting medical care and school accommodations for transgender youth during “funnel” week, saying these measures make Iowa a less welcoming state as it deals with a worker shortage. House Speaker Pat Grassley said other policy priorities,, like property tax cuts and employment law changes, address workforce concerns.
Grassley said these bills are issues voters expressed concern about, and that Republican lawmakers have already delivered on those campaign promises like private school scholarships and liability limits.
“I think that we have a strong track record of making sure that we follow through with the things we commit to the voters on,” he said. “I think that’s what our number one priority is, is we need to campaign on a set of policies and whatever those are, if Iowans reward us with majorities, I think we want to follow through with that.”
Not all bills that failed to meet the Friday deadline are permanently out of the running for consideration this session. Bills with a spending, tax or government oversight component are exempt from the deadline. Additionally, bill language can be added as amendments to other bills, or brought forward as leadership-sponsored legislation.
Here are some the higher-profile bills that survived the deadline, and some that have not yet received committee approval:
Abortion alternatives: The governor’s health care omnibus bill, House File 427, proposed increased funding for crisis pregnancy centers, which provide prenatal and parental services while encouraging alternatives to abortion. Opponents say pregnancy centers falsely advertise themselves as legitimate medical providers and give women false information about abortions.
Health care shortages: Reynolds’ bill would also create two regional Centers of Excellence, health care centers in rural areas providing specialized care to underserved communities. The bill also fund OB-GYN training fellowships to address maternal health care shortages, especially in rural communities.
Birth control: The governor’s proposal originally included a provision expanding over-the-counter hormonal birth control access. House File 427 passed through committee last month. The Senate version, Senate Study Bill 1139, removes the contraceptive measure.
Parental rights: Senate Study Bill 1145 is Reynolds’ education proposal to expand “parental rights” in Iowa. The bill includes measures putting books that are successfully challenged in any school district on a statewide removal list. It also would require schools to inform parents if staff believes a child is transgender, unless there is concern for abuse, and it requires school districts to share course materials and curriculum online.
Book restrictions: The House Education Committee also approved House Study Bill 219, which would ban books from K-12 school libraries and classrooms that contain “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act.” The bill contains specific exemptions for “age appropriate” materials for human growth and development instruction. The discussions on age-appropriate materials available in school libraries and in curriculums comes after House Oversight Committee meetings with parents who challenged books in their local school districts and with school staff.
Transgender student accommodations: House File 9, which passed through the House Education Committee, would prohibit schools from using a student’s preferred name and pronouns, if they are different from those assigned at birth, without getting permission from the child’s parents or guardians. The governor’s education bill would also require written parental consent for schools to address students using “a nickname or a pronoun that does not correspond to the biological sex that is listed on the minor child’s official birth certificate.”
House File 367, approved in committee, would prevent schools from taking any disciplinary action against students or staff who do not use a transgender student’s preferred name and pronouns, even if a parent has given consent for their child to socially transition at school.
Teaching terms: House File 7 would require Iowa’s public universities to submit a report to the Legislature defining terms like “compulsory heterosexuality,” “equitable teaching practices” and “peacebuilding,” and establish an interim study committee on how Iowa’s teaching programs operate.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Iowa’s public higher education institutions would not be allowed to spend money on diversity, equity and inclusion offices or administrators under House File 218, which the House Education Committee approved Wednesday. The bill would not prohibit diversity-related programs, but would prohibit spending on staff to administer these services. Iowa Board of Regents staff expressed concerns that this prohibition would put Iowa universities in conflict with federal law and potentially mean the loss of federal contracts.
Political ideologies: Iowa students would be required to take a social studies class that includes a “comparative discussion on political ideologies which include communism and totalitarianism” under House File 12, which the bill says are ideologies in conflict with the “founding principles of the United States.”
Bathrooms: House and Senate committees also approved their versions of legislation banning people from using school bathrooms and locker rooms that do not align with their assigned gender at birth. Both bills, House File 208 and Senate File 482, would allow schools to provide alternative accommodations upon request, such as single-occupancy bathrooms.
Gender-affirming medical care for minors: Committees in both chambers advanced Senate Study Bill 1197 and House Study Bill 214, measures prohibiting health care professionals from performing any gender-affirming surgeries, procedures or treatments on a minor patient, or from referring the patient to another professional to seek these medical treatments. The bill would ban hormone replacement therapy, genital and chest surgeries, as well as puberty blockers. The House Government Oversight Committee heard from Iowa doctors providing gender-affirming care to patients under age 18 earlier in February.
