Week 11 Legislative Update

Legislative Update  

The 2022 Iowa Legislative Session

Week of March 21, 2022

 

This Week in the Iowa Legislature

The week started slow and quiet, but by midweek the Legislature took up a few controversial bills and the House began passing their budget bills on the floor. The Senate moved few bills on the floor this week as they mourned the loss of long-time Senate Republican Human Resources staffer Josh Bronsink, attending his funeral services on Thursday. Both chairs of the Ways and Means Committees have indicated their intent on decreasing the frequency of their meetings, signaling their work is nearly complete. As legislators work toward adjournment, they need to resolve disagreements on outstanding policy priorities including changes to unemployment benefits, increased school transparency, scholarship support for private schools, and requirements for more filling stations to offer E-15, as well as the overall budget target. It is now clear adjournment the first week of April is unattainable and the week prior to Easter is the new target for Sine Die.

 

Legislators Pass Bill to Cut Unemployment Benefits

Wednesday was the busiest day at the Capitol this week as the whole Capitol was watching intently as the House and Senate both debated the Governor’s Unemployment bill for hours. However, at the end of the day no agreement was reached on a final bill. Each chamber emerged with their own version and now there is a standoff until an agreement can be reached. The House passed the original proposal which would reduce the number of annual unemployment benefit weeks from 26 to 16 but removed the one-week waiting period to receive benefits from the bill before sending it to the Senate. Then, the Senate put the one week waiting period back in and sent it back to the House. Democrats in both chambers voted against the cuts and two Republicans in each chamber joined the Democrats in opposition (Reps McClintock and Graber, Senators Nunn and Reichman). The proposal’s prospects are now unclear as the Governor, House, and Senate negotiate on what they can pass in their individual chambers during an election year in the final weeks of session.

 

Pipeline Legislation Passes Under Unusual Circumstances

During Thursday’s floor debate, the House passed their Administrative and Regulatory Budget, but not without additional fanfare. Representative Kaufmann offered an amendment to include language limiting eminent domain practices. The amendment adopted would halt all Iowa Utility Board hearings on eminent domain until February 2023. Currently, there are three companies scoping out potential CO2 pipeline projects in Iowa.

While Democrats and Republicans agree eminent domain creates unfair negotiations for Iowans, the two parties argued over the length of the moratorium and the process used to establish it. Ultimately, the amendment passed on a voice vote, making it difficult to know who actually supported or opposed it. The overall Administrative and Regulatory budget passed on a 60-30 vote and now awaits action in the Senate.

 

Budget Process

The House is quickly releasing and moving their budgets through the process. They will likely finish their budget work on the floor next week. Meanwhile, we have yet to see any budget proposals released by the Senate. It typically takes two to three weeks for the entire budget process to resolve itself after it begins. Below is a chart outlining each individual budget bill, its number, and where it is in the overall process. This chart will be updated each week until the legislature adjourns.

 

Bill Number Department Status House Target
HF 2565 Admin & Reg Passed HOUSE 3/24  $51,212,268
HF 2560 Ag & Natural Resources Passed HOUSE 3/23 $54,058,995
HF 2564 Economic Development Passed HOUSE 3/24  $49,500,151
LSB 5003 Education Passed HOUSE ED APPROPS sub 3/24 $1,004,141,874
LSB 5004 Health & Human Services Passed HOUSE HHS APPROPS Sub 3/24 $2,101,392,725
HF 2258 Judicial Branch Passed HOUSE 3/22  
HF 2259 Justice Systems Passed HOUSE 3/22 $834,433,338
N/A Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF/TIC) Sub scheduled for 3/28  
HF 2557 Transportation N/A $416,100,000
N/A Federal Block Grant N/A  
N/A Standings N/A  

 

Looking Ahead

We continue to hear final adjournment could come in just a few short weeks. Both chambers will continue to chip away at the remaining policy bills, while negotiating the final budget targets. Caucus and debate time has drastically increased over the past week, and we expect this trend will continue until the end of session.

 

While policy committees have wrapped up for the session, the limited list of scheduled Appropriations and Ways and Means committees and subcommittees with their virtual access information can be found at the provided link. If you have challenges connecting with the virtual link, you can always call in.