Capitol Report - Week 18 2021
May 17, 2021
By: Paula S. Dierenfeld
The Road is Long. Monday marks the 127th day of this year’s 110-day legislative session. This past week, both the House and the Senate did little more than “gavel in and out” on three days, and not always on the same day. The Senate held Appropriations and Ways & Means Committee meetings on Tuesday, and passed out of both its version of a tax relief bill, SF 619. The House scheduled an Appropriations Committee meeting to consider its tax relief bill, HF 893, for Friday – only to remove it from the calendar sometime on Thursday. There was no floor debate in either chamber. The cafeteria was closed, the parking lots were nearly empty – only chatter from the increasing number of school tour groups could be heard in the halls of the Capitol. All of this suggests and makes us hopeful that some serious negotiations were going on behind the scenes to bring the 2021 session to an end.
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And Seeming Without End. Disagreement over the details of a tax relief bill is the major issue keeping the legislature from adjourning sine die. The Senate’s bill, SF 619, which is on the calendar and eligible for debate, includes many provisions the House has in its bill, HF 893. There appears to be consensus on eliminating the 2018 income tax “triggers,” compressing the tax brackets and reducing rates, phasing out the inheritance tax, and exempting COVID-related federal relief payments from taxation, among other things.
The sticking point continues to be the Senate’s proposal to shift the costs of mental health services from property taxes to the state, a proposal Governor Reynolds says she supports and that would cost the state about $100 million per year. House Speaker Pat Grassley has raised concerns about the proposal and said on Friday that it’s “not as simple” as just getting rid of the property tax levy. Grassley said it’s a concept House Republicans could get behind but they want to make sure there is accountability and that Iowans have the same level of mental health services regardless of where they live in the state. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday to take up its tax relief bill, HF 893.
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The Days Go On. Even though the legislature is more than two weeks past its scheduled end date, much remains on the debate calendars of both chambers. Bills on the House debate calendar that have not yet been taken up include a bill that would make significant changes to Iowa’s bottle deposit law (HF 892), another that would expand protections for police and increase penalties for protest-related crimes (SF 476) and one (HJR 5) that would amend Iowa’s Constitution to state it should not be construed to grant a right to an abortion. The Senate’s debate calendar is longer than the House’s, 14 pages versus 8 pages, and includes six confirmations that have not been voted on – among them are Adam Steen as director of the Department of Administrative Services and Michael Bousselot for director of the Department of Management.
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I Remember You My Friend. Not to be forgotten - in the midst of all of the apparent inactivity at the Capitol this past week, Governor Reynolds signed eighteen bills, seventeen on Monday and another on Friday. The bills the Governor signed on Monday include HF 228, a bill that eliminates the ability of five schools districts (Des Moines, Davenport, Postville, Waterloo, and West Liberty) to use voluntary diversity plans to regulate open enrollment in their districts. Another, HF 546, allows parents to teach their own children to drive, making them qualified to take the driver’s license test and get licensed. The bill signed on Friday, SF 562, removes the statute of limitations on criminal charges brought against persons who commit sexual abuse of a minor.
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And Though You’re Gone, I’ll See You in My Dreams. Which is what we are hoping to be able to say to legislators soon. If good progress was made in the negotiations between the House and the Senate this weekend, it’s possible the legislature could get its work done this week. If things continue to move in the right direction, adjournment “without (another) day” (sine die translated) is more likely next week.
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Encore Performance. With the legislature going on for 18 weeks now, you should have expected a double dose of Bruce Springsteen themed titles this year. The titles in this week’s report are all lines from one of Springsteen’s newest songs, I’ll See You in My Dreams.
The Nyemaster Goode Government Affairs team tracks and analyzes legislation as part of its full range of legislative services. At the statehouse, our public policy attorneys use experience, knowledge, and technical skills to achieve our clients’ goals.