2018 Legislative Session

Count on Iowa Public Radio to keep you up to date on the state. Follow our coverage of the legislative session on-air, online or from your mobile device.

IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell will present the latest news from the state capitol on Morning Edition (5:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.), All Things Considered (4:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.) and throughout the day.

Ben Kieffer and the IPR talk show team will unpack conversations with lawmakers, interest groups and those impacted by legislation while also inviting listener questions on River to River each Monday at Noon.

Subscribe to our weekly podcast Under the Golden Dome. John Pemble gives listeners a front row seat for the most contentious debates and helps you understand not just what is happening, but why.  

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa’s court system could soon be filling vacant judge positions across the state that have been causing delays in court proceedings, if a proposed House GOP budget becomes law.  

To balance the budget for the fiscal year that ends in June, the courts eliminated 67 positions statewide and held open judicial vacancies for an average of one year.

Under a House GOP Judicial Branch budget that advanced this week, the court system would get a $4.3 million increase in its appropriation next year.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

There were emotional remembrances from the floor of the Iowa House and Senate Tuesday as gay and lesbian lawmakers honored Iowa civil rights activist Donna Red Wing, who died Monday at the age of 67.   

Red Wing led the advocacy organization One Iowa from 2012 to 2016, and was nationally recognized for her work on behalf of the LGBT community.      

Rep. Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids) recalled her own history dealing with discrimination from a young age because of her sexual orientation.

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John Pemble / IPR

The Iowa Senate adopted a new sexual harassment prevention policy Tuesday as part of its response to a high-profile $1.75 million harassment settlement against Senate Republicans.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Bare bones budgets keeping state agency funding at the levels of three years ago won preliminary approval at the statehouse today, as work began in earnest on next year’s overall state budget. 

Lawmakers from both parties expressed concern about short-staffing in public safety jobs.  

On a party-line vote, the GOP-dominated House Appropriations Committee approved what they’re calling status quo funding for the justice system, which covers highway patrol, prisons, and the state crime lab.   

John Pemble/IPR

Republicans and Democrats sparred today over GOP plans to cut income and other taxes before lawmakers wrap up their 2018 legislative session.  

Separate bills in the House and Senate would cut taxes by as much as $2 billion over five years.  

Both chambers would also increase sales taxes to help cover the cost of the income tax cuts.  

Sen. Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque) is ranking Democrat on the Senate Ways and Means Committee.   Speaking on Iowa Public Radio’s River to River, she predicted low to middle income taxpayers would barely come out ahead.

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John Pemble/IPR

Republicans who control the Iowa House unveiled a more than $1 billion tax cut bill. And, Republicans who control the Senate have their own new $2 billion tax plan. Time is ticking on the Iowa legislative session because lawmakers’ expense accounts expire on Tuesday. IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell breaks it down. 

John Pemble/IPR

State lawmakers return to the capitol today, starting another week of negotiations within the Republican party over how much to cut state income taxes.   

The GOP-controlled House and Senate last week unveiled updated and competing tax plans.   

House members call  their tax cut bill “significant but responsible,” while the Senate’s is, in  their words “bold but prudent.”

Under the House bill, the average individual income tax cut would reach nearly 9 percent.   The bill would cost $1.3 billion over five years.  

university of iowa
Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

The University of Iowa is putting construction and maintenance on hold in order to absorb an estimated $5.5 million worth of budget cuts from state lawmakers. School officials say stalling necessary repairs will cost more in the long term. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

There are only a few days before per diems stop for legislators. It's the goal for the session to end by the 100th day -- April 17th -- but with two different tax codes in the works and no fiscal year 2019 budget, it's likely the session will continue longer. 

On this "Pints and Politics" edition of River to River, Ben Kieffer co-hosts with Gazette investigative reporter Erin Jordan. They ask panelists to discuss the latest in national and state politics, including what is likely happen before the end of the Iowa legislative session.

