The 2021 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of February 15th, 2021
This Week in the Iowa Legislature
With the first funnel deadline now just two weeks away, the number of subcommittee and committee meetings continues to increase exponentially. Lawmakers will spend the next two weeks ensuring their priorities pass both subcommittee and committee before the March 5th deadline. The House has passed a substantial amount of bills over to the Senate, a majority of which were passed with large bipartisan majorities, but the Senate has kept a much slower floor debate pace focusing only on the list of must do items.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Iowa has seen a slight improvement in its COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts over the last couple of weeks. As of Friday, nearly 12% of Iowans had received at least their first dose of the vaccine and Iowa has moved up in the state rankings for doses administered per 100,000 residents according to the CDC.
Additionally, several bills intended to expand access to the COVID-19 vaccine advanced in the Iowa House of Representatives this week. The bills would improve administration of vaccines at pharmacies, allow dentists and podiatrists to administer vaccines, and ensure accurate immunization reporting to the state. It appears these bills are being fast-tracked through the process.
The Bottle Bill is Back
The debate over Iowa’s bottle and plastic redemption program has surfaced yet again this session. Several bills related to the bottle redemption program advanced through the process this week and include efforts to require distributors to reveal profits made from unused bottle returns, increase distributor handling fees, and allow beverage retailers to refuse to return containers for deposit under specified circumstances. A bill of particular interest is a new proposal being led by Senator Rozenboom that would allow grocery stores to opt out of the program if a redemption center is within 20 miles, establish a Taxpayer Relief Fund for unused bottle deposits, and replace the current bottle bill program with a new system managed by the Alcoholic Beverages Division. It is yet to be determined which of these proposed solutions to the long-lasting bottle bill debate, or if any, will make it to the Governor’s desk this year.
Voting Process Legislation
On Thursday both the House and the Senate advanced legislation making sweeping changes to Iowa’s voting laws and processes. These proposed changes include limiting absentee ballot drop-off locations to one ballot box, shortening early and absentee voting periods, establishing misdemeanor and felony offenses for failure to adhere to election guidance, and more. The bills are partisan in nature, with Republicans in support and Democrats opposed. Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley believes that changing early voting deadlines will help shorten campaigns. While Democrat Minority Whip Jennifer Konfrst expressed concerns about the potential for voter suppression. These bills were introduced and passed out of full committees within two days and are set to be debated on the floor as early as next week.
The March 5th First Legislative Funnel deadline is now just two weeks away. We expect next week’s schedule to be packed full of subcommittee and committee meetings yet again. To stay up to date on scheduled committees and subcommittees and their virtual access information, follow this link.
The coming week will begin with a public hearing on the new voting process bills discussed above. The bills make changes to early and absentee voting and are being pushed simultaneously by the Republican State Government Committee Chairs in each chamber. This effort could be debated by the full House and Senate as early as the middle of the week.
Dates to Note
- March 5: First funnel deadline (Friday of the 8th week)
- April 2: Second funnel deadline (Friday of the 12th week)
- April 30: 110th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires