The 2020 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of February 24, 2020
This week in the Iowa Legislature
The week following funnel is dominated by floor action, and this past week was no exception. The House and Senate debated and passed dozens of bills as they worked to move forward high profile bills and those with no companion in the other chamber. Subcommittee and committee meetings were rare, and most were bills with small fees or spending provisions, for example, in either Ways & Means or Appropriations subcommittees. High profile bills getting attention this week included Classroom Behavior, Weapons Rules, and County Zoning in addition to Tort Reform and Public Assistance Oversight which were more controversial.
Much to everyone’s surprise, there was no talk of passing a budget for school funding. It’s been nearly two weeks since the legislature missed the deadline requiring them to pass a budget. It is unclear when they will take up the bill. This is just one of the issues that will have to be completed before budget targets can be set and serious budget discussions can begin.
Medical Malpractice is on the Horizon
After a lengthy and spirited debate the Senate passed SF 2338, Tort Reform, with a 30 to 20 vote. This legislation would cap noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, at $750,000 in cases of medical malpractice. The current Iowa law caps damages to $250,000 but allows juries an exemption if it feels $250K does not justly cover noneconomic damages. Proponents of the bill argue that Iowa cannot retain doctors who pay for their own malpractice insurance due to increased rates and move to other states with more affordable rates. Opponents of this bill argue this bill takes away a victim’s right to trial by jury. There is no House Companion to the Senate bill.
Controversial Public Assistance Oversight bill Clears the Senate
In an effort to keep the issue alive, the Senate once again passed SF 2272, Public Assistance Oversight, on a party-line vote. Senator Schultz has made this bill a priority and used his position as the Chair of the Labor and Business Relations Committee to issue the bill through the process. The bill would reform the state’s welfare programs including adding verifications for accessing SNAP and Medicaid, requiring DHS to implement new computer verifications for the income and eligibility of individuals receiving public benefits and to make home visits to recipients of SNAP. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House, but Rep. Lundgren, Chair of the Humans Resources Committee, has indicated she doesn’t have interest in moving these bills forward.
We expect more of the same this week with a significant number of bills making it from the floor of one chamber to the other chamber and then through the subcommittee and committee process. We do anticipate a little bit more action in committees though as a few bills have been considered and are ready to make their way through the process.
Additionally, this is the point in session when we would normally expect to see budget targets surface to keep the process moving toward adjournment. However, the hold up with the Education funding bill has clearly slowed the process.
If you are looking to get time with legislators to talk about your organization’s pending priorities, the next few weeks are ideal as they will be in the chambers and largely available during scheduled floor debate.
Dates to Note
- March 12: Revenue Estimating Committee
- March 20: Second funnel deadline (10th week)
- April 21: 100th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires