Week four of the legislative session was action-packed. Drafters, legislators, advocates, and staff are hustling to keep up with the pace and volume of bills being introduced and moving through committees. A number of controversial public hearings drew large crowds to the Capitol throughout the week, packing the hallways with demonstrators. In addition to these gatherings, significant traffic of advocacy groups and visitors made for a loud and lively week in the building.
At this time last year, Governor Reynolds had already signed her top priority into law, Education Savings Accounts (HF68), and major legislation on tort reform was underway. This year, it has taken more time for priority bills to start moving. Among the Governor’s top priorities, AEA Reform has stumbled out of the blocks (see below); this seems to be consuming most of the energy in both chambers with the first funnel rapidly approaching. A number of the Governor’s priorities have yet to be introduced—most anticipated is the introduction of the Governor’s bill implementing recommendations of Boards and Commissions Review Committee—and some of her priorities have yet to receive hearings.
Almost 270 new bills were introduced this week, a testament to the number of new ideas lawmakers brought to the Capitol for the second session of this General Assembly.
On Thursday, the Governor introduced a bill related to Sex & Statutory Construction (HSB649). The bill makes definitions of sex to be used in statutory construction, including defining sex as the biological sex at birth, either male or female, and requiring the use of this definition on original birth certificates. Any subsequent birth certificate issued due to a gender transition, or a driver’s license, will also include the original sex designation.
Governor Reynolds made the following statement about HSB649:
“Women and men are not identical; they possess unique biological differences. That’s not controversial, it’s common sense. Just like we did with girls’ sports, this bill protects women’s spaces and rights afforded to us by Iowa law and the constitution. It’s unfortunate that defining a woman in code has become necessary to protect spaces where women’s health, safety, and privacy are being threatened like domestic violence shelters and rape crisis centers. The bill allows the law to recognize biological differences while forbidding unfair discrimination.“
The other major bill introductions last week were two major tax bills introduced by Senate Republicans, the Income Tax Elimination Bill (SSB3141) and the Income Tax Constitutional Amendment (SSB3142). These two bills comprise the multi-year tax package that the legislature intends to move forward this session, with additional input and amendment from stakeholders and the public. Though not final or agreed to, the House will introduce companion bills early next week.
|Income Tax Elimination Bill (SSB3141)
|Creates a new fund, the Individual Income Tax Elimination Fund (IITEF), and uses funds from the Taxpayer Relief Fund (TRF) to drive down income tax rates.
$3.5 billion will be invested into IPERS to generate a return; returns will be utilized to fund the IITEF.
Provides a framework that will allow for acceleration of Income Tax Reduction:
-FY26 – 3.775% flat rate
-FY27 – 3.65% flat rate
Sales tax growth will trigger additional reductions in the flat rate until we eventually reach 0%.
Stable framework to get to 0% over the next two or three decades.
|Income Tax Constitutional Amendment (SSB3142)
|Proposed Constitutional Amendment would impose a 2/3 requirement (supermajority) for the Legislature to raise taxes and would put a flat tax in the Iowa Constitution.
One of the Governor’s main priorities this session has hit a snag in the House. Her proposal to reform Iowa’s AEAs had a House subcommittee on Wednesday, where lawmakers (Representatives Wheeler [R)], Collins [R], and Steckman [D]) decided that more conversations with stakeholders were necessary before they could advance the bill out of subcommittee. The Iowa State Education Association, several superintendents, and AEA employees spoke at the hearing in opposition to the legislation. Other district leaders supported the bill, arguing their schools would be better off with more flexibility if the money was granted directly to the districts.
The same afternoon, the Senate held a subcommittee (Senators Evans [R], Donahue [D], and Rozenboom [R]) on the same bill, which they chose to advance to the full Education Committee.
Earlier in the week, the Governor released the revisions to the AEA bill. Under the amended bill, the AEAs would be allowed to provide non-special education services, including professional development services, media services, and other education services if a school district requests them. Instead of being governed by a board of directors, each AEA would be placed under the supervision of the Department of Education Director. The AEAs’ boards would be given an advisory role.
The bill also includes a section on teacher pay, increasing the minimum starting salary from $33,500 to $50,000, and introducing a new minimum salary of $62,000 for teachers with at least 12 years of experience.
Governor Reynolds released a statement on the passage of the bill out of the Senate subcommittee.
“From the start, my focus has been on improving special education for Iowa’s students with disabilities. I want to thank the Senate Education subcommittee for their willingness to continue the conversation. The amendment reflects feedback from legislators, parents, teachers, and school superintendents, ensuring that AEAs can continue offering the services they do today. If schools like the services provided by their AEA, they can continue to use them. By allowing schools to control their funding, creating efficiencies in the AEA system, and increasing teacher salaries, more money will be infused into our classrooms, so every student receives the quality education they deserve.“
Striking Gender Protections
HF2082, a bill that would remove gender identity as a protected class under the Iowa Civil Rights Act, was unanimously rejected by a House subcommittee on Wednesday. The bill would have removed legal protections from discrimination for transgender Iowans and instead included gender dysphoria as a disability. In 2020 a similar bill died in the House Judiciary Committee under Representative Holt as chair. Currently, the Iowa Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, ancestry, disability, and gender identity. The protections for gender identity were added in 2007.
