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As of the end of week six, the legislature had passed more than 1,500 bills out of committee. Week seven saw even more committee action, and legislators continue to advance bills in an effort to meet the upcoming funnel deadline, Friday, March 5. Bills that do not advance through one committee by the first funnel are no longer eligible for consideration this session. Floor action is likely to be limited next week with a heavy focus on moving last-minute bills out through the committee process.
The focus of this week in both chambers was advancing the election reform bills. Identical bills (SF413 and HF590) were introduced last week and moved very quickly through the House and Senate committee process to ensure they were both ready for floor action this week.
The House held a public hearing on HF590 on Monday, February 22. Opponents of the bill said the changes are not needed to protect voting and many referenced the successful 2020 election, in which Iowa saw record turnout. Many concerns were expressed about reductions in early voting periods and that the changes to the absentee ballot procedures will make it more difficult for people to cast absentee ballots.
The floor managers of the bill have stated at the hearing that the state needs uniform procedures to encourage confidence in Iowa voting and that the restrictions in the bill are not overly burdensome and will protect voting in Iowa.
The Senate passed SF413 on a 30-16 party-line vote on Tuesday, February 23, after several hours of debate, and sent the bill over to the House. The House took up SF413 (substituting HF590 for SF413) and also passed the bill on a 57-37 party-line vote after a lengthy five-hour debate. The bill was immediately messaged to the Governor and awaits her signature.
Main provisions of the bill include:
- Prohibiting county auditors from sending applications for absentee ballots without receiving a request first
- Prohibiting county auditors from sending applications with pre-filled information
- Reducing the period to request an absentee ballot from 120 days to 70 days
- Reducing the period for early in-person voting and absentee voting from 29 days to 18 days
- Limiting counties to one drop off ballot box site
- Limiting who can drop off a completed absentee ballot for a voter
- Penalties for election misconduct (including felony charges for auditors)
As of this week, the Governor has signed three bills into law:
|Supplemental State Aid (SSA) bill that sets the SSA at 2.4% (increase state aid to schools by $36.5 million).||
|Makes a supplemental appropriation in FY 2021 of $21 million to the CIO to pay for Workday Central, the personnel, accounting, and budgeting system.||
|Makes appropriations for the fiscal year and includes effective date provisions.||
Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack was confirmed to a second term as the Secretary of the USDA on a 92-7 vote. Vilsack previously served as the Secretary of the USDA during the Obama administration.
According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, 626,947 doses have been administered to Iowa residents (which represents about 20% of Iowans) and 155,382 individuals have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series. The Governor announced on Thursday, February 25, that they anticipate moving into the next phase of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout by early April.
The state has added a new tool to the COVID-19 website to help make COVID-19 vaccine provider information more accessible to Iowans.