Week 15 Legislative Update

Legislative Update 

The 2021Iowa Legislative Session

Week of April 19th, 2021  

This Week in the Iowa Legislature 

With just one week left until legislators per diem expires, the pending question is, “will they adjourn on time?” The answer? Unlikely. As leadership continue budget negotiations behind closed doorsmost all other work has come to a standstill. Both chambers conducted their limited committee and floor work over the course of two days this week and most legislators headed back home on Wednesday as there is not much work for rank-and-file members to do. 

Despite budget bills dominating the activity in both chambers over the last two weeksleaders are still unable to agree on spending targets and which priority policy changes will make it across the finish line. The disagreements between the chambers were put on display as the Senate introduced new, slimmed down tax bills this week in an effort to reiterate their priorities since their previously passed tax legislation has gone nowhere in the House.  

Bottle Bill Consideration 

Early in the week a public hearing was held regarding the Iowa House’s proposal to revamp the Bottle Bill yet again. Representative Lundgren filed an amendment to HF 814 that would raise the handling fee paid to redemption centers. This change would align the bill a little more with a version that was considered by the Iowa Senate. Currently, both chambers are looking at bills that would allow grocers and other retailers to opt out of accepting containers if there is a redemption center nearby. The 5-cent deposit and the penny-a-container handling fee have not changed since 1979. There are varying degrees of support for this change, as some find the handling fee to be a paramount issue, while others do not believe it is the solution that is going to fix the bottle bill. Although lawmakers are working to find a deal to overhaul the bottle bill, the fate of the legislation is still unclear. 

Voluntary Diversity Plans 

A bill headed to Governor Reynolds’ desk would nullify voluntary diversity plans at Iowa schools. The House concurred with the Senate’s changes to HF 228 on Tuesday afternoon. Five school districts in Iowa would be directly impacted by the bill, as they currently have voluntary diversity plans. Although the March 1st open enrollment deadline has passed, the bill will immediately allow students from a district with a voluntary diversity plan to enroll in a new school district for the 2021 school year. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimated that 361 students could leave Des Moines schools in the upcoming school year if the bill is signed into law, creating a loss of over $2.6M from the district’s budget.  

Budget Process Update 

A little progress was made on budgets this week as the House introduced and passed their version of the Health and Human Services budget out of subcommittee and they took up the largely noncontroversial Administration and Regulation Budget on the floorThe House made a few minor changes to the bill before passing it on a partyline vote sending it to the Senate. Meanwhile, negotiations continue 

 

Bill #  Department  Status  Target 
SF 594  Administration & Regulation  In Senate 4/6    
HF 867  Amended & Passed House 4/21   
SF 598  Agriculture & Natural Resources  Passed Senate Committee 4/12   
HF 860  In House 4/7   
SF 595  Economic Development  In Senate 4/7   
HF 871  In House 4/14   
SF 596  Education  Passed Senate Committee 4/13   
HF 868  Passed House Committee 4/12   
SF 606  Health & Human Services  Passed Senate Committee 4/17   
LSB1004YA  In House 4/22   
SF 597  Judicial Branch  Passed Senate committee 4/13   
HF 864  In House 4/7   
SF 599  Justice Systems  Passed Senate committee 4/13   
HF 861  In House 4/7   
SF 600  Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF)  Passed Senate Committee 4/14   
HF 862  In House 4/7   
SF 592  Transportation, Infrastructure, & Capitals  In Senate 4/6    
HF 863  In House 4/7   
SSB 1257  Federal Block Grant Appropriations  In House 4/7   

 

COVID-19 Vaccine Update 

Nearly half of Iowa’s counties have rejected new doses of COVID-19 vaccine due to lack of demand, according to state officials. The Iowa Department of Public Health has advised its county counterparts to decline doses when they cannot ensure their ability to use them all, however, the overall lack of demand is of concern. At this time, the department is working with counties to determine where additional education and public awareness campaigns are needed to gain an understanding of the needs of each county’s unique population. If you have not scheduled a vaccine appointment yet, 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) 244-7413. Translation services are available.  

Looking Ahead 

Legislative session may be “scheduled” to adjourn on Friday, April 30th, however it is unlikely we will see work at the statehouse completed by then. Currently, we are hearing rank and file members in each chamber may not be called back to the Capitol until an agreement is reached and confirmed on priority pieces including income and property tax legislationthe biofuel mandate, telehealth issues, and budget targetsExpect things to slow to a crawl until an agreement is reached at which time they will sprint to the finish line and wrap up in a matter of days.