The 2021 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of January 11, 2021
This Week in the Iowa Legislature
The first week of the 2021 Legislative Session was unlike any other we have ever experienced. The COVID-19 Protocols made for an interesting beginning as everyone adjusted to a new way of doing business this session. While the first day was made up of formalities and ceremonies with limited substantive action, activities picked up as the week went on. The chambers’ committees met, but they mostly introduced members and outlined their priorities. Governor Reynolds gave her Condition of the State speech on Tuesday evening with the intention of reaching more Iowa residents. Joint Sessions of the House and Senate met on Wednesday and Thursday for Chief Justice Susan Christensen’s Condition of the Judiciary and Major General Benjamin Corell’s Condition of the Guard, respectively. Due to new protocols at the Capitol, the building was quieter than normal and the usual evening legislative receptions were not held. The AS team utilized this first week to connect with legislators about client priorities, ensure bills have been requested and engage partner organization representatives on your priorities.
Condition of the State
Governor Reynolds gave her Condition of the State address and released her budget proposal on Tuesday evening setting out her ambitious legislative priorities for the 2021 session. Highlights include:
- Increasing spending by 3.7% in FY 2022 to $8.079 billion and by 2.3% in FY 2023 to $8.275 billion. The rise in FY 2022 is due in part to the Medicaid. The state is expected to spend $1.4815 billion in General Fund revenues on the Medicaid program and the Health and Wellness program alone. This would have been significantly higher, if not for the enhanced federal Medicaid match rate states received as part of the federal coronavirus stimulus.
- Prioritizing mental health funding.Under her budget plan, Iowa’s mental health regions would receive $15 million from the state in Fiscal Year 2022 and $30 million in Fiscal Year 2023 to expand access and implement the mental health reforms and service expansions enacted over the past three years.
- Supporting an increase for school spending by 2.5% in the 2022-23 ($27 million) school year and by $143 million in the 2023-24 school year. The overall level of aid in the 2022-23 school year is due to the impact of enrollment reductions in the current school on the per-pupil aid formula for schools. Schools will also receive another $20 million in pandemic aid. Governor Reynolds said schools also need to return to in-person teaching and parents need to have the option of sending their children to districts with in-person school.
- The Governor proposed a significant increase, of $450 million, to expand broadband access over the next three years.
- Doubling the affordable housing credit to $50 million.
- Making work-based learning available to all Iowa students.
- Implementing childcare policies and funding to make childcare more affordable and more accessible.
- Back the Blue proposal to increase protections against attacks on the police, to end racial profiling by police and to improve data collection on arrests and to create a re-entry pilot program for offenders.
- Removing the triggers for tax cuts in the 2018 legislation and allow the tax changes to take effect in 2023. The tax cuts reduce rates and the number of brackets and end federal deductibility.
We invite you to learn more about the Governor’s initiatives in greater detail at the following link.
Iowa COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Update
On Tuesday the AS team attended a presentation presented by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) to the House Human Resources Committee on the current and future status of COVID-19 vaccinations in Iowa.
Based on CDC guidance, Iowa has prioritized residents of long-term care and health care workers in Phase 1A distribution of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. IDPH is planning to expand the number of populations eligible for the vaccine once 60 percent to 70 percent of the health care workforce has been vaccinated statewide. At the committee meeting, IDPH announced that they believe the expansion to Phase 1B populations will begin around February 1. Much of the expansion to additional populations will depend on how much vaccine is allocated to Iowa from the CDC. To keep track of Iowa’s allocation, follow the CDC tracker.
According to IDPH and the Infectious Disease Advisory Council, the Department’s Advisory Council, Phase 1B will be distributed to those Iowans who are 75 years and older OR fall into one of the following vulnerable populations:
- Individuals with disabilities living in home settings
- Correctional facility staff and individuals incarcerated
- Staff and residents of congregate settings (shelters, sober living homes, behavioral health treatment centers, detention centers. This does not include college dorms)
- Locations where public health data indicate outbreaks or clusters of disease among food, agriculture, distribution and manufacturing workers
- PK-12 school staff, early childhood education, and childcare workers
- First responders
The Phase 1B list has been expanded by the interim IDPH Director to include inspectors (of hospitals, long-term care settings, childcare, and food production) and government officials and staff at the Iowa Capitol. When Phase 1B is complete, efforts will shift to Phase 1C which includes persons 65-74 years and persons 16-64 with high-risk medical conditions.
Updates on Iowa’s vaccine administration including county-specific information will be posted here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Condition of the Judiciary
On Wednesday Chief Justice Susan Christensen delivered her first Condition of the Judiciary Speech. Christensen opened with introductory remarks and highlighted how the COVID pandemic has turned the judicial system on its head but said that the hard work has enabled the system to persevere through the pandemic.
Christensen said when COVID is no longer her top priority, her focus will shift to child welfare. She argued one way the Judicial Branch has learned to improve child welfare outcomes is by taking advantage of changes in federal law that allow the use of federal funding before a court has ordered the removal of a child. She emphasized how family treatment courts are vital in addressing child abuse and neglect. She argued that family treatment courts can help by targeting the causes and helping defendants deal with those issues and said, “since 2007, our family treatment courts have generated $17.7 million dollars in cost avoidance for the state while allowing the strong majority of the families involved to safely stay together.” Christensen ended her speech by talking about how hope is important in the court system and told a story about a young father who preserved with some help from the treatment courts. Here is a link to the full address.
Condition of the Guard
On Thursday Major General Benjamin Corell delivered the Condition of the Guard. Corell said the COVID pandemic and the derecho in August brought about the most diverse deployment of the Guard since the 2008 floods. Stating that more than 900 Guard members worked in a variety of roles, including delivering supplies, delivering food and making phone calls to help with contact tracing. Corell applauded the Iowa National Guard and said, “We live here. We work here. We are part of the community. When a disaster strikes, we are called upon to ensure our neighbors, our towns, our families and friends recover as quickly as possible.”
Corell highlighted the strategic objectives of the Guard which are focused on four lines of effort: fielding a competent force, maintaining the right force, developing sustainable infrastructure and caring for Guard members. Corell finished his speech by saying the condition of the Guard remains strong, with the support of “Iowans everywhere.” Please find a link to the address here.
Next week will be shortened because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the President’s Inauguration. Legislators began introducing bills last week and members started scheduling subcommittee meetings. With the pomp and circumstance over and everyone settling into the new normal, legislators will begin to focus on getting back to work on Tuesday. With the short week, we expect the session will likely hit its stride by the beginning of the third week—when a consistent schedule of subcommittee meetings and committees is established.
If you had a chance to look at the COVID-19 Protocols, you will see committees and subcommittees are available to the pubic virtually. The Senate is hosting all of their meetings virtually allowing for virtual comment and welcoming written comments to be submitted via a link to the entire subcommittee. They are hosting all committee meetings on the Senate floor where you can watch live or at a later time. The House has created a schedule allowing for blocks of time daily for subcommittee work to allow for virtual viewing. Although only written comment is available for those participating virtually, a small number of individuals are allowed to attend House committees and subcommittees and provide in-person testimony. A link to participate virtually will be provided in the agenda link to each committee and subcommittee scheduled. A list of scheduled committees and subcommittees with their virtual access information can be found at the link above. As more information becomes available or changes, we will continue to keep you updated on how you can access legislators and participate in the process while in-person access is limited.
Dates to Note
- February 12: Final day for individual bill requests
- March 5: First funnel deadline (Friday of the 8th week)
- April 2: Second funnel deadline (Friday of the 12th week)
- April 30: 110th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires