Capitol Report - Week 16 2021
May 3, 2021
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld
Beyond Regulation Time. The Iowa legislature is now officially in overtime. Last Friday was the 110th day of the 2021 session, the last day legislators will be paid a per diem for expenses they incur while at the Capitol. Legislators will still be reimbursed for their travel expenses but for only one round trip to the Capitol each week. Expect the rank and file members to spend more time in their districts (and in their fields) as they wait for a call telling them to make the trip to Des Moines for a long day of caucusing and floor debate. In the meantime, legislative leaders and key committee chairs will continue to meet behind closed doors, bartering over what must get done to bring the session to an end. It’s possible this coming week will be the last but given the amount of work that remains to be done, next week is more likely.
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No Tickets Needed. Most policy bills that did not make it through the legislative funnels are dead for the session. An exception to that general rule are “leadership bills,” companion bills sponsored by the majority leaders in both chambers. Leadership bills are fairly rare and typically appear near the end of a session to address issues that could not have been anticipated and that the leaders agree must get done prior to adjournment. Such a bill, the COVID-19 Vaccine Passport Bill, was introduced on both sides this past week and has already made it through the House.
HF 889 would prohibit the state and local governments from issuing an identification card that includes information regarding a person’s COVID-19 vaccine status. The bill would also prohibit businesses and governmental entities from requiring customers, patrons and others invited onto their premises to provide proof of a COVID-19 vaccination prior to entering the premises. Businesses and governmental entities would still be allowed to implement COVID-19 screening protocols. Health care facilities would be exempt from the bill’s restrictions. HF 889 passed the House by a vote of 58-35, largely along party lines. It was sent to the Senate and has joined its companion, SF 610, on the Senate debate calendar.
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Get Your Sports Page. Also on Wednesday, Governor Reynolds signed HF 848 into law, a bill that sets up a system of grants to broadband providers to expand internet service in the state. No funding for the program is included in the bill – that will come later - but it specifies the minimum download and upload speeds that companies must meet to receive grant funding. For most, it would be 100 megabits per second, up and down. Some grants will go to companies providing slower speeds, up to 20 megabits per second, if they expand service to sparsely populated, unserved areas of the state. Governor Reynolds and the legislature have agreed to spend $100 million in state dollars for the program this year. The Governor has committed an additional $50 million in federal pandemic relief funding.
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Leaving Nothing on the Field. On Thursday, Governor Reynolds appeared on the Fox News program, The Ingraham Angle, in a town hall setting with four other “Red State Trailblazer” governors and shared some of her remaining goals for this legislative session. In response to questions posed by the show’s host, Laura Ingraham, Reynolds said she expects legislation barring government-issued COVID-vaccine passports on her desk by the end of this week. She also said she is working with the legislature on a bill to restrict transgender females from participating in girls’ sports. Additionally, the Governor said she favors the “Back the Blue” legislation making its way through the legislature, as well as policies that would push back at big-tech companies for “deplatforming” users of social media. Typically the Governor does not make public pronouncements of her position on legislation before bills make it to her desk.
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Tortoise or Hare. A little progress – but only a little - was made on the budget bills this past week. The Admin and Reg bill, HF 867, that previously passed in the House, was approved by the Senate and is on its way to the Governor. The House’s version of the Health and Human Services budget bill made it out of committee and is now eligible for debate. And a Standings bill, typically the last bill of the session, was introduced and is on the debate calendar in the Senate. The pace needs to pick up if the legislature plans to adjourn any time soon. Following is the status of the major budget bills:
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