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The 2023 legislative session is over. See where proposed bills ended up

Published March 16, 2023 at 4:28 PM CDT
Madeleine C King

Follow along for live updates as bills are introduced and advanced through the Iowa Legislature.

The 2023 legislative session has ended. See the full list of enrolled bills.

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IPR News

Reynolds signs bill providing $100 million in property tax relief 

Posted May 5, 2023 at 10:06 AM CDT
Madeleine C King

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law on Thursday that would provide an estimated $100 million in property tax relief.

Reynolds signed the bill surrounded by lawmakers on the final day of the legislative session. It would limit local government spending by requiring cities and counties to lower their property tax rates if they see more than 3% growth in taxable valuation.

The bill also targets more than $50 million in property tax relief to veterans and seniors, and requires local governments to provide detailed information to taxpayers about what their money is being used for.

Reynolds says it’s the most significant property tax reform in state history.

“Hardworking Iowans have been asking for property tax relief, and today we’re delivering on that ask.”

The bill passed the Legislature this week with near-unanimous support. Reynolds says she’s not done working on property and income tax cuts.

IPR News

2023 legislative session ends

Posted May 4, 2023 at 4:01 PM CDT
Gov. Kim Reynolds claps after the signing of a 2023 property tax bill.
Madeleine King
IPR News
Gov. Kim Reynolds claps after the signing of a 2023 property tax bill.

Iowa’s 2023 legislative session ended on Thursday shortly after 12:30 p.m.

The session was marked by the passage of state-funded scholarships for kids to go to private schools, a massive government reorganization, property tax cuts, bills targeting LGBTQ youth and an attempt to limit eminent domain for carbon pipelines.

Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, says House Republicans got most of their priorities to the governor’s desk.

“We’ve been in the majority now for over 10 years, and whether you like the things we try to do, or you don’t like the things we try to do — whether it’s in this chamber or Iowans as a whole — we try to make commitments and follow through with those things we tell Iowans we’re going to do.”

Democrats say some Iowans are worse off because of this legislative session, but they’re glad they could agree on property tax relief and on scaling back the bill that would loosen child labor laws.

Read the full story.


Education savings accounts open for families May 31

Posted May 4, 2023 at 1:46 PM CDT
Iowa Capitol
Madeleine King
IPR News
Iowa Capitol

Starting May 31, families can apply for state funding to help pay for private school tuition. Theeducation savings account program was passed in January and will provide up to $7,600 per student, per year.

The start date for applications was announced on Thursday after the Iowa State Board of Education approvedadministrative rules for the program.

In the first year, the state-funded accounts will be available to all incoming kindergartners and children that currently attend public schools. They will also be open to existing private school students from households earning up to 300% of the federal poverty level.

The state is contracting with a company called Odyssey to create the system where families will apply for ESAs. The deadline for applications is June 30.

Child labor

Bill to loosen some child labor laws heads to governor's desk

Posted May 4, 2023 at 11:46 AM CDT
Madeleine C King

Status: Heading to governor’s desk for signature

Republicans in the Iowa Senate sent a bill to the governor’s desk on Wednesday that would loosen some child labor laws. Top state officials could allow 16- and 17-year-olds to work in prohibited hazardous jobs if it’s for a work-based learning program.

That wouldn’t apply to 14- and 15-year-olds like earlier versions of the bill.

The bill would also allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in restaurants, but it adds safety measures, including requiring two adults to be present and to report any harassment of minors to parents and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, says the amended bill is a lot better than the original, but he opposed it, saying it could still put kids in dangerous workplace settings.

“Senate Democrats do not oppose giving teens safe and age-appropriate work experiences that allow them to learn important skills and earn money to help themselves and their families. But they must be safe.”

Republicans say the bill will provide good work opportunities for youth.

Read the full story.


Bill advances requiring voters to be physically present at caucuses

Posted May 4, 2023 at 6:30 AM CDT

Status: Advanced by Senate committee

Republicans on a Senate committee advanced a bill on Wednesday that they say will preserve Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses by requiring voters to be physically present to participate.

But the Iowa Democratic Party submitted a plan to the DNC on Wednesday requiring voters to mail in their presidential preference.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, says the Democrats’ plan doesn’t fit in with the bill.

“The bill protects the caucus system in Iowa and Iowa’s first in the nation status. They mess up everything they touch. I can’t stop them. But we’ll do our best to protect Iowa.”

Schultz says there’s no enforcement mechanism in the bill, but he says lawsuits are always possible.

The Senate is expected to send the bill to the governor’s desk on Thursday for her signature. Democratic lawmakers opposed the bill, saying Republicans shouldn’t meddle in political party business.


Bill calls for BOR to study regent university DEI programs

Posted May 4, 2023 at 6:15 AM CDT
Madeleine C King

A bill moving through the Iowa Legislature (HSB 254) calls for the Board of Regents to complete a comprehensive study of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs at the University of Iowa, Iowa State and the University of Northern Iowa.

That follows a proposal that stalled earlier in the session that would have banned all DEI spending at the regent universities.

Rep. Carter Nordman, R-Panora, told the House appropriations committee the results of the study could lead to legislation.

“We’re going to look at all the resources that are being spent on these programs and make determinations next year.”

BOR President Michael Richards announced in March the universities would pause any new DEI initiatives and the board would make a study of the programs already in place.

Overall, general funding for the universities would stay mostly flat under the proposed budget for next year. There would be some additional state support to graduate more teachers, nurses and workers in other high-demand fields.

Read the full story.

IPR News

14, 15 year olds won’t do hazardous work in revised child labor bill

Posted May 3, 2023 at 12:39 PM CDT

Status: Passed in House

Republicans in the Iowa House passed a scaled-back version of the child labor bill on Tuesday. Top state officials could waive prohibitions on potentially dangerous activities for 16- and 17-year-olds in work-based learning programs, but unlike previous versions of the bill, 14- and 15-year-olds wouldn’t be allowed to do hazardous work.

The bill would still allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in restaurants, but it specifies two adult employees must be present, and any harassment of minors must be reported to parents and the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

Rep. Dave Deyoe, R-Nevada, says the bill will benefit youth.

“Less poverty, money for future education, less delinquent behavior, experience in the workplace and access to mentors and role models. And finally, exposure to careers may mean a more successful future.”

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst says she thinks the bill still puts kids in some unsafe situations, but she’s grateful Republicans took some Democratic ideas to make it better.

Read the full story.

IPR News

Bill passes that would make all school employees mandatory reporters of abuse

Posted May 3, 2023 at 12:22 PM CDT

Status: Passed by Senate, going back to House

A bill passed in the Iowa Senate is aimed at stopping educators accused of misconduct from escaping those allegations by changing districts.

The bill would make all school employees over 18 years old mandatory reporters of abuse.

An investigation that turns up what is likely abuse or misconduct must be reported to the state licensing board and a school must check for past investigations before hiring.

Sen. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, says it’s important that the bill requires an investigation to be completed, even if the accused person resigns from the school.

The bill would also add parents to the state board that licenses teachers. The Board of Educational Examiners would have 13 members, including four members of the public and eight licensed educators.

The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and goes back to the House.


Property tax relief bill sent to Reynolds’ desk

Posted May 2, 2023 at 4:37 PM CDT

Status: Heading to governor’s desk for signature

Iowa lawmakers voted nearly unanimously on Tuesday to send a property tax relief bill to the governor’s desk.

It restricts revenue growth for cities and counties, requiring some to lower their property tax rates depending on the community’s growth in taxable valuation. That’s meant to limit the impact of recent increases in Iowans’ property assessments.

The bill also provides an estimated $100 million in property tax relief, with some of that targeted to veterans and older Iowans.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, says it’s phase one of bold property tax relief.

“For all Iowa veterans who pay property taxes, this is a big deal. For Iowa seniors who pay property taxes, this is a big deal. For all Iowans, the predictability and transparency that this bill brings is a big deal.”

