The 2021 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of March 29th, 2021
This Week in the Iowa Legislature
The second funnel week is over, and hundreds of bills are now ineligible for further consideration by the Legislature until the 2022 session. A decision to not conduct floor debate Wednesday meant several pieces of policy lacked the support they needed to clear the “funnel” hurdle. However, legislators worked hard and acted early in the week keeping pace to ensure committee work was complete to get their priorities across the Second Funnel finish line. Then at the end of the of the week, the Senate released the first appropriations bill of the session SSB 1256, the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Capitals budget. This is a sign budget talks will begin in earnest next week and adjournment is just weeks away.
Major Policy Bills Clearing the Second Funnel
- Open Enrollment Expansion
- Charter Schools Expansion
- Mental Health Funding Changes and Property Tax Backfill Elimination
- Inheritance Tax and Income Tax Triggers Elimination
- Ag Gag Law
- Governor’s Affordable Housing Bill
- Governor’s Biofuel Standards Bill
- Broadband Expansion
- Bottle Bill
- Childcare Cliff Effect and Business Tax Credits
- Unemployment Benefit Cuts
- School Diversity Training Restrictions
- Hands-Free Driving
- Law Enforcement Immunity
- Abortion Constitutional Amendment
Major Policy Bills Dead After the Second Funnel
- Felony Voting Rights Constitutional Amendment
- Big Tech Censorship
- Banning Tenure
- Birth Control Access Expansion
- All Vaccine Restriction Bills
- Private School Scholarships
- Traffic Camera Ban
- Public Assistance Oversight
One piece of contentious legislation, the updated bottle bill proposal (SF 470), survived in the Iowa Senate this week. After Governor Reynolds temporarily suspended the bottle redemption program at the beginning of March 2020 due to concerns of spreading COVID-19, several businesses chose to continue to refuse bottle returns. SF 470 would codify this choice for retail outlets if they are within 20 miles of a redemption center, while also raising the handling fees from 1 cent to 2 cents per container. Despite bipartisan discomfort with the proposal, it passed committee, making it eligible for consideration through the end of session.
One of Governor Reynolds’ contentious priorities was approved by the House Ways & Means Committee this week on a vote of 17-5. The so-called Renewable Fuel Bill (HSB 185) would restrict the sale of gasoline without ethanol or is only blended with a small amount of ethanol. The bill would also promote the sale of higher ethanol and biodiesel blends through tax credits and infrastructure grants. The Legislative Services Agency (LSA) estimates the new sales requirements will reduce state revenues by about $220 million from FY 2021 to FY 2031.
On Thursday the Senate Education Committee moved forward the Charter School bill sent over by the House (HF 813) in a party-line 8-5 vote. The debate on the bill was rooted in the rural vs. urban divide with Senator Quirmbach arguing easing Charter School founding requirements could move resources away from rural schools. Senator Sinclair disagreed and said the current law is not working as evidenced by the lack of Charter School in Iowa to date. The bill now needs to pass the full Senate and be signed by the Governor who had this legislation as a piece of her larger education proposal earlier this session.
Amidst the busy week, Democrat Rita Hart withdrew her challenge to the results in Iowa’s 2nd Congressional District in a surprising announcement on Wednesday. Hart’s initial petition grew into a nationalized and increasingly partisan dispute, which she claimed was to ensure “the voices of Iowans who followed the law are not silenced.” Hart stated it had been a difficult process for everyone involved and it was of the utmost importance that everyone works together to ensure the system is reformed so history does not repeat itself. Now the committee will recommend the whole House dispose of the contest verifying now Congresswoman Miller-Meeks as Iowa’s Representative from the 2nd Congressional District.
On Friday Governor Reynolds signed two pieces of gun legislation. The first expands the ability of Iowans to carry a firearm without a permit and the second provides immunity from certain legal actions brought against gun manufacturers on gun-related deaths or accidents.
Iowa COVID-19 Vaccine Information
On Friday (4/2) Governor Reynolds signed a new Public Health Disaster proclamation to extend current measures until May 2, 2021. The proclamation continues suspension of various regulatory measures and overweight truck limits. It doesn’t impose any new measures, masks or otherwise, but she continues to urge Iowans to follow public health recommendations.
In just a few short days, over 1.2 million Iowans who have not already started or finished getting a COVID-19 vaccine will become eligible. Governor Reynolds said the state and its local partners are ready for the broadened eligibility. For those looking to schedule a vaccination appointment, the Iowa Department of Public Health announced vaccine navigators are available 7 days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help eligible Iowans by calling 211 or (800) 244-7431. There are also translation services available.
With Governor Reynold’s target of April 5th for full eligibility of all adults in the state within reach, 1,459,906 doses have been administered to Iowa residents. There have been 353,078 Iowans who have received their first of two doses, while another 601,202 Iowans have completed their vaccination series (both doses). The CDC continues to maintain a case and vaccine data tracker which is updated daily.
With the second funnel in the rearview, floor debate will increase significantly and budget bills will begin moving through the process as legislators prepare for adjournment at the end of the month. As updated budget targets and bills are released, we will provide updates on the overall budget discussions and your key budget priorities.