2020 Iowa Legislative Preview

This content was published prior to the combination of Dentons Davis Brown. Learn more about Dentons Davis Brown.

The 2020 session of the 88th General Assembly (GA) began Monday, January 13th.

Legislative Branch Developments

Makeup of the 88th General Assembly

Republicans maintain their majority in both chambers, though the margin in the House has narrowed from 2019. At the end of the 2019 legislative session, Representative Andy McKean (H.D. 58)—Iowa’s longest serving GOP lawmaker—changed his registration to Democrat. Republicans now hold a 53-47 majority in the House and a 32-18 majority in the Senate.

This interim there have been numerous announcements of legislative retirements and congressional runs. These announcements triggered changes in legislative leadership and positions on various committees:

Legislative Retirements:

  • Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R) Elected in 2002; First woman Speaker (2015-2019)
  • Former Minority Leader Mark Smith (D) Elected in 2001; Minority Leader (2013-2018)
  • Rep. Lisa Heddens (D) – stepped down in 2019; Ross Wilburn (D) won the special election
  • Rep. Ashley Hinson (R) Chair Transportation Committee


  • Sen. Tom Greene (R) Vice Chair Local Government
  • Sen. Tim Kapucian (R) Chair Transportation Committee
  • Sen. Feenstra (R) Chair Ways and Means Committee

Congressional Runs

  • Rep. Ashley Hinson (R) US 1
  • Sen. Miller-Meeks (R) US 2
  • Sen. Feenstra (R) US 4
 U.S. House of Representatives
1st District 2nd District 3rd District 4th District
Incumbents Abby Finkenauer (D) Dave Loebsack (D) Cindy Axne (D) Steve King (R)
Challengers Thomas Hansen (R)

Rep. Ashley Hinson (R)

Bobby Schilling (R)
Sen. Miller-Meeks (R)
Rita Hart (D)

Newman Abuissa (D)

Bill Schafer (R)

Fmr Congressman David Young (R)

JD Scholten (D)

Sen. Randy Feenstra (R)

Jeremy Taylor (R)

Bret Richards (R)

Steve Reeder (R)

New House Leadership

On Monday, October 7, 2019, the Iowa House Republicans held leadership elections triggered by Rep. Linda Upmeyer’s announcement that she would step down as Speaker and not seek re-election in 2020.  Rep. Pat Grassley will serve as Speaker-select and Rep. John Wills as Speaker pro Tempore-select until the General Assembly reconvenes and the full chamber officially votes on the new leadership.

New Committee Chairs

Retirements, congressional announcements, and leadership changes have prompted numerous committee changes.  New committee chairs have been installed on several committees as well as a shuffling of committee members.  The Iowa Legislature website lists full committee membership assignments


  • Appropriations Chair—Rep. Gary Mohr (R)
  • Transportations Chair—Rep. Brian Best (R)
  • HHS Budget Committee Ranking Member—Rep. John Forbes (D)


  • Commerce Chair— Sen. Dan Dawson (R)
  • Ways and Means Chair— Sen. Jake Chapman (R)
  • Human Resources Chair— Sen. Annette Sweeney (R)

State Budget Outlook

State Budget Outlook

Economic growth in Iowa is forecasted to be stronger than expected.  Growth can be attributed to:

  • Federal tax reform netting more state revenue due to deductibility law
  • State tax reform package that lowered personal income collections but increased sales tax receipts by capturing more online sales

In December, the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) projected state government will collect more than $8 billion in net general fund tax receipts this fiscal year.  This is the first time the REC has projected more than $8 billion in receipts.

By law, the governor and legislature must use the December estimate as a starting point for building next fiscal year’s state budget (July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021). The state’s 99% spending limitation means Governor Reynolds will have about $230 million in new money to budget.


December Revenue Estimating Conference

  • $8.015 billion 2020
  • $8.249 billion 2021
  • $290 million budget surplus end of 2019
  • Revenue Growth set at 2% for 2020 and 2.9% in 2021
  • No need for a mid-year budget adjustment (projected Medicaid supplemental appropriation of $106 million requested by DHS)

Major Topics for 2020

Caucuses will set priorities for 2020 in their leadership addresses on opening day of the legislative session.  At this time, we can expect the 2020 session to include tax policy, policy related to workforce (e.g. funding Future Ready Iowa), education funding, child care policy, funding for mental health, criminal justice reform (including felon voting rights) and consideration of a sales tax increase to pay for water quality and environmental programs (Iowa Water and Land Legacy initiative).

Since we are in the second year of the General Assembly, the legislature can consider holdover bills from 2019.  This is significant holdover legislation from 2019 that the legislature can act on in 2020.

  • Hormonal Contraceptives (SF513/HF727)
  • Solar (SF583)
  • Animal Mistreatment (HF737)
  • Withdrawing Life Support (HF594)
  • Immunity in Overdose Cases (HF684/SF342)
  • Traffic Cameras (HF774/SF343)
  • Felon Voting Rights (HJR14)

Executive Branch Developments

New Department Appointments

Over the course of 2019, Governor Reynolds made numerous Executive Branch appointments. These department head appointments are subject to Senate confirmation (except for the Rural Revitalization Program Manager). Gubernatorial appointments must be voted on by the Senate by April 15th.




Kelly Kennedy Garcia replaces Jerry Foxhoven (Interim Gerd Clabaugh) 


Jim Kurtenbach replaces Janet Phipps 

DIA Larry Johnson replaces Rod Roberts
Labor Commissioner Rod Roberts replaces Michael Mauro
DNR Kayla Lyon replaces Bruce Trautman
Rural Revitalization Program Manager

Liesl Seabert 

Superintendent of Banking Jeff Plagge replaces Ron Hanson
PERB Cheryl Arnold replaces Mike Cormack (not confirmed by the Senate)
DOC Beth Skinner replaces Jerry Bartruff
CIO Annette Dunn replaces Robert von Wolfftradt (Interim Jeff Franklin)
Civil Rights Commission Elizabeth Johnson replaces Kristin Johnson (Interim Linda Grathwohl)

Legislative Timetable

The 2020 Iowa Legislative session is slated for 100 days:

2020 Iowa Legislative Session Calendar

Subscribe and stay updated
Receive our latest blog posts by email.
Sydney J. Gangestad

About Sydney J. Gangestad

Sydney is an attorney and lobbyist with over seven years of public policy experience. In her various policy roles, she has developed a fundamental understanding of the legislative process and a non-partisan and bi-partisan approach to lobbying to help advance clients’ legislative agendas.

Full bio

Tim R. Coonan

About Tim R. Coonan

Tim Coonan is a lawyer with a fundamental understanding of the legislative process and a proven track record of success, regardless of which party is control. He is Chair of the Dentons Davis Brown Government Relations Department with over 15 years of lobbying experience before the Iowa Legislature and executive branch agencies and nearly 25 years of public policy experience including three years doing policy work in Washington D.C. with Williams and Jensen PLLC.

Full bio