All House Democrats but one joined all Republicans in supporting the bill. Democrats say they preferred the House’s original proposal, but it’s a step forward in helping Iowans afford their property taxes.


Property tax relief agreement reached

Posted May 2, 2023 at 10:19 AM CDT

Republican leaders have reached an agreement on how to provide property tax relief for Iowans.

A Senate committee advanced a compromise bill on Monday that would combine previous House and Senate proposals. It would require certain local governments to lower their property tax rates based on a new formula.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, says that’ll help prevent massive spikes in Iowans’ tax bills when their new property valuations kick in next year.

“We have to start to consolidate levies. We have to make sure there’s some kind of soft cap revenue limitation out there. Because if not, the property taxpayer will always have the worst seat at the table.”

The bill would also cut property taxes for veterans and seniors and require cities and counties to provide more detailed information to taxpayers about how their property tax dollars are being used.

Most Senate Democrats support the bill, saying it’ll provide relief for those who need it most. Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque says she supports the bill because it does that while also allowing local governments to provide essential services.

“After several years of tax cuts, we are finally addressing one of the two most regressive taxes that we have in Iowa, and that is property taxes and sales tax.”


House finalizes school discipline bill for violent students

Posted May 1, 2023 at 3:47 PM CDT

Status: Sent to governor’s desk for signature

The Iowa House has finalized a bill that would require schools to review their discipline policies for students who are violent or threatening.

The original House proposal would have required school districts to suspend students who are removed from class.

The final version (HF 604) says suspension must be one option in a school’s policy, along with possible expulsion or a change of classroom. The bill says the consequences must escalate for students who are repeatedly removed from class.

Under the bill, the Iowa Office of Ombudsman could investigate complaints from educators about districts mishandling incidents of violence in schools.

The bill passed unanimously, sending it to Gov. Kim Reynolds.


Legislature asked to include dementia care funding in $2 billion health budget

Posted May 1, 2023 at 3:46 PM CDT

An Iowan diagnosed with progressive dementia has asked lawmakers to provide funding for dementia care specialists to help Iowans navigate support services.

The Republican-led Legislature has so far declined to include that $750,000 in its $2 billion health budget.

Waukee resident Kevin Dill, who was diagnosed with Lewy body dementia, says when Iowans are diagnosed with dementia, they’re left on their own to research services. He says people with dementia and their overwhelmed caregivers aren’t able to do that.

“If somebody is in need, and all you say to them is, ‘We’ll pray for you and have a program for you,’ and then just walk away, I don’t understand that. You need to take somebody by the hand and say, ‘Here, let me show you how to use the services.’”

A key Republican lawmaker says there have been discussions about the funding, but officials think they might be able to use existing state resources to help people with dementia.

Read the full story.

State Auditor

Bill limiting state auditor access to information sent to Reynolds’ desk

Posted April 27, 2023 at 11:50 AM CDT

Status: Sent to governor for signature

Republicans in the Iowa Senate sent a bill to the governor’s desk on Wednesday that would limit the state auditor’s ability to access certain information from state agencies and officials.

Democrats say Republicans are kneecapping the only statewide elected official who’s a Democrat, State Auditor Rob Sand.

Sen. Janice Weiner, D-Iowa City, says the bill puts independent audits at risk because state agencies being investigated could choose to hide information if the governor agrees to it.

“This is Republicans protecting each other and putting their own interests over those of the state. We don’t play games with our state’s finances. We don’t play games with our system of checks and balances.”

Sen. Michael Bousselot, R-Ankeny, says the auditor will still be able to serve as a government watchdog. He says the bill is needed to protect Iowans’ personal information. State law already requires the auditor’s office to keep such information confidential.


Senate passes bill requiring K-12 schools to outline when violent students can be removed

Posted April 27, 2023 at 10:49 AM CDT

Status: Passed by Senate, heading back to House

The Iowa Senate has passed a bill that requires K-12 schools to outline for teachers when students can be removed from their classrooms for violent behavior.

The bill drops a House proposal that would have required in-school suspensions for students removed from class multiple times.

Under the revised proposal, a district would design its own discipline policy, but Sen. Lynn Evans, R-Aurelia, says it must grow more severe for students repeatedly removed for violence toward teachers or classmates.

“It creates more structure for what schools must include in their discipline policies for threats of violence or incidents of violence while still giving the school leeway to adjust based on the specific situation.”

Sen. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, says the bill would help teachers advocate for safe classrooms.

“It protects our teachers, it protects our kids. It makes sure that there’s some clarity around behavior in the schools.”

The bill would also protect teachers from retaliation if they take a complaint to the state ombudsman’s office claiming their district is failing to respond to violence in the classroom.

It passed unanimously and now goes back to the House.

IPR News

Senate panel tables pipeline ethics complaint

Posted April 26, 2023 at 12:52 PM CDT
John Pemble
IPR file

An Iowa Senate panel unanimously tabled an ethics complaint against a senator who failed to schedule a hearing on a bill that would limit eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines. The bill didn’t advance.

The complaint alleges Sen. Michael Bousselot, R-Ankeny, has a conflict of interest because of financial and personal ties to one of the pipeline companies.

Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, says there’s a three-year statute of limitations on ethics violations and that the evidence shows Bousselot’s financial benefit came before that time.

“Senator Bousselot has at the very least exercised questionable judgment and at worst engaged in the appearance of unethical conduct. This is one of those times when a senator should have declined to serve as a subcommittee chair of a bill that had direct financial gain for Summit Solutions.”

The committee voted to table the complaint indefinitely unless more evidence is found to support it. Bousselot called the complaint from Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement partisan and preposterous. He says no conflict of interest exists.

Read the full story.


Senate passes status quo DNR budget

Posted April 26, 2023 at 12:47 PM CDT

Status: Approved by Senate

Republicans in the Iowa Senate approved a status quo budget on Tuesday for the Department of Natural Resources.

Sen. Eric Giddens, D-Cedar Falls, says he’s against the proposal because it continues to underfund important programs.

“Year after year, there’s been status quo budgets for DNR operations, forestry management and state park operations. Our state parks are important to attracting and retaining residents in this state.”

Democrats also criticized the bill because it would remove a law that says the state should aim to have 10% of its land for public use by the year 2000. That goal wasn’t achieved.

Sen. Dan Zumbach, R-Ryan, says some parks aren’t being maintained properly and that the state is moving some money around to try to address that. He says the state should care for the land it has before acquiring new public land.

Radio Iowa

Lawmakers vote to dramatically increase human trafficking penalties

Posted April 25, 2023 at 2:42 PM CDT

Status: Headed to governor’s desk

The Iowa Legislature has unanimously voted to increase prison sentences for human trafficking in Iowa.

Rep. Zach Dieken, R-Granville, said the bill will dramatically change how human trafficking and sex trafficking is prosecuted in Iowa.

“These crimes and their victims deserve more than a simple misdemeanor.”

Rep. Mark Thompson, R-Clarion, said Iowa has “anemic” sentences that force prosecution of major human trafficking cases into federal courts, which have a backlog.

“The scourge that is on Iowa right now is that we have this and it’s hidden and most of us don’t see it. Most of us, in some cases, don’t want to see it. It’s the crime that keeps on giving. You sell drugs, you smuggle drugs, that money’s gone. You smuggle a person, that person keeps providing money to the perpetrator.”

Dieken cited the rescue of a child during a western Iowa traffic stop in 2014 to illustrate the gravity of the problem.

“The 6-year-old boy was not related to anyone in the vehicle and thought he was being taken to his mother’s house in Las Vegas. There was a strong feeling and suspicion from all officers involved that this child was destined for a life in child labor or the sex industry. This trooper would receive a national award for this traffic stop. This happened in Council Bluffs, not in some far away land.”

