The 2021 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of April 26th, 2021
This Week in the Iowa Legislature
The final week of the ‘scheduled’ session timeline has finally arrived but adjournment still appears out of reach. With budget negotiations ongoing and lawmakers in each chamber not budging on their priorities, session will continue into the coming weeks until an agreement can be reached. Amidst the budget gridlock and end-of-session pressure to wrap up, both chambers moved a handful of bills through the process, sent several to the Governor, and had a couple surprises up their sleeve, including taking the first step to ban Vaccine Passports.
HF 889, a leadership bill introduced last Friday, would prohibit state or local governments from noting on an ID whether the ID holder has received their COVID vaccination. In addition, HF 889 prohibits businesses and governments from requiring proof of vaccination before a person can enter a building. The bill also disqualifies a business, local government, or agency from receiving state contracts or grants if they require proof of vaccination. Although a priority and having seen this legislation pass in about a dozen other states, leaders excluded health care facilities and institutions including hospitals and nursing homes and it does not prevent an employer from requiring vaccination of employees who don’t assert a medical or religious objection. The bill moved quickly and passed through subcommittee and committee in both chambers by mid-week and after about 90 minutes of debate the full House passed the bill on Wednesday night. Despite its status, several groups voiced concerns about banning the vaccine passport and whether health facilities should be excluded or not. Governor Reynolds has committed to work with lawmakers on the language of the bill as it goes to the Senate for consideration as it is expected to make it to her desk.
Iowa will soon receive an upgrade to their historically low internet speeds, as Governor Reynolds signed HF 848 on Tuesday which provides hundreds of millions of dollars for broadband expansion. The legislature is making a $100 million investment the first year which is intended for companies providing high-speed broadband service to underserved areas of the state. It will likely be supplemented by federal money available through federal coronavirus relief dollars, and potentially the Biden administration’s infrastructure plan. By increasing internet speeds across the state, Iowans will be able to compete effectively for the ever-expanding pool of remote work opportunities and rural areas can attract professionals who might otherwise relocate.
Budget Process Update
The legislature took a small step forward on budgets this week as negotiations continue. The first budget bill was sent to the Governor on Wednesday when the Senate passed the Administration and Regulation budget with $100 million for broadband expansion. They also sent the Transportation, Infrastructure, and Capitals budget to the House where it is expected to pass. The House moved their version of the Health and Human Services budget out of committee. Meanwhile, session remains on hold while leaders continue their negotiations on all other bills.
|SF 594||Administration & Regulation||In Senate 4/6|
|HF 867||Passed House & Senate 4/28, To Governor|
|SF 598||Agriculture & Natural Resources||Passed Senate Committee 4/12|
|HF 860||Passed House Committee 4/7|
|SF 595||Economic Development||Passed Senate Committee 4/7|
|HF 871||Passed House Committee 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|
|HF 891||Passed House Committee 4/28|
|SF 597||Judicial Branch||Passed Senate Committee 4/13|
|HF 864||In House 4/7|
|SF 599||Justice Systems||Passed Senate Committee 4/14|
|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||Amended & Passed Senate 4/28|
|HF 863||In House 4/7|
|SF 615||Standings||Passed Senate Committee 4/27|
|SF 614||Federal Block Grant Appropriations||Passed Senate Committee 4/28|
Child Care Task Force Virtual Town Hall
On March 10th, Governor Reynolds signed Executive Order 8, launching a new Childcare Task Force to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the shortage and barriers to childcare in Iowa. Then on Wednesday, Governor Reynolds announced two virtual Town Hall meetings to include direct input from parents and childcare providers. The first virtual meeting will be held for parents with children in childcare on May 6th from 6:00-8:00 p.m., followed by another on June 1st for childcare providers. If you are interested in participating, email Ryan.Crapps@governor.iowa.gov with your name, affiliation (if any), and which town hall you are requesting to participate.
Charter Schools & Divisive Topics
Wednesday brought debate over controversial bills, approved on a party-line vote in the Senate, that would create new pathways for charter schools to form independently in Iowa. HF 813 would allow charter schools to apply and report directly to the State Board of Education. Many amendments were brought forth by Democrats to require specific restrictions or mandates for charter school operations and hiring practices, but all amendments failed. In addition, the Senate passed an amended version of HF 802, a bill prohibiting certain “divisive concepts” from mandatory training and school curriculum. Both pieces of legislation were passed just days after hundreds of Des Moines Public School students and parents gathered on the Capitol steps to protest the legislation. Those concerned with the divisive concepts bill say it would restrict the ability to have meaningful discussions about race and history in schools, while concerns were raised by students that the charter school bill will take funding from public schools. The divisive concepts bill must return to the House as amended and the charter school bill now heads to the Governor’s desk.
The scheduled adjournment date has now come and gone with no end in sight. April 30th was supposed to be the final day of the 2021 Legislative session, however with budget and policy negotiations making little progress this week, there is no clear date projected for adjournment. Talk on the hill tells us the issues holding things up are tax cuts and moving to state oversight of the mental health system. It is unclear on whether legislators will return next week for a marathon to conclude the session, or as mentioned we may see slow progress spread out over the next several weeks. As you know, once an agreement is made, things will move quickly, but until then its anyone’s guess.