Capitol Report: Week 1 2023
January 14, 2023
By: Casey Nickel, Dustin J. Miller, Brad C. Epperly
The first session of the 90th General Assembly convened at 10:00 am on January 9th. The first day of the session saw opening speeches from leadership in both the majority and minority party, highlighting their goals and priorities for the upcoming session. For the seventh year in a row, Republicans maintained control of the House, Senate, and Governor’s office.
During his opening comments, Speaker Pat Grassley applauded the Republican party for utilizing that trifecta in recent sessions.
“We’re not the only state that has a trifecta. Don’t kid yourself, but we’re one of the only, if not the only state that utilizes it every session… I think that’s why we’ve been so successful because we’ve utilized that majority.”
Republican leaders in both the House and Senate identified property tax reform and education reform as top priorities for 2023. Both chambers are expected to propose legislation aimed at lowering property taxes for Iowans in the coming weeks.
“Iowans pay some of the highest property taxes in the country, and the system responsible for that problem wasn’t built overnight, and the solution to it won’t be either,” Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver said in his opening comments. “But I can tell you, Senate Republicans are up to the challenge on the best long-term strategy for Iowa taxpayers.”
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls stated his party is supportive of changing Iowa’s property tax laws, so long as they support middle-class Iowans. “Senate Democrats will work with anyone on common-sense property tax reform, but we are not interested in tax giveaways that overwhelmingly benefit the ultrarich and big corporations.”
Senator Amy Sinclair was elected to serve as the new Senate President following the 2022 midterm elections and emphasized advancing the Governor’s education reform legislation from 2022 would continue to be a priority for the Senate.
Senator Sinclair said, “All Iowa families should have the opportunity to send their children to the school that best meets their needs and reflects their family’s values and moral fiber. This should not be exclusive to families with the financial means to pay for tuition or transportation, or those whose families can afford to move to a better zip code.”
During the Condition of the State address, Governor Kim Reynolds introduced her proposed school choice legislation that would provide families in Iowa with state-funded private school scholarships. The proposal would allow every Iowa family to apply for a private school scholarship of $7,598 annually to cover tuition and other qualified expenses.
Governor Reynolds also announced her priorities to expand maternal health services in Iowa and reorganize state government, consolidating the number of state agencies from 37 to 16 and addressing Iowa’s Administrative Code.
House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst cautioned against a school choice bill in her opening comments. “Let’s remember that our foundation of strong public schools is what got most of us here today. It’s those same public schools that will educate the majority of Iowans and build the next generation of leaders like us. Let’s make sure we give all students the best start possible.”
On Thursday, a Senate subcommittee considered Senate Study Bill 1022, the Governor’s proposed school choice bill. After an hour-long meeting, Republicans advanced the proposal to be considered by committee with all Democrats opposing.
On January 11th, Governor Reynolds signed an executive order placing a moratorium on all new administrative rulemaking and directing state agencies to review all existing rules. Iowa’s current Administrative Code is more than 20,000 pages. Agencies are required to re-promulgate the rules they want to keep and rules not formally adopted by December 31, 2026, are repealed.
In addition to the Condition of the State, legislators also heard from Major General Benjamin Corell on the Condition of the National Guard, and Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen on the Condition of the Judiciary.
All Senate and House standing committees met this week to introduce the committee members and satisfy organizational requirements.
Next week: Legislators will begin holding subcommittee meetings as bills are introduced and assigned.