Week 1 Legislative Update

Legislative Update
The 2022 Iowa Legislative Session

Week of January 10, 2022

This week in the Iowa Legislature
The first week of the second session of the 89th General Assembly kicked off on Monday and was much busier than years past. It appears as though legislators are eager to get to work and set a tone for getting out early with pending primaries and the fall election that came with redistricting. The week consisted of the usual ceremonial activities including leadership speeches outlining their priorities and the Governor’s Condition of the State address on Tuesday evening. Committee chairs also kicked off with punch outlining their goals for session and assigning the many bills that have already been introduced. Joint Sessions of the House and Senate met later in the week to hear Chief Justice Susan Christensen’s Condition of the Judiciary and Major General Benjamin Corell’s Condition of the Guard. The Capitol has seemed to return to a sense of “normal” with many legislators, lobbyists and advocates attending meetings in person. Although it may seem like we are back to business as usual, committee meetings in both chambers can be viewed virtually and subcommittee work will continue as it did last year needing to be present to speak in the House and all subcommittees in the Senate will be held virtually.

SCOTUS Vaccine Rulings
The Supreme Court blocked rules from the Biden administration that would have mandated businesses with a 100 or more employees to require workers to be vaccinated for COVD, or wear masks and be tested weekly. On a 5-4 vote, the Court continued to allow the Biden administration to impose rules for facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funding, upholding a vaccination requirement for healthcare workers, in order for states to be eligible for federal healthcare program dollars.

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 2022 session. Please find a link to the address here. Highlights include:

• Tax Plan: Elimination of current tax brackets and implementation of a 4% flat tax on all income levels. An elimination of income tax for all retired Iowans, and increasing the Military Service Property Tax Exemption to $2,500.
• Workforce Plan: Lowering the unemployment benefit eligibility window from 26 to 16 weeks, creation of a Reemployment Division, lowering professional licensure requirements, implementing programs for the recruitment of veterans, further policy and investments into child care, recruitment and retention bonuses for educators and child care providers, increased funding for health care repayment loan programs.
• Education Plan: A K-12 budget of $3.6 billion, implementing policy for school choice, implementing policy for the establishment of more charter schools.
• Agriculture Plan: Investment of $10 million each year for five years into the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, requirements for retailers to provide E-15 by 2026, incentivize retailers to sell higher blends of ethanol and biodiesel.
• Total state budget of $8.2 billion in FY 2023 – $4.5 billion to the Education budget, $2.1 billion to the Health and Human Services budget, $757 million to the Justice/Judicial Branch budget, $409 million to property replacements/tax credits and $273 million for “other”.
• Estimated FY 2023 Revenue of $10. 8 billion – a high potential for a budget surplus once again next year.

Condition of the Judiciary
Chief Justice Susan Christensen delivered her second Condition of the Judiciary address highlighting how adapting to the COVID pandemic has strengthened the judicial system and its commitment to equal treatment before the law. The courts have been able to be more effective with the installation of new technology which will be carried forward into the post-COVID era. Here is a link to Christensen’s full remarks.

Condition of the Guard
Major General Benjamin Corell delivered the Condition of the Guard noting that Iowa saw a significant number of deployments at home and across the globe this past year. In 2021, over 1,600 Iowa soldiers and over 200 Iowa airmen served on active duty missions throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Additionally, 265 Iowa soldiers and airmen were sent to assist federal agencies with security missions during the presidential inauguration and soldiers who spent a year supporting federal operations on the southwest border returned home.

Corell believes the successful job training and education benefits offered by the Guard have benefitted local communities across the state. “That’s Iowans serving Iowa, going to Iowa schools, investing in Iowa’s future.” He also highlighted the success of the Expedited Citizenship and Sponsorship Program which allows the Guard to help soldiers who have completed at least one year of service gain United States citizenship. Please find a link to the address here.

Looking Ahead
Due to the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday the legislature will have a short week. Regardless of the three-day work week, we expect it to be just as busy with many subcommittees already scheduled. We should be in full swing of things by the third week as they settle into their routine.