"They're going to do tax cuts, they're going to do the budget, and that might be it." says panelist and politics reporter for The Gazette, James Lynch. "Usually the hundredth day, when their money runs out, is an incentive to wrap things up."

mike cormack
Joyce Russell/IPR

Senate Democrats Thursday blocked Iowa Public Employment Relations Board Chairman Mike Cormack from returning to his position.

They voted down Gov. Kim Reynolds’ nominee for his role in administering a controversial collective bargaining law passed last year. Cormack’s board oversees the elections public-sector unions must now hold before each contract negotiation.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Iowa legislature honored accomplished native daughter and record-breaking astronaut Peggy Whitson with a joint House and Senate Resolution today.   

Whitson is from Mount Ayr and grew up on a farm near Beaconsfield.  

When she returned from her most recent mission last September, Whitson had spent over 289 days in orbit, and had cumulatively spent over 665 days during her three missions aboard the International Space Station, more time living and working in space than any other American or any woman worldwide.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

Gov. Reynolds’ nominee for a position on the Iowa Board of Medicine went down to defeat in a  confirmation vote in  the Iowa Senate today.  

Nevada resident Katherine Asjes is the wife of a NATO flight officer with a background in public relations who has lived all over the world, but settled in Iowa in 2005.     

The Senate voted 30 to 18 for confirmation, short of the two-thirds majority required.

Senate Democrats objected to a post on a Catholic blog in which Asjes agreed with negative views about the LGBT community.    

Joyce Russell/IPR

On a strict party-line vote, Republicans in the Iowa House today approved a proposed constitutional amendment to clarify the line of succession when an Iowa lieutenant governor assumes the governorship.     

Republicans say that will correct what some saw as an error over the appointment of acting Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg last year. 

When Gov. Reynolds assumed the governorship last year, according to an opinion from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, she was not able to formally appoint Adam Gregg to the second-in-command position.    

John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Reynolds' $1.7 billion tax cut bill was the subject of a public hearing at the statehouse last night, where dozens of Iowans weighed in for and against.  

The bill which is under consideration in the House cuts personal income taxes by up to 23 percent as well as small business taxes.    It would cost the state treasury $300 million a year starting next year.

One supporter, Amy Boozell, is a mother of five who works with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Story County.    She says working people deserve a break on their taxes.

John Pemble/IPR

  

The Head of the Iowa Department of Human Services is defending the state’s privatized Medicaid system, after a scathing report last week by the state ombudsman.  

The report said complaints from patients and providers jumped by 157% last year, making Medicaid one of the top targets of complaints from citizens reporting difficulties with the government.

Since April of 2016, for-profit companies have managed the program for 640,000 Iowans who are poor or disabled.

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John Pemble/IPR

We’re headed into the last few weeks of the legislative session, and as usual for a Monday, IPR’s Clay Masters and Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell chatted about the legislature on Morning Edition.

Gov. Reynolds won’t face a primary challenge, but the possibility of a challenge hasn’t seemed to affect her work.  Russell says the governor had a limited legislative agenda this year, primarily consisting of the “Future Ready” workforce development legislation, which she has already signed. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate will return to the negotiating table at the capitol Monday, hoping to find agreement within their party on tax cuts that will clear the way for adjournment of this year’s legislative session. 

A Senate bill cuts taxes more than the governor and the Republican-controlled House are recommending.   Work on the more than $7 billion state budget can’t get underway in earnest until the tax issues are resolved.  

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver thinks a resolution on taxes and targets for the budget can be completed this week.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

At this point, it's common to hear bills are enrolled. This means both chambers have approved a bill and it awaits the governor to sign it in to law or veto.  Because the chambers are controlled by the same party as the governor, a vetos are highly unlikely.

John Pemble/IPR

A bill that aims to correct some of the problems in Iowa’s privatized Medicaid system advanced in the Republican-controlled Iowa House this week.  