Gender identity and sexual orientation materials: Multiple bills, including the governor’s education bill, would ban materials and curriculum dealing with “gender identity” and “sexual orientation” for students below a certain age. Reynolds’ proposal and House File 8, both of which passed in committee, would prohibit instruction involving these terms for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade.
Agency reorganization: Lawmakers in House and Senate subcommittees met for multiple hours-long meetings to discuss the governor’s 1,500-page agency reorganization bill in February, which would reduce Iowa’s state government system from 37 cabinet-level agencies to 16.
House Study Bill 126 and Senate Study Bill 1123, the chambers’ respective versions of the bill, would also lower the threshold for Senate approval for an appointee to a three-fifths majority (30 votes); give the Iowa attorney general the power to prosecute election-related crimes, and change some positions to serve at the pleasure of the governor instead of for a four-year term. Reynolds said the bill will save Iowa $215 million over the course of four years, and not eliminate any currently-filled positions.
Investment of public funds: Senate Study Bill 1094 would ban the use of social strategies, such as boycotting fossil fuels or firearms, for investment firms that manage state funds. The bill passed the Senate State Government Committee Wednesday.
Property tax cuts: The governor has already signed into law Senate File 181, a law fixing an error in a 2021 property tax law, which local governments said reduced their expected revenues by $133 million. But legislators are looking at bigger changes to Iowa’s property tax system.
Senate Study Bill 1124, which was approved in committee, would also limit levy rates and assessment valuations, though it takes an approach local government officials said would not cause structural issues for Iowa’s property tax system that the House proposal would. In a measure to help local governments depend less on property taxes for revenue, Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, introduced Senate Study Bill 1125 to change Iowa local option taxes to a statewide tax.
Pipelines: Carbon dioxide pipeline companies would be required to get voluntary easements for 90% of their routes to be eligible for eminent domain, under House File 368, which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Nuisance animals: House and Senate natural resources committees approved bills – now known as House File 317 and Senate File 358 – in February to allow farmers to kill certain animals they deem a nuisance to their crops and livestock.
Drones: Bills that would restrict how close drones can fly to homes and livestock facilities – House File 388 and Senate File 369 – were approved by House and Senate committees in the past week.
Dog “breed bans”: Senate File 476, which prohibits cities or counties from enacting “breed bans” to restrict dog ownership based on the animal’s perceived breed passed the Senate State Government Committee unanimously.
Child labor: Committees in both chambers passed child labor law changes through committee. House Study Bill 134 and Senate File 167 would allow exemptions to Iowa’s current child labor laws for minors ages 14 to 17 in workplaces currently restricted for minors, such as factories. The teens would have to be part of a training program through their school or employer. The bill also expands work hours for teens, with workers under 16 allowed to work until 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., and until 11 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day. The bill would also allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol.
Unemployment: Iowans receiving unemployment benefits would be required to conduct more job searches and applications to qualify under Senate Study Bill 1159, which was approved by the Senate Workforce Committee Monday. The bill also proposes lower maximum weekly benefits for unemployed Iowans with three or more dependents.
Asset tests: Lawmakers said in a subcommittee meeting they would amend House File 613 to remove some controversial restrictions on using SNAP benefits to buy food like fresh meat, butter and bagged salads. But other proposals in the bill advanced dealing with asset limits and new work requirements for Medicaid participants.
A Senate committee also approved a measure imposing asset tests for public assistance programs. Senate File 494 and the House bill were both amended to limit families receiving public assistance to a maximum of $15,000 in assets – excluding the person’s home, one car and the market value above $10,000 for an additional vehicle – in order to remain eligible for the program.
Death penalty: The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate File 14, a bill reinstating the death penalty, earlier in February. The legislation would reinstate capital punishment in cases where a minor is kidnapped, raped and murdered.
Liability limits: The governor has already signed medical malpractice liability limits into law, and similar limits on cases involving commercial motor vehicles passed the Senate, making it safe during the funnel season. Senate File 228 would put a $2 million cap on noneconomic damages in lawsuits against trucking companies whose employees caused injuries or deaths while on the job.
Fentanyl: People who traffic fentanyl would face significant penalties – especially if their drugs result in someone’s death – under House Study Bill 104, which was approved by the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Judicial nominating: The governor would have a larger say in district judge nominations under Senate File 171, a bill the Senate Judiciary Committee approved in February. The proposal would remove the most senior judge in a judicial district from serving as the chair for district judicial nominating commissions, and have members select who will serve as chair among themselves. The measure reflects changes made to the statewide judicial nominating commission in 2019.
Elections: The House State Government Committee passed House File 356. The bill proposes adding voter ID requirements to absentee ballots, as well as requiring challengers to post a bond for the cost of verifying a voter’s registration.
