Final Capitol Report on 2020 Iowa Legislative Session

June 15, 2020

By: Paula S. Dierenfeld, Katie Graham

Marathon Finish.  The 2020 Iowa legislature adjourned sine die for the year on Sunday, June 14. The gavel fell for the last time in the Senate at 1:32 pm and in the House, at 1:38 pm. The 2020 session was scheduled to last 100 calendar days. Even as late as the second week of March, it appeared the legislature would get done on or before the 100th day, which was April 21. And then COVID-19 hit. The legislature suspended its activities on Monday, March 16, and did not return again until Wednesday, June 3. The 2020 legislature finished its work 154 calendar days after it started. Incredibly it took only 51 session days to get the job done. 



*  *  *



Sprint at the End. Action was taken on the entire state budget in just three appropriations bills this past week -- an FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriations bill, a Transportation Appropriations bill, and the Infrastructure Appropriations bill, commonly referred to as the RIIF (Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund) bill. For the most part, the funding provided in the bills is status quo from FY 2020, with total spending of about $7.8 billion.


Some significant policy legislation passed in the final days as well. A bill, Senate File 2338, to limit the liability of businesses and health care providers in COVID-related lawsuits, passed both chambers along party lines. Another bill that passed on party lines, House File 594, establishes a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman can receive an abortion. Republicans and Democrats also split on House File 2627, a bill that makes it easier for persons with criminal convictions and those moving to Iowa to obtain a professional license. In contrast, support was unanimous on House File 2647, a bill restricting the use of chokeholds and requiring annual anti-bias and de-escalation training for police.


Among the bills that did not pass in the end were House File 2572 and Senate File 2364, prohibiting design build for public projects and allowing construction manager-at-risk, Senate File 2410, clarifying the number of signatures required on petitions requesting a vote on school board decisions to construct athletic facilities, and House Joint Resolution 14, amending the state constitution to automatically restore voting rights to felons.



*  *  *



Race Not Over.  That’s how folks in state government and the lobby feel about the 30 days that follow adjournment. Thirty days is the amount of time the Governor has to act on bills submitted to her in the last three days of the session and following adjournment. Budget bills can be item-vetoed. Bills that contain only policy changes must be signed or vetoed in total. If the Governor fails to take action on any legislation submitted in the last three days, it fails to become law by what’s called a “pocket veto.” As you might expect, requests will begin pouring into the Governor’s office asking her to sign or veto bills passed in the final hours. 



*  *  *


Final Words.


Following are excerpts from the remarks of the Governor and legislative leadership on the end of the 2020 session:  


Governor Kim Reynolds:  “In the closing days of the legislative session, Future Ready Iowa, Empower Rural Iowa, and historic police reform passed with unanimous support.  Paired with comprehensive licensure overhaul, these are significant steps to ensure every Iowan, regardless of their background or circumstances, has an opportunity to find success.”


House Speaker Pat Grassley:  “While we didn’t accomplish all that we set out to do, we took some positive steps forward on child care and broadband, and the budget. We showed what could be done in a bi-partisan way as we worked together to find common ground.”


House Majority Leader Matt Windschitl:  “I’ll just keep this brief. Thank you for all your hard work. God speed. And now the sentence we have all been waiting for over two and a half months to hear. Mr. Speaker, I move the House adjourn sine die. ” (This is literally all he said!)


House Minority Leader Todd Prichard:  “The true test of leadership is not what you do when times are easy and things are going well, it is what you do when things are tough and uncertain. Over the next year, we’ll have to decide if we’re going to rise to the occasion and make it our finest hour.”


Senate President Charles Schneider:  “I believe our state gains strength from its diversity. I am confident that when sensible Iowans of all races, genders, orientations, and backgrounds come together to solve a problem, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.”


Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver:  “As we finish this legislative session, I look back on the work done and the decisions made and I believe we implemented important policies to help this state recover from the economic shocks of the coronavirus. But our work is not done.”


Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen: “I am proud that state leaders listened to concerned Iowans and took historic first steps to advance equality and justice in our state.  We must continue listening in the coming months and years, and we must be prepared to work together to end racial profiling, enact criminal justice reforms, and expand voting rights.”



*  *  *



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.