Unauthorized Alien Workers
SF108 prohibits the employment of unauthorized workers and requires the use of the E-Verify system. The bill sponsor, Senator Garrett, said that the E-Verify system works very well but Senator Bisignano, who opposed the bill, said that legislators should listen to Iowa businesses that believe that the E-Verify system still has too many glitches. The bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday but did not advance in the House.
On Tuesday, Senate Democrats released a legislative package on reproductive freedom, one of their main priorities this session. Senator Jochum said, “Iowans prize their freedom – and that includes the freedom to plan and decide their reproductive future. With this legislative package, we’re answering their call for reproductive freedom by guarding against extreme bans and destructive policies that endanger the health of Iowans.”
|Reproductive Protection Amendment
|Proposes an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to protect all forms of reproductive care, including contraception and abortion.
|Authorizes pharmacists to dispense self-administered hormonal contraceptives.
|Restores the family planning program that was in force in 2017.
|Right To Contraception
|Makes legislative findings on the right to contraception and establishes a right to contraception.
|Post Partum Coverage
|Directs the DHHS to seek a federal waiver to extend Medicaid coverage for post-partum services to 12 months.
The Governor introduced her own bill related to Hormonal Contraceptives HSB642 on Wednesday. The bill authorizes pharmacists to dispense a 12-month supply of self-administered hormonal contraceptives pursuant to a standing order created by the HHS; and includes requirements for coverage under health insurance and Medicaid.
The Governor’s constitutional life amendment is still awaiting consideration after last summer’s special session. HJR 5 has not moved in 2024 but could be pushed forward by floor managers Representative Holt or Senator Chapman.
The legislature has not yet acted on the Constitutional Life Amendment. HJR5 was first passed in 2021, the 89th General Assembly. To be placed on the ballot in the upcoming election, the same resolution would have to be passed this session (the 90th General Assembly) and properly noticed as required by Iowa Constitution Article X and Iowa Code sections 49A.1 and 49A.3.
Executive Branch Update
In addition to the Governor’s bills listed above, these are the Governor’s bills that have been introduced
|HSB 543; SSB 3038
|Individual Income Tax, Property Tax, and State Funds
|State Government Reorganization, Code Changes
|HSB 542; SSB 3073
|Area Education Agencies
|Literacy Requirements, Students and Teacher Preparation Programs
|HSB 643; SSB 3140
|Postpartum Coverage, Medicaid
|Administrative Rules, Regulatory Analyses and Authority
|Definition of Sex, Public Records and Statutory Construction
|Agricultural Land, Foreign Ownership
|Dispensing of Self-Administered Hormonal Contraceptives
Governor bills that have been requested, but not yet introduced:
- Behavioral Health Service System
- Opioid Settlement Fund Appropriation
- Public Entity Investments, ESG Prohibition
- Internet Age Verification and Liability
- State Employee Paid Parental Leave
Attorney General Bird Leads 27-State Coalition Supporting Texas Border Defense Barriers
“President Biden and his Administration have left Americans and our country completely vulnerable to unprecedented illegal immigration pouring across the Southern border. Instead of upholding the rule of law and securing the border, the Biden Administration has attacked and sued Texas for stepping up to protect American citizens from historic levels of illegal immigrants, deadly drugs like fentanyl, and terrorists entering our country.
We stand in solidarity with our fellow Governor, Greg Abbott, and the State of Texas in utilizing every tool and strategy, including razor wire fences, to secure the border. We do it in part because the Biden Administration is refusing to enforce immigration laws already on the books and is illegally allowing mass parole across America of migrants who entered our country illegally.
The authors of the U.S. Constitution made clear that in times like this, states have a right of self-defense, under Article 4, Section 4 and Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution. Because the Biden Administration has abdicated its constitutional compact duties to the states, Texas has every legal justification to protect the sovereignty of our states and our nation.“
Governor Reynolds will join Texas Governor Greg Abbott and fellow Governors for a press conference on Sunday, February 4 to address immigration policy in the state of Texas.
Senator Todd Taylor announced his retirement this week and will seek the Linn County Auditor position after serving in the Legislature since 1995; Taylor served in the House until 2019, when he was elected to the Senate, replacing Senator Wally Horn. Taylor is the ranking member of the Justice Systems budget subcommittee.
With some of the Governor’s priorities moving forward and some stalled in one or both chambers, the legislative and executive branches will have their work cut out for them. Large numbers of bills moved out of committees this week, meaning floor work will begin in the coming weeks.
Next week, the priority will continue to be at the subcommittee and committee levels as policymakers race to “funnel proof” their priorities as the next major milestone of the 2024 legislative session comes in week six. Friday, February 16, is the first legislative funnel. That is functionally eight legislative days from now given that the legislature typically adjourns for the week on Thursdays. The full 2024 Session Timetable can be found here.