Victim restitution: There are two bills that would curtail restitution requirements for people who kill their abusers. House File 125 and Senate Study Bill 1069 were approved by committees in their respective chambers.
Cellphones in vehicles: Drivers would be required to use cellphones in voice-activated or hands-free mode while they are on traveled portions of roadways under Senate File 207, which was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee early this month.
Subpoena limits: Criminal defendants would have a diminished ability to subpoena evidence under Senate File 204, which the Senate Judiciary Committee passed Tuesday. Proponents of the bill say it would limit “fishing expeditions” that can hamper witness cooperation.
To-go alcohol: Drivers might be required to stow to-go alcohol containers from restaurants and bars in their trunks, under House File 433 and Senate File 401, both of which got committee approval last week.
Firearms in vehicles: Gun owners would be able to leave loaded weapons in parked cars at businesses, prisons, schools and colleges, and other locations under House Study Bill 173. The bill has received committee approval.
Window tint: Drivers would be able to affix darker tint to their front windows under Senate File 350, which was approved Wednesday by the Transportation Committee.
What didn’t make the cut?
Curriculum transparency: While other measures like the governor’s education bill advanced, House File 5, approved by a subcommittee, did not. Both bills would require schools to publish material and curriculum and establish a process for parents and guardians to withhold materials from their children, while the House bill would also have school districts provide a form for parents to request a book’s removal from schools in addition to access to an electronic catalog of books in district libraries.
Gender and sexuality materials: While other legislation has advanced limit curriculum and materials on “gender identity” and any sexual act for students in kindergarten through 3rd grade, Senate File 159 proposed prohibiting these materials for K-8 students. The bill, which was not brought up for committee discussion, would put schools in violation subject to up to $50,000 in civil penalties.
Banning margarine: Margarine and hydrogenated vegetable oil would be banned from school lunches under House File 341.
Banning meat substitutes: House File 377 would prohibit schools from serving meat and egg substitutes, including insect proteins and lab-grown proteins. It died in a House subcommittee.
Social-emotional learning: Iowa Department of Education could not disseminate materials on “social and emotional learning,” or SEL, under Senate File 85. Republican legislators said those educational practices are at odds with some Iowa families’ values. The bill would also prohibit schools from having students participate in surveys without obtaining their parents’ permission.
Abortion: Reynolds and Republicans have said they do not plan to move forward with further restrictions on abortions after the U.S. and Iowa Supreme Court rulings that abortion is not a constitutional right, instead calling for enforcement of current laws like the “fetal heartbeat” law. A bill banning abortion medication, House File 146, was introduced but has not yet been heard by a subcommittee.
HPV vaccines: Schools would no longer be required to inform students of the availability of the human papillomavirus vaccine in health or human growth and development classes under House File 187. Other education bills have advanced which also include striking the language requiring information is provided about the vaccine, which medical professionals say prevent up to 90% of the cancers caused by HPV.
“Right to try” expansion: House File 225 would allow patients with a “debilitating” illness to use “off-label” drugs, or those not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treatment of their prescribed illness. Current law, approved last year, requires patients to have a “life-threatening” illness or be on a ventilator to qualify.
Elections: Three subcommittees met Feb. 23 to discuss bills aimed at preventing election fraud and changing Iowa’s recount system. Senate File 351 and Senate File 341 are aimed at making Iowa’s voter registration records more accessible and easier to challenge, while Senate File 342 makes ballots cast by voters registering on Election Day provisional.
Public information requests: Those who want to sue government entities over public records requests would be required to first take the matter up with the Iowa Public Information Board under Senate File 370, which was advanced by a Senate subcommittee but did not get full committee approval.
Gay marriage: House Republicans introduced two measures banning gay marriage in the final days before the “funnel” deadline. House Joint Resolution 8 would amend the Iowa constitution to define marriage as between “one human biological male and one human biological female.” House File 508 would require no Iowan be compelled to recognize a same-sex marriage as valid, in opposition to the Respect for Marriage Act signed into law in 2022. Neither bill was given a subcommittee hearing.
Marijuana legalization: A bill sponsored by Iowa House Democrats to legalize marijuana, House File 442, has not received a subcommittee hearing.
‘Gay panic’ defense: Defendants accused of violent crimes would not be allowed to use a “temporary insanity” defense to lessen charges in cases where the victim was gay or transgender under House File 159. The House passed the measure again for the third time, after the measure failed to advance in the Senate during previous legislative sessions.
— Jared Strong and Kathie Obradovich contributed to this report.
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