Capitol Report: Week 9 2023
March 10, 2023
By: Casey Nickel, Dustin J. Miller, Brad C. Epperly
As is the case every year, the week after the first funnel produces a lot of floor activity with both chambers focused mainly on debate this week, conducting only a handful of subcommittee and committee meetings. Tax and spending-related bills continued to be introduced this week for further consideration. On Friday, the Revenue Estimating Conference met to provide the most recent budget projections. The legislature can begin working on drafting the FY24 budget following the March REC projections.
On Wednesday, the House sent Senate File 538 to the Governor to be signed into law. The legislation prohibits Iowa physicians from prescribing puberty blockers, hormone therapy, or gender-affirming surgeries to transgender individuals under the age of 18. The Senate approved the legislation with a party-line vote earlier in the week, while the House approved the bill with a majority of the Republican caucus voting yes, and 5 Republicans joining Democrats voting no.
The Senate also approved a bill that would prohibit transgender kids from using school bathrooms that don’t align with their biological sex and the House approved legislation to restrict education on gender identity and sexual orientation from kindergarten through sixth grade. Both proposals still need approval from the other chamber.
High Profile Legislation
The Iowa Ways and means Committee approved a bill on Wednesday that would effectively end the long-standing legal requirement of local entities publishing public notices with their local newspapers. Senate File 546 would create a state-run web site in the Office of the Secretary of State to post all public notices. Opponents of the bill argued that a government run website for public notice was the government watching the government, and thus, would lose the accountability and transparency provided by publishing with independent third-party newspapers. Supporters of the bill, which were all the public entities, argued that it will save taxpayer money and allow for easier access to all public notices in a centralized location.
Governor Reynold’s reorganization bill was passed out of the Senate on Tuesday with a 34-15 party-line vote. During floor debate, Senate File 514 saw 13 amendments proposed, only 1 of which was adopted. Senate Republicans shared that they believe it is the prerogative of the Executive Branch to organize departments as it sees fit. In response to the bill passing Governor Reynolds released the following statement:
“Serving the needs of Iowans efficiently and effectively is state government’s primary responsibility, and Iowans rightfully expect nothing less. Government alignment proposes the type of commonsense, fiscally responsible change that will improve how the executive branch works together, elevate services for Iowans, and save taxpayers a projected $215 million over the next four years. For too long politicians have only promised to reduce the size and cost of government, but today the Iowa Senate took an important step forward to making it a reality. I look forward to getting this bill across the finish line in the House and to my desk.”
Hands Free Driving:
As the law currently stands, drivers are prohibited from using their cellphones to write, send, or view texts, however there is no other limitation on the use of navigation or talking on the phone. Senate File 207, would expand the law to prohibit the use of any electronic device while a vehicle is moving. Exceptions have been written into the bill that would allow for drivers to use voice-activated or hands-free modes. SF 207 also increases fines from $45 to $100 If a driver is convicted under the law and the violation caused an accident that resulted in death, an additional fine of $1000 could be imposed as well as a suspension of the driver’s license. The bill received unanimous bipartisan support and was passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday.
Other Bills of Interest
House File 255: A bill that would establish alternative avenues in the professional licensing process for prospective teachers who do not have a teaching degree. Those in favor of the legislation suggest that it will get more teachers in the classroom. Opponents of the bill worry that lowering teaching standards will have a detrimental effect on the quality of education students receive. The bill passed out of the House, receiving 61 yes votes and 36 no votes.
Destination Iowa: On Thursday, Governor Reynolds announced that the program that was launched in 2022 by her office in conjunction with the Iowa Economic Development Authority for quality of life projects and transformational tourist attractions was awarded another $26.88 million in grant funding, including $15 million to fund programs in rural communities. To date, 46 projects have been awarded $115 million in grants and have spurred investments in excess of $480 billion.
Expect more floor debate to take place on legislation next week on topics like healthcare, education, and local government. Controversial topics and cultural issues will also remain at the forefront of discussion in both chambers. However, as we come closer to the scheduled end date of session, expect lawmakers to begin to shift their focus to tax and spending legislation for the upcoming fiscal years.
- March 31st is the second Funnel Date
- April 28th is the 110th day of session where per diem expenses end