The 2020 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of March 2, 2020
This week in the Iowa Legislature
This week was awkwardly quiet. Both chambers engaged in floor work daily and held a few subcommittee and committee meetings, but overall it felt like a slow week. The Senate finished up their work well before noon on Thursday with no floor debate, while the House stayed into the evening to pass more than 10 bills over to the Senate. High profile bills garnering attention included several bills to improve broadband connectivity, defining anti-Semitism, defrauding drug tests, private generation tariffs, federal program eligibility and housing vouchers, and animal mistreatment. They also sent more than a dozen non-controversial bills down to the Governor for her signature.
COVID-19 Virus Surfaces in Iowa
The Governor held an unusual Sunday press conference to announce the Iowa’s State Hygienic Laboratory has indicated three Iowa residents have presumptively tested positive of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19). According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), the individuals are from Johnson County and all were part of a cruise to Egypt. None of them required hospitalization and they are recovering at home in isolation.
The Senate Continues to Prioritize Welfare Oversight Legislation
Last week the Senate passed Public Assistance Oversight, on a party-line vote. This week they kept the momentum moving forward and they passed their second bill in two weeks to tighten up federal welfare requirements, federal program eligibility and housing vouchers. The Senate passed similar bills last session, but the House failed to take up bills on this topic. Democrats remain opposed to the bills and said that the reductions in federal Medicaid payments would hurt Iowa hospitals and health care providers, especially in rural areas. They said that the bill creates barriers to enrollment and will result in some Iowans who should be eligible for Medicaid losing their eligibility.
The House and Senate Agree on Education Funding
This week, the House and Senate finally came to an agreement on K-12 funding for the upcoming school year. Iowa’s schools will receive $99.02 million in new money for the 2020-21 school year, with additional resources specifically targeted towards critical needs like rural school transportation costs and per pupil equity.
The funding breaks down as follows:
Supplemental State Aid $85.57M (2.3% increase)
Rural Transportation $7.65M
Per Pupil Equity $5.8M
IWILL Gets its First Hearing in the Senate
On Wednesday the Senate Ways & Means subcommittee held a hearing on SSB 3116, the Governor’s priority legislation embracing the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund, otherwise coined as the Invest in Iowa Act. This bill includes the 1-cent sales tax with 3/8 of the cent going to the Trust and the other 5/8 establishes the MH/DS state supplement to help counties with MH spending, and reducing income and property taxes.
Stakeholders lined up to speak in favor of the bill, thanking the Governor for her leadership on the overdue legislation. However, legislators didn’t appear anxious to move the bill forward expressing concerns and not taking a vote on the bill to advance it to the full Committee. Senator Chapman, Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, said there may be another subcommittee, but he didn’t commit to one making it clear that the Senate Republican Caucus wants to see deep tax cuts if the bill were to move forward. While Senator Bolkcom questioned where the money was coming from to pay for the programs, citing the regressive sales tax while acknowledging the need for more investments in mental health and environmental programs.
It is clear the fate of the bill is unknown at this time, but it will be essential for policy makers to know their intensions with this bill before they start their budget process as the Governor’s Budget recommendations are based on the passage of the 1-cent sales tax increase.
We are over halfway through session and two weeks from pending second funnel deadline. We expect subcommittee and committee work to pick up substantially over the next week in addition to a fair amount of floor work, to keep the bills moving through the process, especially priority bills with no companion bill.
The Revenue Estimating Committee is scheduled to meet on Thursday. If it reports healthy revenue collections, which most expect, the budget targets will follow soon signaling movement toward adjournment.
In addition, the June primary election filing deadline is March 13. Some candidates have already filed, but many candidates wait to file until the last few days before the deadline. There are currently about a dozen legislators who have announced their retirements. We will provide a complete list of retirements next week.
Dates to Note
- March 12: Revenue Estimating Committee
- March 13: Election Filing Deadline
- March 20: Second funnel deadline (10th week)
- April 21: 100th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires