Capitol Report: Week 4 2023
February 3, 2023
By: Casey Nickel, Dustin J. Miller, Brad C. Epperly
The pace quickened during the fourth week of session with committee activity increasing, sending several bills to floor debate in both the House and Senate.
Gov. Reynolds introduced a proposal to consolidate state government Wednesday. Senate Study Bill 1123 and House Study Bill 126, call for the realignment of all state cabinet level departments. The proposal is aimed at saving taxpayer dollars, increasing efficiency within the combined state agencies, and improving the overall operations, performance, and outcomes among state agencies. Both the House and Senate versions have been assigned to their respective State Government Committees, but no subcommittee meetings have been scheduled as of Friday February 3rd.
High Profile Legislation
Gov. Reynolds omnibus health care bill House Study Bill 91, passed through a House Health and Human Services subcommittee meeting on Wednesday. The proposal includes the following divisions:
- State Licensure for Rural Emergency Hospitals
- $1 Million Appropriation to the Regional Centers of Excellence Grant Program
- Noneconomic Damages Awards Cap Against Healthcare Providers
- State-funded Family Medicine Obstetrics Fellowship Program
- Self-Administered Hormonal Contraceptives
- Public Policy Considerations Related to the Review and Approval of Insurance Benefits
- Fatherhood Initiatives, More Options for Maternal Support Program
- State Employee Paid Parental Leave Benefit
- Property Tax Modifications for Licensed Child Care Centers and Facilities
- Adoption Subsidy Program
- All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship Program
Many of the divisions included in the omnibus bill have been introduced in standalone bills as well.
The Senate passed a bill Wednesday to fix an error that occurred in the administration of a property tax rollback calculation concerning multi-residential properties that would negatively impact local government budgets. A 2021 law was passed that affected property classifications, but the formula for calculating the appropriate rate for taxation was not updated. During debate Senators from both parties acknowledged that better communication is needed so that mistakes such as these do not occur again. Senate File 181 passed the Senate 49-0 and was sent over the House for consideration.
Tort Reform (Trucker Tort):
A tort reform bill concerning commercial trucking operations was introduced in both chambers this week. The purpose of the bill is to address the shrinking market for umbrella insurance coverage available to commercial trucking companies by limiting the causes of action and cap noneconomic damages. The bill provides that in the event of an accident, if the trucking company admits the truck driver was an employee and therefore the doctrine of respondeat superior applies, additional causes of action such as negligent hiring, training, or supervising would be dismissed. The bill caps noneconomic damages awarded at $1 million in personal injury or wrongful death cases. House Study Bill 114, passed out of subcommittee and committee this week, while the Senate companion file, Senate Study Bill 1114 passed subcommittee. Those opposed to the bill argue that this would make the roads more dangerous, while supporters say it will provide family farmers and Iowa businesses with more predictability.
Other Bills of Interest
Senate File 192: The Senate passed the Supplemental School Aid bill on Thursday afternoon. The bill is the annual legislation that sets the percentage of growth for state funding of K-12 schools and enables school districts to set their budgets. The bill was amended to provide for a 3% increase for fiscal year 2024. Those opposed were concerned that a 3% increase would be insufficient, but the Senate Republicans argued the increase is well in line with their fiscally conservative approach to budgeting. The bill passed the Senate with a 34-15 vote. The House companion bill, HF 171, passed out of the Appropriations Committee Wednesday.
Senate File 60: A bill prohibiting the use of cell phones or other electronic devices while driving unless they are hands free or voice-activated passed out of the Senate Transportation Committee on Thursday. HF 64 is the House companion bill, but has yet to be given a subcommittee assignment. The bills are backed by the Department of Public Safety.
The first funnel date is four weeks away and the two chambers will continue advancing legislative priorities through the committee process. Tax reform bill proposals will continue to be discussed, as well as the governor’s omnibus health care bill and government reorganization bill.
- March 3rd is the first Funnel Date
- March 31st is the second Funnel Date
- April 28th is the 110th day of session where per diem expenses end