Week 13 Legislative Update

The 2022 Iowa Legislative Session

Week of April 4th, 2022

This Week in the Iowa Legislature

The first week of April was a quiet one in the Iowa Statehouse. Most floor work was done on Tuesday, with debate concluded for the week by 3pm Wednesday afternoon. The House passed their RIIF and Health and Human Services budget bills, as well as their mobile home rent bill (HF 2562) largely on party-line votes. Conversely, the Senate stuck to mostly non-controversial bills and have yet to advance a single budget proposal through committee.

Chatter around the Capitol tells us the Senate plans to negotiate and amend the House budget bills and send them back hopefully reducing the back-and-forth negotiation that typically occurs and takes much longer. This approach is different than in previous years when members of the House and Senate have met early in the session to discuss budget targets before creating their own versions and then working out a compromise. This is all compounded by the fact that per diem ends in less than two weeks, putting pressure on leaders to cut a deal as members start to get anxious about wrapping things up.

 

Bottle Bill Battle

A poll released last month found 84% of Iowans support the Bottle Bill, and 61% said they want more cans and bottles added to the nickel deposit list in addition to more places to return empties. With such strong support, one may think an update to the law would be an easy task, but as for most policy issues it’s not that simple! Ideas for how to update the bottle bill vary wildly depending on who you ask—consumers, retailers, bottle distributors, and redemption centers all seem to have a different take on how the program should be revised. House and Senate Republicans have competing proposals they say will fix Iowa’s bottle deposit law as many stores have stopped accepting bottle and can returns altogether, and redemption centers struggle to operate when they’ve been getting 1 cent per can for the past 40 years!

The Senate’s approach outlined in SF 2378 would raise the handling fee for beverage containers by a distributor to 2 cents until 2032 and then lower the fee to 1.5 cents. It would also require participating dealers to pay refunds in a reasonable period. Dealers could opt out the program and to refuse to take cans for refunds if their store is within fifteen miles of a redemption center. During floor debate, Senator Schultz argued this proposal is the best path forward with grocers and distributors signing off on the legislation. Democrats argued the bill would lead to the end of the bottle bill.

Earlier this week Senator Jason Schultz gave a statement to Iowa Public Radio saying if they don’t pass this year’s proposed changes to the bottle bill, they will likely eliminate the program altogether in the next legislative session if a compromise between legislators and stakeholders cannot be reached. The bill passed by the Senate on a party-line vote. The House’s version has some similarities, but many differences. House leaders have had the bill on the daily debate calendar, but we have been left to believe not only do they not have an agreement with the Senate, but they don’t have the votes in their caucus for the current proposal. Legislators continue to say this is a priority, so we will see whether this bill can muster up enough support to get over the finish line this session. In the meantime, stay tuned folks!

 

ARPA Funding Allocation

On Wednesday Governor Reynolds announced $100 million in federal ARPA funds will be invested through Destination Iowa to help communities build new attractions. She said, “Communities in all corners of the state are creating unique destinations that give visitors a reason to explore and residents a reason to stay. Destination Iowa will help more communities across move forward in their efforts to boost tourism and economic growth while enhancing the quality of life for Iowans.” Applications for projects will be accepted through May 9, and projects must be completed by June 30, 2026.

 

Budget Process

The House concluded all their budget work this week except the Standings bill after passing the HHS and RIIF bills on Tuesday. On the other side of the Rotunda, the Senate began assigning the House bills to their respective subcommittees, but they have yet to release a target or move them through the subcommittee or committee processes.

 Below is the updated 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 In SENATE subcommittee 3/29  $50.2 million
HF 2560 Ag & Natural Resources In SENATE subcommittee 3/29 $54.1 million
HF 2564 Economic Development In SENATE subcommittee 3/29  $49.4 million
HF 2575 Education In SENATE subcommittee 3/31 $1 billion
HF 2578 Health & Human Services Passed HOUSE 4/05 $2.1 billion
HF 2558 Judicial Branch In SENATE subcommittee 3/24 $200.6 million
HF 2559 Justice Systems In SENATE subcommittee 3/24 $633.8 million
HF 2579 Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF/TIC) Passed HOUSE 4/05 $171.7 million
HF 2557 Transportation In SENATE subcommittee 3/24 $416.1 million
N/A Standings N/A  

 

Looking Ahead

13 weeks down, ??? to go… An expected adjournment is anyone’s guess! As we approach the end of session, we continue to see a shift in energy in the building. Session has officially transitioned to the hurry up and wait stage for those inside and out of the chamber. Although we don’t know what is in store for next week, we’ve heard an array of assumptions varying from the House won’t bring their members back until there is a deal and we will be here through June if needed to ensure the Governor’s priorities move forward. What we do know, the temperature is warming, farmers are itching to get in the fields, next weekend is Easter and as of Monday (11th) they will only be paid for 9 more working days!

We understand leaders are continuing their negotiations and are working to move the train to the end of the line. In the meantime, rank-and-file members of the House have been told to be on call and will not be returning until a deal is cut. Per usual, once a deal is struck, things will move very quickly.