The 2020 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of January 13, 2020
This week in the Iowa Legislature
The first week of the 2020 legislative session was made up of formalities and ceremonies with limited substantive action. The chambers’ committees met, but they mostly introduced members and made remarks. Joint Sessions of the House and Senate met on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday for Governor Reynolds’ Condition of the State speech, Chief Justice Wiggin’s Condition of the Judiciary, and Major General Benjamin Corell’s Condition of the Guard, respectively. Following the day’s work, numerous evening legislative receptions were held to welcome legislators back to Des Moines and provide an opportunity for lobbyists and legislators to mingle informally. The Advocacy Strategies team attended these events to catch up with legislators and discuss the issues on your legislative agenda.
Condition of the State
Governor Reynolds gave her Condition of the State address to a Joint Session of the Iowa House and Senate, and the Chief Justices on Tuesday. She set out ambitious legislative priorities for the 2020 session, specifically two constitutional amendments: restoring felon voting rights and declaring there is no right to an abortion. Her additional priorities include professional licensing reform, child care, and ensuring quality broadband, maternal health, and criminal justice reform services.
Despite the state budget looking solid for the coming year, the Governor proposed a 1-cent sales tax that is estimated to increase revenue by $540 million. The push to raise the 1-cent sales tax is a result of the 2010 ballot initiative to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund. The Governor has been working with advocates on this for several months and is insisting the increase be budget neutral. In addition to funding the trust, she’s recommending the state use the additional funds to invest in Iowa’s Regional Mental Health System and expand tax relief.
We urge you to read the entire address to learn about the Governor’s initiatives in greater detail.
For the full text of the Governor’s Condition of the State, click the following link.
The Governor’s priorities align with much of what the House and Senate Leadership named as priorities going into session. With the Republican majority in both chambers, the Legislature is in a good position to move these initiatives forward.
Condition of the Judiciary
With the recent passing of Chief Justice Cady and the upcoming March retirement of Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins giving way for a fourth judicial appointment by Governor Reynolds, 2020 bodes to be a year of transition for Iowa’s Judicial Branch.
Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins gave what was his first – and only – Condition of the Judiciary speech, he noted that his remarks were a final version of a draft started by the late Chief Justice. Wiggins stated that the Iowa Judicial system is one of the best in the nation, owing to the Chief Justice Cady’s leadership and vision. He spoke of his respect for the Legislature and Governor and their roles in speaking for the people, while observing the unique “more limited” position of the courts as well as how the independence of the courts is vital to the strength of the state.
He acknowledged statewide court improvements, several of which were prompted by local community efforts and cited successful programs. He noted the need for a $% increase in the Judicial Branch budget which will fund a much-needed workforce to support the growing needs for local services.
Condition of the Guard
On Thursday, Major General Benjamin Corell made his first address to a Joint Session of Legislature. He spoke enthusiastically about the strong state of the Iowa National Guard and mentioned several objectives and goals for the coming year. He made it clear that Iowa needs to continue to provide the proper and adequate incentives to ensure that would-be soldiers choose the Iowa National Guard for their service. He renewed the standing commitment to always support Iowa’s Emergency Managers when called upon in disaster situations. Corell also spoke of a commitment to assessing and even retiring guard facilities that are beyond their useful life while continuing to provide the best possible resources for his soldiers.
Touching on future threat and readiness assessment, General Corell had two major points of emphasis talking extensively about the need to prepare for cyber threats to our security. Mentioning the Russia and China specifically, he talked about the daily effort to prevent a cyber intrusion. The General also shared that the Iowa National Guard has been assigned a mission outside of our borders and will be sending 2,000 soldiers abroad over the next 12 months.
Next week will be shortened because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Members have introduced bills, so subcommittees will begin meeting in earnest next week. With the ceremony and welcome-back receptions over, legislators will begin to focus more on their work starting Tuesday. But with the short week the session will likely end up hitting its stride by the beginning of the third week—when a consistent diet of bill subcommittee meetings and committees get established.
Dates to Note
- January 24: Final day for individual bill requests
- February 3: Iowa Caucuses, no session
- February 21: First funnel deadline (6th week)
- March 20: Second funnel deadline (10th week)
- April 21: 100th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires