Capitol Report: Week 6 2023
February 17, 2023
By: Casey Nickel, Dustin J. Miller, Brad C. Epperly
Late in the week, Governor Reynolds signed House File 161 and Senate File 153 into law.
HF 161 was made effective on the day of signing, this bill caps non-economic damages to $2 million when malpractice suits involve a hospital and $1 million for suits involving independent clinics, economic and punitive damages remain without limit.
“Today, Iowa joins the majority of U.S. states by enacting commonsense medical malpractice reform that places a reasonable cap on non-economic damages,” stated Governor Reynolds. “Protecting our health care system from out-of-control verdicts promotes access to care in communities across our state and better positions us to recruit the best and brightest physicians to Iowa.”
SF 153 now authorizes the Iowa Department of Transportation and other permit-issuing authorities to exempt overweight permits from load limits when the Department of Transportation determines a special or emergency situation exists.
High Profile Legislation
SF 181: On Wednesday, the Iowa House voted 86-13 in favor of sending Senate File 181 to the Governor’s desk for her final approval. SF 181 is meant 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. Though this bill will save Iowa property owners upwards of $130 million in property tax hikes, local governments will need to plan quickly to readjust their budgets in anticipation of this shortfall. Governor Reynolds will likely sign the bill into law sometime next week.
SSB 1124: Late Tuesday afternoon, lobbyists, county officials, special interests’ groups and lawmakers packed a Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee room to discuss Senate Study Bill 1124. The bill sets limitations on cities and counties annual growth budgets. Specifically, the bill governs a county’s authority to enter into loan agreements, leases, and lease-purchase contracts, and lowers thresholds that would trigger the requirement of approval by election. It would also cap tax levy rates to $3.50 per $1,000 of taxable value for general county services and $3.95 per $1,000 for rural county services. Tax rates within city limits would be capped at $8.10 per $1,000 of taxable value. The Public Education and Recreation Tax levy, which is a voter-approved property tax levy meant for establishing and maintaining recreation areas and playgrounds on public school grounds, would be phased out.
Local government officials argued that the bill will take power away from local governments and are concerned that they will no longer have the necessary funds to support essential services such as rural ambulances or staffing for law enforcement personnel. Sen. Dan Dawson, the Senate’s leading tax reform lawmaker, says that this bill is the first step in reforming the Iowa’s property tax system so that it will be fair for all taxpayers and improve Iowa’s ranking. Iowa currently ranks 38th overall in the 2022 State Business Tax Climate Index for property taxes.
Other Bills of Interest
Last month the Senate introduced five bills that would effectively bar the use of eminent domain for hazardous liquid pipelines. The Senate’s versions of the bill have not received any subcommittee assignments, but the House on Wednesday introduced a set of five companion bills, House File 307, 308, 309, 310 and 311.
These bills would more closely control the permitting and construction of proposed projects, requiring pipeline companies seeking the use of eminent domain to get approval from affected landowners who own 90% or more of real estate parcels necessary for the project’s build. Additionally, these bills would require that a proposed pipeline could not begin construction in Iowa until granted all necessary permits from any other states through which the pipeline would be running.
This legislation comes in response to the proposed carbon pipelines that would travel from ethanol plants in Iowa to underground sites in Illinois and North Dakota. Lawmakers in favor of this legislation feel that these are necessary protections for landowners and multi-generation farms throughout Iowa, while those opposed believe that the current regulatory process is more than adequate to provide for good faith negotiations with landowners. All five bills are currently awaiting subcommittee assignments from the Chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Both chambers have introduced a proposal to rewrite Iowa’s child labor laws to allow flexibility for certain previously prohibited work activities. Senate File 167 and House Study Bill 134 both received subcommittee approval and are awaiting committee approval. One of the components of the bill would allow for the Iowa Workforce Development and Department of Education to provide exceptions for prohibited jobs for 14-17 year old employees who participated in a work-based learning or a school or employer- administered, work related program. The bill also exempts businesses from civil liability due to the company or employee’s negligence. Proponents of the bill argue the legislation will provide more opportunities for students participating in work-based learning programs and help combat the workforce shortage, while opponents argue the risks to youth employees are too high. In addition, the bill also updates the types of duties 14-17 year-olds can perform, expands their allowable work ours and would expand the student driving permit to include places of employment.
With med-mal tort reform in the rearview, lawmakers will continue to discuss property taxes, maternal healthcare, and the government reorganization bill. Additionally, Governor Reynolds and the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) announced that the state will be investing an additional $2 million in the Manufacturing 4.0 Technology Investment Program with the purpose of keeping Iowa globally competitive in the ever-evolving field of Technology.
- 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