The bill comes as complaints continue from patients not getting services and providers not getting paid. 

A House committee approved HF2483 on Tuesday, one day after the state ombudsman released a scathing report on the privatized program, including services for the elderly and disabled.

rogers speaks to school choice people
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Supporters of programs to expand state funding for various forms of non-public education rallied at the Iowa Capitol Wednesday along with hundreds of students.

They have been advocating for new laws that would give state money to students enrolling in private schools, among other initiatives. So far, their legislative priorities have not made it to the full House or Senate. 

Trish Wilger, executive director of Iowa Advocates for Choice in Education, says there is still time left in this legislative session to address those issues.

flossyflotsam/flickr

College students at Iowa’s Regents universities should plan to spend a little more for supplies under a bill that advanced in the Iowa House today.  

The bill would eliminate the sales tax exemption students currently enjoy at university-owned campus bookstores. 

Private industry complains the tax break is unfair competition.  

The owner of Iowa Book, a private store near campus, wrote a letter to lawmakers urging them to change the law.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

After hours of debate, and on a mostly party-line vote, Republicans in the Iowa House Tuesday approved legislation they say will ensure that local governments in Iowa cooperate with federal immigration authorities.  

GOP lawmakers told stories of serious crimes committed in other states where they say immigrants in the country illegally are “caught and released.”      

Under the bill, no city or county in Iowa may adopt a policy that discourages enforcement of federal  immigration laws or keeps police from inquiring about the immigration status of someone in detention.   

Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowans who are struggling to afford health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s individual marketplace gathered around Gov. Kim Reynolds today as she signed legislation allowing a lower-cost, unregulated product to take the place of traditional insurance. 

Under the bill, the plans will not be required to cover pre-existing conditions or other mandates of Obamacare.  

Katherine Perkins / Iowa Public Radio

Whether or not to expand, repeal, or restructure Iowa’s bottle bill, the legislation that created the bottle deposit in Iowa, has been a perennial issue at the state capitol. This year, the conversation surrounding the bill has been more serious. There have been bills introduced to repeal the bottle bill, bills to expand it, and now there’s ongoing discussion about creating an amendment to another bill that would move can and bottle redemption out of grocery stores across Iowa.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

We’re heading into the last few weeks of the legislative session, and there are still a few big things to be done before lawmakers go home, as we hear in a discussion between IPR's Joyce Russell and Michael Leland on Morning Edition.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

On Monday, Gov. Kim Reynolds talks about firing the Director of Iowa Finance Authority, Dave Jamison.  She says he was terminated for credible allegations of sexual harassment.  She reiterates her zero tolerance policy, but reveals very little about the allegations due to privacy concerns for the victims.

In November, Reynolds said a Senate Republican report about past sexual harassment should reveal additional information about past claims while protecting personal information.  Reporters ask the governor how not releasing information related to Jamison is different. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Families of loved ones who have suffered and died from mental illness gathered in the statehouse rotunda today to see Governor Reynolds sign two mental health bills into law.     

One comprehensive bill creates a new system of care facilities statewide for those in crisis. 

“We must identify the gaps in our system and this bill does that,” Reynolds says.

Under the bill, the state’s regional mental health districts will be required to offer new access centers for short-term crisis care. Community teams will offer individual treatment in the home and community.  

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

A bill to allow cheaper health plans that don’t comply with the federal Affordable Care Act passed the Iowa Senate Tuesday and is heading to the governor’s desk.

Supporters say the new plans—offered through a Farm Bureau partnership with Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield—would be a cheaper health care option for people who can’t pay the increasing price of insurance under the ACA.

“This bill is about getting those folks insured,” says Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan. “It’s a great investment.”

Legislative Day: Fetal Heartbeat Bill

Mar 27, 2018
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode (cropping and contrast changes made)
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A bill moving through the Iowa legislature would ban nearly all abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell and host Ben Kieffer explore various perspectives from Iowa lawmakers and advocates. 

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