Those convicted of trafficking anyone under the age of 18 could be sentenced to life in an Iowa prison once the bill becomes law.

Rep. Elinor Levin, D-Iowa City, said human trafficking is a serious offense.

“I am not generally a big fan of increasing penalties, but this is a case in which I think the current standard does not match the crime.”

The Senate approved the bill on Tuesday on a 49-0 vote.

Attorney General Brenna Bird has expressed support for the bill and legislators expect Gov. Kim Reynolds to sign it into law. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Washington was the first state to criminalize human trafficking in 2003. In 2006, the Iowa Legislature unanimously voted to make human trafficking a class D felony — which carries a fine of up to $7,500 and a sentence of up to five years in prison.


Another education bill headed to Reynolds’ desk

Posted April 21, 2023 at 12:42 PM CDT

Status: Sent to governor for signature

Another education bill headed to Gov. Kim Reynolds would remove some school reporting regulations while also lowering requirements for schools to offer world languages and fine arts.

The bill (SF 391) finalized by the Iowa House on Thursday eliminates a school improvement report that copies much of what districts already share with federal regulators.

It says schools only need to offer two units of a world language, not four. The fine arts requirement drops from three units to two.

Rep. Sue Cahill, D-Marshalltown, says it waters down expectations for schools.

“We’re lowering the standards for our adults and kids.”

Another provision in the bill says that instead of hiring a certified teacher librarian, schools can bring in someone who has worked at a public library in the past.

Republicans say that and other measures in the bill are meant to help schools that are struggling to find enough qualified teachers.

State Auditor

House votes to limit state auditor’s access to state information

Posted April 21, 2023 at 9:26 AM CDT

Most Republicans in the Iowa House voted on Thursday to limit the state auditor’s ability to get certain information from state agencies and officials.

Democrats opposed the bill, saying it’s a power grab targeting the only statewide Democratic elected official. They point out the Republican-majority legislature gave more power to the new GOP attorney general this year.

Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley says it’s not political. He says Republicans believe Sand has sought information that was outside the bounds of what the auditor’s office should access.

“I won’t be here forever, Gov. Reynolds, Sen. Whitver, Rob Sand, whoever the people are, there’s going to be elections, there’s going to be new people in these offices, and we would expect regardless of party, for them to abide by the expectation of what should be in those audits.”

State Auditor Rob Sand says the bill effectively removes his office’s ability to investigate waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars.

Read the full story.


Revised education bill sent to Reynolds’ desk

Posted April 21, 2023 at 9:26 AM CDT

Status: Sent to governor for signature

The Iowa House has passed an education bill that prohibits instruction on LGBTQ topics in kindergarten through sixth grade and removes books with sexual content from schools.

Thursday’s vote sends the bill to Gov. Kim Reynolds.

The legislation (SF 496) also requires schools to inform parents if a transgender student asks for gender identity support at school, such as using a different name or pronouns.

A superintendent or teacher who repeatedly violates the rule on informing parents could be disciplined by the state licensing board.

Rep. Heather Matson, D-Ankeny, says the bill breaks the trust educators build with students.

“The idea of penalizing teachers who affirm a student for who they are could not be more hurtful or dangerous.”

Republican supporters say the measure is meant to make sure parents know when their child is questioning their gender identity.

The final bill would also remove books from schools that include any description of sexual activity, but it makes an exception for religious books such as the Bible.

Read the full story.


Senate passes revised education bill

Posted April 20, 2023 at 10:59 AM CDT
iowa senate
John Pemble
Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Senate has passed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ education bill for the second time as the two legislative chambers send the proposal back and forth.

Senate and House Republicans appear to agree on removing books with sexual content and banning instruction related to LGBTQ topics in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Both versions also require schools to report to parents when a student asks for gender-affirming accommodations in school.

On Wednesday, the Senate restored proposed penalties for violating the rules on books and informing parents. An educator could land before the state licensing board for a disciplinary hearing.

Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, says that possibility could drive some out of the profession.

“This bill fundamentally is putting teachers in a position that they don’t want to be in.”

The Senate also removed several House proposals from the education bill regarding changes to mandatory reporting and membership of the Board of Educational Examiners.

It passed the Senate on party lines and now goes back to the House.


House, Senate pass competing bills aimed at providing property tax relief

Posted April 20, 2023 at 10:57 AM CDT
The Iowa House of Representatives seated.
Madeleine C King
The Iowa House of Representatives.

The Iowa House and Senate passed competing bills on Wednesday aimed to provide property tax relief for everyday Iowans.

Both bills passed with nearly unanimous support, but House and Senate Republicans haven’t reached an agreement.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, says his bill is a first step toward controlling county and city spending and protecting property taxpayers.

“Ultimately, I think we’ve probably got the best dog that can hunt here in the capitol that we’ve had in some time to start to tackle this system.”

Senate GOP leaders say their bill would provide about $100 million in property tax relief. House Republicans’ bill would provide more than $200 million in relief per year and cap individuals’ annual property tax bill increases at 3%.

Read the full story.


Opioid bill sent to Reynolds’ desk

Posted April 18, 2023 at 2:36 PM CDT
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Salwan Georges
The Washington Post/Getty Images
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 140 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.

Status: Sent to governor

A billthat would increase penalties for those who manufacture or distribute drugs that cause an overdose is on its way to the governor’s desk.

The bill would also allow law enforcement agencies and school districts to distribute the opioid-reversal drug naloxone, or Narcan.

Sen. Jeff Reichman, R-Montrose, said the bill will help combat the rising number offentanyl-related deaths.

“Fentanyl is the leading cause of overdose in America and opioids involved in deaths in Iowa have increased by 45% since 2019. Sadly, the majority of these deaths are accidental because of counterfeit prescription pills that are being laced with lethal overdoses.”

Opponents of the bill said the focus should be on helping treat those with opioid-use disorder, not enhancing criminal penalties for distributors.

According to state health department data,235 Iowans died from opioid-related causes last year.


Legislature votes to legalize raw milk sales on farms

Posted April 18, 2023 at 12:42 PM CDT
Midwest Dairy

Members of the Iowa Legislature have voted to let Iowa dairy farms sell raw milk.

If the governor signs the bill into law, it would still be illegal to sell unpasteurized milk at farmers markets or in restaurants, but raw milk and products like cheese or yogurt made with raw milk could be sold at the farm where it’s processed.

Forty-nine legislators in the House and Senate voted against the bill. During last week’s House debate, Rep. Megan Srinivas, D-Des Moines, said drinking raw milk can be dangerous and as an infectious disease doctor, she’s treated several children who were exposed to bacteria in raw milk.

“It’s one thing if it’s an adult choosing what milk that they’re consuming, but when we have children who are falling victim because they are given milk that can make them sick, have permanent or even lethal ramifications -- that’s where I get concerned.”

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said people have been drinking raw milk for thousands of years.

“It’s just an option, just like I can get eggs, a quarter of beef, honey or an apple. We’re simply adding this to a list of foods that people can get without… the government sitting on their shoulder and whispering what’s best for their families.”

The dairy industry opposes the bill, arguing if there’s an outbreak of serious illness associated with raw milk, then all milk sales will decline. If the bill becomes law, raw milk sold at an Iowa farm would have to be stored below 45 degrees and sold within seven days of a cow being milked.


Bill targeting ‘exploding’ raccoon population headed to governor

Posted April 18, 2023 at 12:40 PM CDT
Iowa DNR

Status: Sent to governor’s desk

A bill to let residents in rural areas capture or kill skunks, opossum or raccoons that are a nuisance is on its way to the governor.

Under current law, Iowans have to call a state-licensed wildlife control business to trap a raccoon if it’s causing a nuisance. The bill says people who live in rural areas outside of city limits would have permission to shoot to kill a raccoon or a skunk or opossum that’s ripping into things or chowing on food that’s not for them.

Sen. Tom Shipley, R-Nodaway, said the raccoon population has “exploded” in Iowa, partly because there is no market for raccoon pelts.

“Consequently, they have become a tremendous nuisance, destroying agricultural crops but also damaging houses — property in all aspects — and this is just going to hopefully get that population under control.”

The bill passed the House March 7 on an 87-11 vote and cleared the Senate 47-2.


Bill advancing would expand hours, jobs teens under 18 can work

Posted April 18, 2023 at 10:17 AM CDT
John Pemble
IPR file

Status: Passed by Iowa Senate

Republicans in the Iowa Senate passed a bill early Tuesday morning that would expand the hours and types of jobs teenagers under the age of 18 could work.

State officials could waive prohibitions on minors working in certain industries if it’s part of a work-based learning program. While the Senate bill would not allow work in mining and meatpacking plants, it would allow hazardous activities like the operation of woodworking machines and brick and tile manufacturing.

Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, criticized the provision to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to serve alcohol in places that also serve food. He says his 18-year-old niece was harassed by customers at a bar owned by his family.

Sen. Adrian Dickey, R-Packwood, says the bill is just meant to provide more opportunities to youth who want to work.

Read the full story.


Bill to establish protections for trucking industry sent to Reynolds’ desk

Posted April 18, 2023 at 10:16 AM CDT

Status: Sent to governor’s desk

Republicans in the Iowa Senate sent a bill to the governor’s desk on Monday night that would establish new liability protections for the trucking industry.

The bill would put a $5 million cap on compensation for pain and suffering when a person is severely injured or killed by a commercial vehicle like a semi-truck. It would also shield trucking companies from liability for direct negligence in hiring a driver who caused a crash.

Sen. Michael Bousselot, R-Ankeny, says the changes made by the House aren’t ideal, but the bill is a step in the right direction.

“I think the goal of this amendment is protecting Iowans who are injured while… protecting predictability and stability for our critical components of our supply chain.”

Three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the bill. Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, says the bill has improved, but he’s still against it because of concerns that it limits Iowans’ constitutional right to a jury trial.

Law enforcement

Bill sets standard for Iowa law enforcement body armor purchases

Posted April 18, 2023 at 10:15 AM CDT
Body armor on display at a store in Pennsylvania in 2011.
Ryan McFadden
MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images
Body armor on display at a store in Pennsylvania in 2011.

Status: Cleared Iowa House

A bill that unanimously cleared the Iowa House may protect officers in Iowa, police and sheriff’s departments from faulty products — and may help an Iowa company that makes body armor.

RMA in Centerville was formed by a retired police officer who also served as a Marine.

Rep. Austin Harris, R-Moulton, toured the company about a month ago.

“They were telling us about the challenges they were facing in terms of competition from countries like China and Russia. There’s this Chinese company that had stolen their intellectual property, was remanufacturing their product, even with their logo on it.”

Harris says the ballistic plate inside the Chinese imitation is made with cheap, low quality steel that does not adequately protect those wearing it.

The bill would require Iowa law enforcement agencies using tax dollars to buy body armor, like ballistic vests, to purchase products that meet the standards of the National Institute of Justice.

Law enforcement agencies have to replace bullet proof vests periodically, as the gear has an expiration date. Experts at the National Institute of Justice say most standard body armor that’s properly stored and cared for has a five year life span.


Iowa Republican Party chair supports in-person caucus bill

Posted April 14, 2023 at 2:41 PM CDT
People in a crowd in an auditorium raise their hands to be counted on caucus night 2020.
Natalie Krebs
An Iowa caucus precinct in Des Moines on caucus night 2020.

Jeff Kauffman, the chair of the Iowa Republican Party, says he supports a bill in the Legislature that would require caucuses to take place in-person.

Kauffman says it’s necessary to keep New Hampshire from jumping ahead of the Iowa GOP on the presidential nominating calendar.

The bill (HF 716) would block Iowa Democrats from following through with a proposal to caucus by mail. Kaufmann says it doesn’t matter if Iowa Democrats call it a caucus because New Hampshire officials consider it a primary.

“For one half-century, New Hampshire and Iowa have had an agreement. We are a caucus. they are a primary. The one thing they can’t do — or they will drag down the entire system and Iowa in its path — the one thing they can’t do is have a primary.”

Iowa Democrats say their caucus plans are not finalized, but they have defended the mail-in system as a way to expand participation.

The Ways and Means Committee voted on Thursday to move the caucus bill to the House floor.


House sends SNAP bill to Reynolds’ desk 

Posted April 14, 2023 at 10:18 AM CDT
Harvest Public Media file photo

Status: Sent to governor's desk

Republicans in the Iowa House sent a bill to the governor’s desk on Thursday that would deny food assistance to households that have more than $15,000 in assets.

That amount doesn’t factor in a home, one car of any value and a second car worth less than $10,000.

The bill also requires the state to have a real-time eligibility verification system for all public assistance programs.

Democrats opposed the bill. Rep. Josh Turek, D-Council Bluffs, said the bill is a “disgrace.”

There is zero financial benefit to the state of Iowa. It is a terrible economic decision. And even worse, it’s morally reprehensible. The bill takes away food from veterans, the elderly, poor children and disabled individuals.”

Rep. Joel Fry, R-Osceola, says the bill will ensure those who need public assistance get it. He says it’ll help ensure public assistance programs stay sustainable.

“If you’re eligible for the benefit, you will receive the benefit. It protects the program for those who need it most. And I would suggest to you that we are creating a safety net today that is sustainable for the long-term.”

Read the full story.


House advances bill that would cap property taxes

Posted April 13, 2023 at 3:01 PM CDT

Status: Advanced by House committee

A House committee unanimously advanced a bill on Thursday that would cap increases in Iowans’ property tax bills starting next year.

The proposal would prevent an individual’s residential or agricultural property tax bill from increasing by more than 3% per year. There would be an exception for property growth, like putting a major addition on a house or expanding a farm.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, is the bill’s sponsor.

“This will give absolute predictability to the taxpayer, saying that unless you’re doing new growth, that 3% cap is going to ensure that you know exactly what your bill is.”

The bill would also reduce a property tax levy that funds schools, which would cut property taxes statewide by more than $200 million per year. Kaufmann says the state would pay the difference.

Democrats say they support these changes but want to ensure the state keeps its commitment to continue filling the gap in school funding that would be left by the property tax cut.


House passes parking lot gun bill

Posted April 13, 2023 at 11:25 AM CDT

Status: Passed by Iowa House

The Iowa House passed a bill on Wednesday authorizing legal gun owners to keep firearms in their cars outside public schools, public universities and community colleges and corrections facilities.

The original bill (HF 654) extended to the parking lots of private employers, but that was taken out.

Democrats proposed adding gun control measures to the bill, including universal background checks, but their amendments failed to pass.

Rep. Austin Baeth, D-Des Moines, says lawmakers should be talking about gun safety in light of recent mass shootings at a Nashville school and Louisville bank.

“We should be passing legislation for gun safety, rather than only promoting an arms race against each other.”

Republican supporters say the bill protects the second amendment rights of responsible gun owners.

A related bill is active in the Iowa Senate.

Read the full story.


Bill advances requiring in-person caucusing

Posted April 12, 2023 at 3:37 PM CDT

Status: Advanced by House panel

Republicans on a House panel have advanced a bill that would require Iowans to caucus in person and register with their party at least 70 days before the caucuses.

GOP lawmakers say the bill is needed to help keep Iowa first in the presidential nominating process, but it would also make the Iowa Democratic Party’s proposal to use mail-in caucus cards illegal. That proposal was a response to national Democrats’ demand to expand access, but the DNC still kicked Iowa out of the early nominating window.

Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, says her party is just trying to make the caucuses accessible to people who can’t make it in person.

“I don’t think that’s going to take away our first-in-the-nation status. And it just boggles me that again, it’s just overreach. The Legislature needs to mind their own business on this one. This is a party event.”

Rep. Austin Harris, R-Moulton, says mail-in cards would make the caucuses too much like a primary, and that New Hampshire would insist on holding its primary before the Iowa caucuses.

Iowa caucuses

Bill would make absentee caucus participation illegal

Posted April 11, 2023 at 3:37 PM CDT
Ann Althouse

Status: House Republicans planning to advance bill

House Republicans are planning to advance a bill this week that would make Iowa Democrats’ proposal for absentee caucus participation illegal.

The Iowa Democratic Party proposed using mail-in preference cards for the Democratic caucuses as part of its bid to stay first in the nation for the presidential nominating process. National Democrats removed Iowa from the early nominating window anyway, but Iowa Republicans are still going first.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, is the bill’s sponsor. He says the bill would help both parties stay first in the nation.

“If we do mail-in ballot voting as a caucus in Iowa, New Hampshire views that as a primary and they will jump us which will jeopardize our first-in-the-nation status.”

Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart says the bill is disappointing and potentially damaging to the history of the parties working together to preserve the caucuses. She says Democrats will be, quote, “moving forward with an inclusive caucus process.”

The bill would also require Iowans to be registered with the party they want to caucus with at least 70 days before the caucuses.

IPR News

Social media bill advances

Posted April 11, 2023 at 11:37 AM CDT
Natalie Krebs

Status: Advanced in House

House Republicans have advanced a bill that would effectively bar kids aged 14 to 17 from making social media accounts unless they have permission from a parent.

The original bill would have banned all social media use by minors, but it was amended in committee on Monday.

Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, says he doesn’t want to stop social media use by kids. But he thinks requiring parental consent could help kids who are dealing with mental health issues, cyberbullying and body image issues related to social media.

“That’s our primary purpose -- is to protect our citizens. And so this is just one way of kind of adding a layer of protection. It’s not gonna be perfect.”

Wills says the social media platforms would decide how to verify parental consent.


Reynolds’ book ban proposal includes books protected under obscenity laws

Posted April 10, 2023 at 11:29 AM CDT
Statehouse in 2022
Madeleine Charis King

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ expansive education bill would cause K-12 schools in Iowa to get rid of books with sexually explicit content, even if those same books would be allowed under current obscenity laws.

The proposal comes in response to conservative parents who have called for the removal of books they consider obscene. Many of those books also center on LGBTQ characters.

University of Iowa law professor Todd Pettys says a book chosen by a school librarian probably would not meet the legal definition of obscene because the definition protects works of art and literature.

“They’re looking for stories and so forth and books that tell good stories or provide good information. That’s probably going to meet the test of having sufficient literary value to insulate it from obscenity laws.”

The proposed education bill makes no exceptions on literary grounds, but Pettys says it is probably legal because schools are given wide-ranging authority to choose educational materials.

House and Senate Republicans are in talks with the governor’s office to reach a final version of the bill.


Bill removes high school graduation requirement for tattoo permits

Posted April 6, 2023 at 3:20 PM CDT

More than 100 members of the legislature have voted to get rid of the requirement that tattoo artists show they’ve completed high school in order to get a state tattoo permit.

Rep. Hans Wilz, R-Ottumwa, says if the bill becomes law, you’d still have to complete first aid training, pass health screenings and have reached age 18.

“Do we require farmers to have a high school degree?” Wilz asked during House debate of the bill.

Rep. Josh Turek, D-Council Bluffs, is among the 43 lawmakers who opposed the bill.

“It erodes a basic standard of education. We’re just talking about a high school diploma here. We’re not talking about an associate's degree or a bachelor’s degree. I think that this is incentivizing a few individuals, however just a few individuals, to not get their high school diploma.”

The bill cleared the Senate in March. House Republicans made a minor adjustment this week to account for changes included in the state government reorganization plan the governor signed into law Tuesday.

The Senate must OK the change before the bill goes to the governor for her signature.


House Democrats propose legislation to lower costs

Posted April 5, 2023 at 2:29 PM CDT

House Democrats are proposing several pieces of legislation they say would lower costs for everyday Iowans.

They say it’s a great time to help Iowans’ budgets as the Legislature begins working on the state budget. They say they hope to work with Republicans, who control the statehouse, to get some of their proposals through.

They include efforts to help people afford child care and college tuition, cap the cost of insulin, expand affordable housing, lower home utility costs and prevent wage theft.

House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, says these ideas are supported by people of all political parties.

“We’ve heard from Republicans all along that what they want to do is put money back in the pockets of everyday Iowans. Well, doing these things puts money back in the pockets of everyday Iowans in ways that are truly meaningful.”

Konfrst says Democrats are also willing to work with Republicans on property tax relief.

Read the full story.

Government reorganization

Reynolds’ government reorganization bill signed into law

Posted April 4, 2023 at 4:33 PM CDT
governor kim reynolds and other government officials clap their hands after she signed a bill
Katarina Sostaric
IPR News
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed her government reorganization bill into law Tuesday, surrounded by cabinet members and GOP lawmakers.

Status: Signed into law

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a 1,500-page bill into law on Tuesday that will reorganize state government and give herself and the attorney general more power.

The new law will merge Iowa’s 37 cabinet-level state agencies to become just 16. Reynolds says her goal is to have that done by July 1.

She says it will improve services for Iowans and save money.

Reynolds was asked why her projected savings of $215 million over four years appears to be more than estimates from nonpartisan analysts.

“If we save anything, and I can streamline services, and have a single mom or single dad that’s trying to get some services not have to go through 14 different doors to figure out how to get an answer, then that’s a win for me.”

Democrats say the new law is a power grab by the governor and that she should’ve listened to Iowans’ concerns.

Read the full story.


Iowa House passes education bill that would bar elementary schools from teaching LGBTQ topics

Posted April 4, 2023 at 4:31 PM CDT
Natalie Krebs

Status: passed by Iowa House

The Iowa House has passed its take on Gov. Kim Reynolds’ expansive education bill that seeks to bar elementary school teachers from covering LGBTQ topics in class.

House Republicans made changes to what came out of the Senate. The latest version (SF 496) keeps a section that effectively bans books in schools that describe sexual acts, but only if those descriptions are graphic.

Rep. Sue Cahill, D-Marshalltown, says that definition leaves too much room for interpretation.

“My definition of graphic may be very, very different from that of my neighbor or from others in the room. But I ask that I will respect your rights, but you also have to respect my rights.”

The bill passed on a vote of 55 - 42 with six Republicans joining Democrats to vote against it.

It is not clear whether GOP lawmakers in the Senate will agree to all of the changes made in the House.


Public hearing held for bill that would change SNAP, Medicaid eligibility

Posted April 4, 2023 at 1:53 PM CDT
briana jenkins speaks at a press conference
Katarina Sostaric
IPR News
Briana Jenkins speaks out against proposed changes to public assistance programs at the Iowa Capitol Tuesday.

Iowans weighed in at a Statehouse public hearing on Tuesday on a bill that would change eligibility requirements for public assistance programs.

It would put a new limit on assets households can have to qualify for food assistance, known as SNAP, and would require more frequent eligibility checks. It would allow 10 days for people to respond to a written notice if the state finds they may not qualify for food or medical assistance.

Briana Jenkins of Ankeny asked lawmakers to reject the bill, saying it’ll leave people without food.

“The SNAP program allows me to purchase very expensive baby formula for my infant daughter. The new changes will have a huge effect on myself, and so many of us will not be able to qualify for services.”

People who support the bill say it’ll help reduce fraud in public assistance programs and allow for better use of taxpayer dollars.

Read the full story.

