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The 88th General Assembly convened this week, with Republicans holding a 32-18 majority in the Senate and a 54-46 majority in the House.
Floor action focused on canvassing the 2018 election, organizing the chambers, opening day speeches from legislative leaders, and Joint Sessions convened for the Conditions of the State, Judiciary, and National Guard speeches from Governor Reynolds, Chief Justice Cady, and General Orr respectively. Below are links to the opening day speeches and the Condition of the State speech.
At the committee level, rules were adopted, and committee members provided introductions as the committees readied themselves for the work ahead. In the Senate, the Democrats objected to proposed rule changes (and ultimately adopted) which, among other things, struck the rule requiring 24-hour notice for any subcommittee or committee meeting, causing delay and contention on day two. House Republicans proposed no such changes and as such did not have any issues adopting committee rules.
On Friday, January 18, the legislature will convene a Joint Session at the Iowa Events Center for the swearing-in of Governor Reynolds and other state officials. Throughout the day there will be activities surrounding the Governor’s inauguration, culminating at the inaugural ball on Friday evening.
In addition to the debate caused by committee rules adoption in the Senate, there were several other exceptional occurrences in the opening week of the General Assembly, which is usually the most predictable and formality-driven week of the session.
House District 55 Election Results
With a close margin and controversy over uncounted mailed-in ballots, the district court determined that the outcome of the election in House District 55 must be decided by the legislature. An election committee was appointed and met to organize, but no decision was made nor is one expected until next week at the earliest. The outcome of this process will not change the make-up of the legislature but is still important given the small advantage Republicans have in the House. This is quite historic, there have only been two election contests over the last 45 years.
Committee assignments are usually set well in advance of session. On Sunday, January 13, Senator Nate Boulton was given committee assignments. He had not previously been assigned to any committees due to the pending Senate investigation into allegations of sexual harassment. The investigation concluded that the Senate has no jurisdiction over these allegations because the incidents occurred prior to his time in the Senate.
It was discovered that Secretary of State Paul Pate failed to fulfill the requirement to publish notice of two proposed constitutional amendments dealing with gun rights and government succession planning. Joint resolutions on both passed in the 2018 legislature and the next step required public notice 90 days prior to the 2018 election. Had the notice been published, they would have been up for a second vote in the legislature this year, and then, assuming they were approved, they would have been on the 2020 ballot for a public vote.
Pate’s failure to publish these notices will result in the process starting over again. The earliest either of these proposed Constitutional amendments will be on the ballot will be in 2022, assuming they can successfully make it through the legislative process in the 88th and 89th General Assemblies.
With the drop of the opening gavel and committees organized, legislators are eager to get to work. The 32 new members of the House and Senate will be expected to quickly settle into their new roles. As of Thursday, January 17, there were 104 bills filed in the Senate and 51 bills filed in the House. Gleaning from the priorities outlined in opening addresses, 2019 may shape up to be a very busy legislative session.