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Week four brought extensive committee work in both chambers Monday-Wednesday, with a slower day on Thursday due to the snow in Des Moines and across the state, though virtual meetings allowed the Senate to continue to conduct business, despite the snowstorm. With numerous bills through committee, we will likely see more floor action in the coming weeks. Over 100 study bills were introduced this week alone, and more are expected as individual requests continue to be drafted. Next week brings the first legislative deadline. Friday, February 12 is the final day for individual senator and representative requests for bill and joint resolution drafts.
2021 Session Deadlines:
Childcare and Education
The House continued advancing childcare bills, addressing their priority of expanding access to childcare. The House also passed HF228, Voluntary Diversity Plans, on Tuesday evening, sending it to the Senate. The bill strikes the ability of school districts to use a voluntary diversity plan as a reason for denying open enrollment, giving parents the ability to decide where their children go to school. The bill passed on a 56-32 party-line vote (12 members were absent). The Senate already approved provisions of HF228 in the Governor’s Education Plan (SF159) on a 26-21 vote last week.
Access to Contraception
The House Human Resources Committee approved HSB121, Hormonal Contraceptives, on a 15-2 vote. The bill allows pharmacists to dispense self-administered hormonal contraceptives without a prescription. In the previous General Assembly, Governor Reynolds prioritized expanding access to contraception to Iowan women in rural areas. In 2019, SF513 passed the Senate on a 42-6 vote. The House Human Resources Committee passed a companion bill, but it never received a floor vote in 2019 or 2020.
- creating a Housing Tax Credit program (aggregate credits of $15 million for affordable housing)
- doubling the existing Workforce Housing Tax Credits ($50 million to clear existing backlog of eligible projects)
- doubling the Redevelopment Tax Credit
- including disaster housing assistance and assistance for downtowns
The Governor’s Office believes Iowa will need an additional 50,000 homes by 2030.
Executive Branch Update
Governor Reynolds has named Michael Bousselot as the new Director of the Department of Management, effective Monday, February 8. Bousselot replaces Director Dave Roederer who served in the role for ten years. Bousselot previously served as Chief of Staff, Legal Counsel, and Policy Advisor in the Branstad-Reynolds administration.
Governor Reynolds plans to request the development of a system to schedule COVID vaccinations. Iowa currently trails much of the nation in the rate of vaccination. The Governor also plans to press federal officials about why Iowa is receiving fewer vaccinations than other states; Iowa is 47th in the nation in per capita vaccine distribution. About 206,000 people in Iowa (6.5% of the population) have received at least one of the two required vaccine doses.
In a few weeks, Senator Charles Grassley is likely to announce whether he will run again. Senator Grassley is 87 and up for re-election in 2022. He served eight terms in the Iowa House, three terms in the U.S. House, and is serving his seventh term in the U.S. Senate.