State budget

Senate Republicans advance part of state budget proposal, but lack detailed plan

Posted April 4, 2023 at 11:52 AM CDT

Status: Advanced by Iowa Senate committee

Republicans on an Iowa Senate committee advanced part of their state budget proposal on Monday, but the bills don’t contain dollar amounts.

It’s not a typical practice at the Statehouse. Democrats, like Sen. Claire Celsi, D-West Des Moines, are criticizing the Republican majority for not releasing their detailed budget plans, making it impossible for the public to comment on those plans.

“Not only do we as senators deserve to have numbers in budgets, but so does everyone else.”

Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, says they’re proposing a total state budget number that matches the governor’s but is lower than the House GOP. They all have to agree to end the legislative session.

“Our first intent would be to come to an agreed upon amount as well as language so that we could maybe substitute or amend or whatever needs to be done to get it off the floor and get out of here.”

House Republicans released more detailed budget plans last week. The House also went through the usual public budget subcommittee process this year, but Senate Republicans haven’t done that in the past few years.


Lawmakers make changes to education bill

Posted March 31, 2023 at 1:45 PM CDT

Status: Passed out of House committee

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ wide-ranging education bill that restricts school curriculum related to sexual orientation and gender identity made it out of a key committee in the Iowa House on Thursday, but House Republicans are making some changes to what passed in the Senate.

The latest version of the bill (SF 496) passed by the House Education Committee leaves as a proposed ban on sexual orientation and gender identity in K-6 instruction.

The bill says that books are not age appropriate for K-12 schools if they portray sexual activity, but specifies only graphic descriptions are banned.

A couple things the House committee removed are the need to pass a civics test to graduate high school, and a required list of all of the people who have contact with students.

On top of that, House Republicans piled on other priorities to make sure they’re still viable this session, including approval of online, out-of-state teacher licensing programs and a plan to make the number of parents equal to the number of teachers on the state board that oversees educators.

Read the full story.

Public lands

Public lands bill dies

Posted March 30, 2023 at 3:10 PM CDT

Status: Dead

A bill that could have limited the expansion of public lands appears dead for the year after the Iowa House failed to advance it before this week’s legislative deadline.

The bill would have required the Department of Natural Resources to prioritize maintenance of existing public lands before acquiring more land.

A key Republican lawmaker says House Republicans intended to amend the bill, but they decided to drop it for the year and revisit the issue next year.

Conservation groups were strongly opposed to the bill, saying it had the potential to severely restrict the expansion of public lands for outdoor recreation and wildlife.

CO2 pipelines

Carbon pipeline bill dies

Posted March 30, 2023 at 3:09 PM CDT

Status: Dead

A House bill that would’ve restricted the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines appears to be dead for the year after the Iowa Senate failed to advance it before a legislative deadline.

The bill would have banned the use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines unless 90% of the route is first acquired through voluntary land sales.

Senate leaders could bring the dead proposal back to life, but House Speaker Pat Grassley says that seems unlikely.

“It’s not looking like a very healthy future for it. However, in the House, the members that I’ve talked to, we still feel very strongly about what we passed. And we really believe it was the right thing for us to do. So from our perspective, we still stand strong behind what we sent over there.”

Sen. Michael Bousselot, R-Ankeny, didn’t schedule an initial hearing on the bill.

“Senators have a wide variety of opinions on this issue and a consensus has not been found.”

Read the full story.


Bill would tighten mandatory reporting requirements in schools

Posted March 30, 2023 at 11:21 AM CDT

Status: Advancing in Iowa Senate

A bill that tightens mandatory reporting requirements in schools and redesigns the state board that licenses teachers is moving ahead in the Senate. It would make all school employees over age 18 mandatory reporters of suspected child abuse.

There is broad support for parts of the bill that allow districts to share information when a teacher who was disciplined for misconduct applies to work at another school, but education advocates pushed back on a plan to appoint an equal number of parents and educators to the Board of Educational Examiners.

The current 12-person board includes a majority of licensed educators and two members of the public.

Melissa Peterson of the Iowa State Education Association says teachers should be overseen by their peers when their credentials are at stake.

“We look at boards that oversee attorneys. For example: pharmacists. We are talking about boards that are majority practitioner and we think the Board of Educational Examiners should remain as it is with its current make up.”

The bill (HF 430) passed in the House and cleared the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday..

Sen. Chris Cournoyer R-Le Claire, said she wants to keep the issue alive past a legislative deadline this week, but changes are likely before the bill comes up on the Senate floor.

Birth control access

Bill advances allowing access to birth control without prescription

Posted March 29, 2023 at 5:05 PM CDT

Status: Advanced by Iowa House committee

A House committee has advanced a bill with bipartisan support that would allow Iowans to get hormonal birth control from a pharmacist without getting a prescription from a doctor.

Under the bill, a pharmacist could first dispense a three-month supply of birth control to a patient. If the patient returns after that, they could get a year’s supply of birth control. After that, the bill would require the patient to consult with a doctor before getting another refill.

Rep. Devon Wood, R-New Market, highlighted the bipartisan work that went into the bill.

“I really appreciate the robust conversation we’ve had and the ability that we were able to add an in-person option that does add safety and security measures to the providing of already legal birth control.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds has made this policy a priority this year. It passed 19 to 2, with two Republicans voting against it. Some other Republican House members who voted for the birth control bill say they’d need to see more changes before supporting it in a final floor vote.


Parents’ rights bill advances in Iowa House

Posted March 29, 2023 at 4:48 PM CDT

Status: Advancing in Iowa House

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ expansive school curriculum and parents’ rights bill is advancing in the Iowa House after passing last week in the Senate.

Among other things, the bill requires parents to give written permission before a student can change the name or pronouns they use at school. Also, school staff would have to report to parents if a student expresses a gender different from their sex at birth.

Fort Dodge parent Sara Small told the subcommittee that her transgender daughter has already struggled with suicidal thoughts. She says this bill, on top of new restrictions on school bathrooms, will push her further into the margins.

“If you pass this bill, there is going to be even more children even younger than her having those feelings inside because their gender identity — their identity, the core of who they are — is being suppressed.”

The bill’s supporters say it’s meant to ensure parents are informed when students ask to socially transition at school.

House Education Chair Skyler Wheeler, R-Hull, says he is planning changes to the bill when it comes up in committee on Thursday, but wouldn’t offer specifics.

Follow the movement of bills specifically focused on trans Iowans in the 2023 legislative session.

State auditor

Bill advances that would limit info state auditor can access

Posted March 29, 2023 at 3:52 PM CDT

Status: Advanced by House panel

Republicans on a House panel have advanced a bill that would limit what information the Iowa state auditor can access.

The bill would bar the state auditor’s office from accessing several different types of information, like health and education records, unless the agency that’s being investigated agrees to provide it.

Senate Republicans passed the bill three weeks ago, saying it protects Iowans’ private information that’s not relevant for audits.

John McCormally, chief of staff to State Auditor Rob Sand, a Democrat, says that information is necessary to make sure taxpayer dollars aren’t being wasted or misused.

“This bill does not protect privacy. It’s already protected by state and federal law, and laws that recognize that the auditor has a real need for complete information to do the audit. Instead what this bill does is give the agency the discretion to determine what information should be audited.”

The House Republicans who advanced it say the bill will need amendments to avoid potential problems with federal funding.


Bill that would require schools to suspend disruptive, violent students passes out of subcommittee

Posted March 29, 2023 at 9:09 AM CDT

Status: Passed out of Senate subcommittee

A bill that would require schools to suspend students removed from their classrooms for disruptive behavior passed out of a Senate subcommittee on Tuesday.

The proposal requires that the third time a student is taken out of class for violent or threatening behavior they must be given a week-long, in-school suspension.

Sen. Molly Donahue, D-Cedar Rapids, is a teacher and supports the bill to keep classrooms safe. But she says schools, not the state, should decide the consequences for classroom incidents.

