The 2021 Iowa Legislative Session
Week of March 1st, 2021
This Week in the Iowa Legislature
Funnel week is over! This past week was a big one, with the first funnel deadline for bills on Friday, March 5th coming to a close. Numerous bills were rapidly pushed through the committee process, as lawmakers wanted their bills to survive past the funnel deadline. Prioritized bills ranged from broadband expansion to school curriculum restrictions and election changes.
Governor Reynolds joined 22 other state governors in opposing the new standard used to make federal covid relief fund allocations to states. Reynolds stated the new standard is inequitable by prioritizing states by those unemployed rather than total state population, which she believes will negatively impact the amount of federal aid Iowa will receive.
The Iowa House amended and unanimously passed a pandemic tax relief bill worth $128 million this week. The bill would provide pandemic-related tax exemptions for PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans, certain COVID-19 grants, and unemployment insurance payments received during the pandemic. Lawmakers said taxing pandemic relief funds is wrong, as many Iowans have been adversely impacted with employment struggles since the onset of COVID-19. The bill now goes back to the Senate for final approval before heading to the Governor.
In a last minute move by House Republicans, the Public Safety Committee introduced and passed a priority bill, the “constitutional carry” bill aimed at easing gun restrictions. This would decrease the number of background checks and permit requirements, making it possible for many Iowans to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Currently, Iowans must have a permit to purchase firearms and an additional permit to carry concealed firearms.
COVID-19 Vaccine Update
Iowa has seen a slight improvement in its COVID-19 vaccine distribution efforts over the last couple of weeks, ranking 13th overall in having at least one dose of the vaccine administered to those currently eligible. However, Iowa does rank 49th overall for distribution of second vaccine doses. Governor Reynolds believes the low ranking in Iowa’s distribution of second doses is due to vaccine reporting errors and stated she is working to find a solution. COVID-19 cases have also decreased in the last few weeks. The CDC maintains a case and vaccine data tracker that is updated daily. Also, IDPH announced effective this week Iowans 64 and younger with specified underlying conditions are now eligible for vaccination.
Finally, a vaccine belief and exemptions bill passed the full Senate Human Resources Committee on a 7-6 vote on Tuesday. The bill protects employees from employers acting against them if they refuse to be vaccinated. The bill also prevents the state from including vaccination information on IDs and expands the current vaccination exemption requirement for school-aged children.
With the first legislative funnel behind us, a new phase of the session begins. The coming week will be largely made up of debate as the public policy focus shifts from committee work to the chambers’ respective floors. Both the House and Senate have scheduled meetings for the Ways & Means and Appropriations Committees, but the majority of the policy committees will not meet. Subcommittee work will continue especially in the Senate due to the volume of bills the House has sent over for consideration, however, that work will be limited this week as well. Each chamber has hundreds of bills they could consider, many of which require passage from a committee in the opposite chamber to make the second funnel—which falls on April 2. To stay up to date on scheduled committees and subcommittees and their virtual access information, follow this link.
Dates to Note
- April 2: Second funnel deadline (Friday of the 12th week)
- April 30: 110th calendar day of the session; legislators’ per diem expires