Capitol Report: Week 15 2023
April 24, 2023
By: Casey Nickel, Dustin J. Miller, Brad C. Epperly
The Senate and House returned to the Capitol this week to advance remaining legislation and continue to hold budget negotiations. The Senate held floor debate on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday advancing a number of non-controversial bills as well as education and tax priorities. On Tuesday Senate Committees met to consider governor appointees. The House debated on Wednesday and Thursday, considering legislation sent over from the Senate and a property tax proposal.
Both the House and Senate adopted competing property tax reform proposals Wednesday with bi-partisan support. The Senate proposal focuses on restricting local government budgets while the House proposal focuses on limiting assessment growth. Senate File 569 was adopted 48 – 1 while House File 718 was adopted 93 – 1.
- Consolidates several individual tax levies into a city’s general services levy.
- Caps the city general services levy at $8.10 per $1,000.
- Caps the county general services levy at $3.50 per $1,000.
- Caps the county rural services levy at $3.95 per $1,000.
- Limits city and county budget growth at 3.25% per year for cities spending beyond their maximum general levy minimum and 2.5% for those spending less than the maximum.
- Provides an additional $6,500 homestead property tax exemption for Iowans 65 and older
- Eliminates the Public Education and Recreation Levy.
During the subcommittee meeting on SF 569, Senator Dawson, Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair, shared that the proposal is the first step towards larger property tax reform he hopes to work on developing during the interim.
- Reduces the School Foundation Property Tax levy from $5.40 to $4.40 per $1,000.
- Limits individual tax bill growth for residential and agricultural properties at 3% per year and 8% per year for commercial and industrial properties.
- Require bond elections be held at the same time as general elections.
Legislation that would reform Iowa’s child labor laws was passed by the Senate in the early hours of Tuesday after debate began Monday evening and went through the night. The legislation would expand the hours employees under the age of 18 can work during the school year and summer, allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in restaurants with parental permission, and allows the Iowa Department of Education or Iowa Workforce Development to grant exceptions allowing 14- to 17-year-olds to work in jobs currently banned for minors if they are part of an approved job training program.
The Senate passed Senate File 542 with a 32-17 vote, with two republicans joining democrats in voting no. The House is expected to consider the legislation next week.
Parental Bill of Rights
The Legislature reached a final agreement on legislation referred to as the “Parental Bill of Rights” regarding limits on books and instruction in schools. Senate File 496 bounced between the two chambers before an agreement was reached this week. The bill prohibits any instruction relating to gender identity or sexual orientation in k-6th grade, bans books that include descriptions or visual depictions of sex acts, and requires school administrators to inform parents if a student requests to use a new pronoun at school.
The Senate voted party-line, 34-16 on Wednesday evening, while the House voted 57-38 on Thursday, with four republicans joining democrats in voting no.
Other Bills of Interest
Auditor: The House considered Senate File 478 on Thursday, a bill that would limit the state auditor’s access to citizen information. The bill was adopted by the Senate in March with a 33-16 vote. The House amended the bill and voted 55-41. The Senate must concur with the House amended language before the bill goes to the Governor for signature.
Commercial Vehicle Tort Reform: The Senate adopted the House amended version of Senate File 228 with a 31-19 vote on Monday. The Senate originally adopted the bill with a $2 million cap on damages, however the House amended the bill to reflect the agreement reached by the trucking industry and other stakeholders. The final version creates a $5 million cap on noneconomic damages and allows plaintiffs to recover 100% of punitive damages.
Fentanyl: Governor Reynolds and Attorney General Bird introduced proposals that would increase penalties for Iowans who manufacture or distribute fentanyl. The Legislature adopted House File 595 with bi-partisan support in both chambers. In addition to strengthening penalties for certain amounts of fentanyl, the bill also boosts penalties for other related drug offenses if someone is injured, killed, or a minor is involved.
Next Friday is the 110th day of session, the last scheduled day of session. Legislators will no longer be eligible to receive reimbursements for per diem expenses following April 28th. The legislature will likely return next week and work towards reaching an agreement on remaining policy priorities and the budget.
- April 28th is the 110th day of session where per diem expenses end.