“I want the kids in the room also safe. We can take a lot more as teachers but we shouldn’t have to, either.”

The bill (HF 604) would also authorize teachers to contact the state ombudsman if they feel district leaders are ignoring dangerous classroom conditions.

It passed easily in the House but needs to get through the Senate Education Committee this week to stay alive this session.


Bill would ensure K-12 schools can use sales tax funding to increase cybersecurity

Posted March 28, 2023 at 1:29 PM CDT

Status: Passed in the House, on to Senate

A bill advancing in the Iowa Senate would make clear that K-12 schools can use sales tax funding to build up their cybersecurity.

The so-called SAVE funds are earmarked for infrastructure, which includes information technology.

Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-Le Claire, says it could help to specify that schools can use the money to further protect students’ private information.

“Cyberattacks are happening more and more across the state and we need to be able to give flexibility in the tools for our local governments to be able to address them on the front end because we certainly see how expensive it is to address it on the back end.”

The bill (HF 632) already passed in the House and now goes to the Senate Technology Committee.

In January, Des Moines schools canceled classes for two days after a cyberattack forced a shutdown of the district’s networks. Last year, Cedar Rapids schools paid an undisclosed ransom in response to a security breach that canceled several days of summer school.


Iowa House bill would let older teens get cosmetology, barbering licenses

Posted March 28, 2023 at 11:53 AM CDT

Status: Passed by House

The Iowa House has passed a bill to let older teenagers get a state license so they can cut and style hair in a salon or barber shop.

Current Iowa law requires a student to get a high school degree or GED before they can get a cosmetology or barbering license. The bill says anyone who’s completed 10th grade and finished training at a school for barbers and cosmetologists could get a state license if they’re at least 16 years old.

Rep. Derek Wulf, R-Hudson, said schools that train cosmetologists and barbers in Iowa already require students to have completed high school, so it’s redundant to keep that requirement in state law.

“We’ve heard from several 17-year-old high school students who have wrapped up their senior year of high school and they really want to start their classes, but unfortunately the way the law stands today, they cannot do that.”

Wulf said Iowa would not be unique in letting older teens get cosmetology licenses.

“Other Midwestern states that have the same 16-year-old requirement include South Dakota and Ohio. Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska have a 17-year-old age requirement.”

Rep. Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty, supports other parts of the bill, but she said lowering the age may encourage teens to drop out of high school.

“I think as the education state, we are doing ourselves and our children a disservice.”

The bill passed the House on an 84 -11 vote. A similar bill has passed a committee in the Iowa Senate, but it would not allow 16 and 17-year-olds to become licensed cosmetologists or barbers.

Other parts of both bills would dramatically reduce the schooling required to get a state cosmetology or barbering license. Under current law, students must complete 2,100 hours of classroom instruction and supervised cutting and styling of hair to get a license. The bills would reduce that by about 26%.

The House and Senate bills also would combine the Iowa Board of Barbering and the Iowa Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences.


Law enforcement say bill requiring hands-free cell phone use would help reduce distracted driving

Posted March 28, 2023 at 11:49 AM CDT

Status: Passed by Senate, moving to House

Iowa law enforcement officials are hoping this is finally the year state lawmakers pass a bill requiring cell phone use in vehicles be hands-free. The Senate overwhelmingly passed a hands-free bill last week, and it now moves to the House.

Iowa State Patrol Sergeant Alex Dinkla says current laws limiting cell phone use in vehicles aren’t working well enough.

“We got people watching how to install drywall videos on YouTube. They’re watching movies. A recent text said a girlfriend was going to buy some cupcake mix to bake her boyfriend some cupcakes when she crashed. That text was still on the device when the officers arrived.”

Dinkla says both Minnesota and Illinois passed hands-free cell phone laws in 2019, and saw sharp reductions in crashes in the two years after the law went into effect.

Dinkla made his comments Monday on IPR’s River to River.

Read the full story.

LGBTQ bills

Bill banning gender identity curriculum passed in Iowa Senate

Posted March 23, 2023 at 12:00 PM CDT

Gender identity and sexual orientation would be banned topics in school curriculum and instruction under a bill (SF 496) passed in the Iowa Senate on Wednesday.

It also adds more rules regarding transgender students, and says schools must have parental consent before approving a student to use a different name or pronouns. If any school employee believes a student is expressing a different gender than their sex at birth, they must immediately tell the child’s parents.

That ban would cover kindergarten through sixth grade much like a similar bill passed in the House.

Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, says parents who want their kids to learn about gender identity should talk to them about it at home.

“That is not age-appropriate education in any elementary school and this bill explicitly prohibits that curriculum and lesson content in elementary schools.”

A previous version of the bill also created a statewide list of books banned by schools. That measure was dropped, but the bill now requires all books to be age-appropriate, which it defines to mean they cannot include descriptions of sexual activity.

Democrats said the bill goes against intellectual freedom and creates a stigma around talking about LGBTQ students and families.

It passed the Senate 34-16 on party lines and now goes to the House.

LGBTQ, trans bills

Reynolds signs two bills targeting trans youth into law

Posted March 22, 2023 at 5:02 PM CDT

Status: Signed into law

Transgender kids in Iowa are now barred from starting gender-affirming medical treatments and from using K-12 school bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed those two bills into law on Wednesday.

The use of puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for gender transition is now banned for minors. Those already receiving such care have 180 days to end their treatment in Iowa.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Reynolds said she believes she’s protecting trans kids from inconclusive science and unknown long-term physical effects. Opponents say these laws are bad for trans kids’ mental health and will make them less safe.

Read the full story.

Follow live updates on trans-specific bills in the Iowa legislative session.

Carbon capture pipelines

House passes bill barring use of eminent domain for CO2 pipelines

Posted March 22, 2023 at 3:58 PM CDT
 A message protesting carbon capture pipelines sits outside the Iowa Capitol.
Madeleine Charis King
A message protesting carbon capture pipelines sits outside the Iowa Capitol.

Status: Passed in Iowa House with amendments

The Iowa House passed a bill on Wednesday that would bar the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines unless landowners along 90% of the route voluntarily sell part of their land for the pipeline.

The bill that passed was amended and would put fewer restrictions on carbon pipelines than the original version.

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, the bill’s lead sponsor, says keeping the 90% threshold before using eminent domain is very important. He says eminent domain shouldn’t be used at all for the pipelines.

“I believe that I must advance legislation that protects landowners to the greatest extent possible, has a chance of being signed into law and takes into account the reality that the use of eminent domain for these CO2 pipelines is already allowed in Iowa code.”

The bill would also expand protections for farmers whose land is damaged by pipelines.

It passed with a vote of 73 to 20, with bipartisan support and opposition. Some of the lawmakers who voted against it say the bill doesn’t go far enough to protect private property rights.

Read the full story.


Bill that could suspend disruptive, violent students passed in Iowa House

Posted March 22, 2023 at 3:42 PM CDT

Status: Passed in Iowa House

Students who disrupt class or attack teachers would receive in-school suspensions under a bill passed in the Iowa House on Wednesday.

The bill (HF 604) initially required a student to be moved from their classroom permanently if they were removed for violent behavior three times within a school year.

An amendment now makes that optional. The bill directs schools to consider alternative placements, such as therapeutic classrooms.

Rep. Sue Cahill, D-Marshalltown, voted in favor of the bill, but says it puts too much emphasis on discipline instead of ways to improve student behavior.

“I fully support the safety of our teachers and their ability to take actions if they have injuries caused by student behavior, but I do think that the one-size-fits-all is difficult.”

Under the bill, teachers can take complaints to the State Office of the Ombudsman if they believe district leaders are ignoring violent incidents in school.

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Hull, says it’s meant to help teachers keep classrooms safe.

The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 89-6.


