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The second year of the 88th General Assembly convened on Monday. Republicans maintain their majority in both chambers, 53-47 majority in the House and a 32-18 majority in the Senate.
Opening week brought new leadership in the House: Rep. Pat Grassley (HD 50) was elected by the chamber to serve as the Speaker of the Iowa House; Rep. John Wills (HD 1) was elected as Speaker pro Tempore; and Rep. Matt Windschitl (HD 17) was chosen by his caucus as the Majority Leader.
Speaker Upmeyer bid farewell to her leadership role as she formally announced her resignation as Speaker to the chamber. Upmeyer has served nine terms in the Iowa House and was the first woman elected to serve as Speaker; she will not be seeking reelection. She thanked her fellow legislators and reflected on the accomplishments of the chamber.
Below are links to the opening day speeches from legislative leaders:
Joint Sessions convened for the Conditions of the State, Judiciary, and National Guard. The Governor delivered her third Condition of the State. Acting Chief Justice Wiggins delivered his first, and only, Condition of the Judiciary—he has served as the acting Chief Justice since the death of Chief Justice Cady in November. An initial draft of the speech was prepared by Chief Justice Cady. Justice Wiggins will be retiring from the Court in March. Major General Benjamin Corell delivered his first Condition of the National Guard.
Condition of the State
The theme of the Governor’s 2020 address was “Opportunity Lives Here.” Governor Reynolds discussed a number of her budget and policy priorities in her address, including:
- $20 million for flood relief in Eastern and Western Iowa
- Increase the sales tax by one cent ($540 million) to fund income tax cuts, property tax cuts and to fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund
- 3/8 of the proposed one cent sales tax increase will go to fully fund the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund
- $99.5 million from the Trust will go toward water quality and $52.3 million for conservation and recreation
- Cut income taxes by 10% and lower the highest rate to 5.5%
- Reduce property taxes by lowering the per capita county mental health levy from $47.28 to $12.50 ($77 million reduction)
- Repeal the water excise tax and exempt diapers and feminine hygiene products from sales tax
- Increase the eligibility for the Early Childhood Development and Child and Dependent Care tax credits by doubling the maximum net income amount to $90,000
- Increase state funding for the mental health system by $80 million to offset the reduced levies and to help regions and counties maintain and improve MH services
- $2 million for the Renewable Fuels Infrastructure Program, as well as modernizing and expanding the E-15 Plus Promotion Tax Credit
- Increase the number of doctors who are willing and able to provide OB services across the state
- Expand telehealth to underserved areas, remove barriers that currently restrict schools from partnering with telehealth providers
- Additional $15 million for broadband (via Empower Rural Iowa Act)
- Expand the Last Dollar Scholarship and the Employer Innovation Fund by $2.8 million each
- Focus on prisoner re-entry, give returning citizens a second chance (working with Iowa employers to meet workforce needs)
- Amend Constitution so it no longer bars felons from voting after a sentence is served
- Adopt universal licensing recognition (current licensing system costs Iowa 48,000 jobs and $290 million)
Overall, Governor Reynolds has proposed a budget of about $8.093 billion, which is an increase of about 4.4% in spending ($400 million under the budget expenditure limit). Find the entire text of the Governor’s address here:
With the drop of the opening gavel and new leadership installed, both chambers are eager to get to work. As of Thursday, January 16, there have been 165 bills filed and 30+ subcommittees have been scheduled. Given the volume of bills filed and the priorities outlined in opening addresses, 2020 may shape up to be a very busy legislative session.