Bill that would strengthen distracted driving laws passed by Iowa Senate

Posted March 22, 2023 at 3:39 PM CDT

Status: Passed by Iowa Senate

The Iowa Senate passed a bill on Wednesday to strengthen Iowa’s distracted driving laws.

Current law bans texting and driving, and police officers say it’s nearly impossible to enforce. The bill would ban all cell phone use while driving except for hands-free phone use. It would raise the fine for a violation from $45 to $100.

Sen. Mark Lofgren, R-Muscatine, says distracted driving caused by cell phones continues to get worse.

“Hindering drivers from messing with their phones by requiring a voice-activated or hands-free mode will not eliminate all the risk and distraction, but it will define the line to not cross over, and by doing so, will improve safety on our roads.”

The bill passed nearly unanimously with three Republican senators voting no. Opponents of the bill didn’t speak during debate. It’s not clear if the House will pass a bill to reduce distracted driving this year.


Reynolds planning to push birth control access bill

Posted March 22, 2023 at 11:10 AM CDT

Status: Introduced

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds says she’s in talks with lawmakers about getting a behind-the-counter birth control bill passed.

She proposed a similar bill four years ago but the effort failed. This year, Reynolds brought it back as the Legislature may soon get more leeway to restrict abortion.

The Senate passed a bill last week that would allow pharmacists to dispense hormonal birth control without a prescription from a doctor. The House is considering a similar bill, but it would require a doctor's visit to get a refill after about two years. Reynolds says it’s the right thing to do.

“It comes down to some type of compromise language that everybody feels comfortable with. My goal is to get it across the finish line. And so we’re going to continue to sit down with lawmakers and find what that compromise looks like.”

House Democrats released their own bill on Monday to allow pharmacists to dispense up to a year’s supply of hormonal birth control at a time.


Lawmakers consider bills aimed at reducing fentanyl overdose deaths

Posted March 21, 2023 at 1:34 PM CDT

Status: Iowa lawmakers are considering proposals from the governor and attorney general aimed at addressing the recent spike in fentanyl-related drug overdose deaths.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that can be deadly in very small quantities. Some people who use drugs seek it out, but fentanyl is also being added to many other drugs, causing people to unknowingly ingest it. Some Iowans have died from taking just one counterfeit pain pill that looked like a prescription drug but actually contained fentanyl.

Gov. Kim Reynolds is proposing enhanced penalties for dealing fentanyl and an expansion of who can distribute a medication that reverses opioid overdoses. Attorney General Brenna Bird is proposing a new state-level crime of causing a death by manufacturing or delivering an illegal drug.

Speaking Monday on IPR’s River to River, Republican Rep. Brian Lohse of Bondurant said he believes stiffer penalties will deter some sales of fentanyl, but he said it will likely be a minimal impact.

“It also is about justice for the victim,” Lohse said. “The fentanyl is a particularly, to me, kind of a heinous thing because you have people mixing this into drugs to make it more potent, more addictive, without any regard for the personal safety of anyone.”

Democratic Rep. Ross Wilburn of Ames said studies have found that raising criminal penalties does not do much to prevent illegal drug distribution.

“We can fill up our correctional centers and keep filling up an overburdened system, or we can try to address things from the other end, the user end, and even users who are supplying others,” Wilburn said.

Both lawmakers said raising criminal penalties isn’t enough, and that the state needs to improve access to substance use disorder treatment.

Read the full story.

Higher Education

Bill would ban DEI spending at public universities 

Posted March 21, 2023 at 12:15 PM CDT

Status: Advancing in Iowa House

Iowa’s three public universities would be banned from spending money on diversity, equity and inclusion offices and professionals under a bill advancing in the Iowa House. It would require the universities to reallocate money that would’ve been spent on DEI efforts to scholarships for low- and middle-income students.

Kyle Clare, a sophomore at the University of Iowa majoring in political science, spoke in support of the bill at a subcommittee hearing Wednesday. He said he came to Iowa from Chicago because of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ “bold conservative leadership,” but he said DEI “runs rampant” on campus.

“The words diversity equity inclusion may sound awesome, but I think it’s more aptly named homogeny, unfairness and exclusion,” Clare said. “Homogeny: to make all their students feel and think the same things. Unfairness: by treating those who are not considered marginalized as lesser, and exclusion of anyone who has political beliefs the institution finds undesirable, which are the political beliefs of most Iowans.”

Clare urged Iowa lawmakers to remove DEI programs from the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa.

Chris Espersen of Des Moines said she’s white, but her two kids are not. Her son is a student at ISU. Espersen said she opposes the bill because DEI training can help people understand the experiences of people who are different from them.

“My children have to deal with incidents that I simply haven’t had to deal with as a white woman,” she said. “As parents, I am sure that you can appreciate the pain that this causes.”

The bill would authorize the Iowa attorney general to compel a university to comply with the ban on DEI spending. It would also authorize a student, faculty member or alumnus of one of the universities to sue a university for an alleged violation of the bill.

Read the full story.


Bill would redefine ‘age appropriate’ books

Posted March 21, 2023 at 12:12 PM CDT

Status: Passed out of Iowa House

School library books and curriculum must be age appropriate under a bill passed out of the Iowa House on March 9. The bill defines age appropriate to mean that a book cannot be obscene, or show or describe sexual acts.

Conservative parents groups such as Moms for Liberty have been lobbying for limits on graphic content in school curriculum and library books.

Rep. Brooke Boden, R-Indianola, said the House proposal gives school administrators new “guardrails” to follow.

“Parents may still read the books of their choice to their own children,” said Boden, who sponsored the bill after chairing two House Government Oversight Committee hearings about book challenges. “We’re simply setting age appropriate guidelines for K-12 settings, making sure that we’re protecting our children.”

Democrats point out that schools already allow parents to opt their kids out of reading certain books. They said that’s the right process to follow so that parents can judge for themselves what is appropriate without deciding what other people’s kids can read.

Rep. Sue Cahill, a Democrat from Marshalltown, said schools should judge books as a whole not on graphic passages removed from their context.

“There may be some passages that taken out of context may seem inappropriate, but we look at the literary value of books — how it represents students in our school system,” said Cahill, adding that the bill is broad enough to ban some literary classics.

It passed 60 - 37 with three Republicans joining Democrats voting against it.

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Iowa House bill bans lessons on gender identity and sexuality in school

Posted March 21, 2023 at 12:10 PM CDT

Status: Amended and passed by Iowa House

Gender identity and sexual orientation would be banned topics in Iowa schools under a bill passed out of the House of Representatives on March 9.

The proposal (HF 348) covers kindergarten through sixth grade and says discussion related to gender identity and sexual orientation cannot be part of any “program, curriculum, test, survey, questionnaire, promotion or instruction,” in Iowa schools.

Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Hull, said those conversations should start with parents, not teachers.

“If (students) have questions and these types of topics come up they should be directed to go home and talk to their parents about it,” Wheeler said. “That is the appropriate avenue to have a conversation with these kids at such a young age. The parents have a vital interest in these conversations.”

A similar curriculum ban is part of a bill from Gov. Kim Reynolds in the Iowa Senate, although her proposal targets gender identity and sexual activity, not sexual orientation.

Democrats opposed the bill saying it demeans teachers and stigmatizes LGBTQ students and their families. Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, D-Des Moines, said if teachers cannot discuss LGBTQ issues they cannot create a welcoming learning environment for all children.

“When you say we can’t teach kids about the LGBTQ community, that all we are there to do is to teach academics, that’s blind,” said Gaines, who taught for decades in Des Moines schools. “In order to teach academics you have to be able to talk about where those kids are, and every child is at a different point.”

The bill passed by a vote of 62 - 35 with only Republicans voting in favor of it.

Read the full story.

Carbon capture pipelines

Bill would restrict eminent domain for carbon pipelines

Posted March 21, 2023 at 12:06 PM CDT

Status: Advanced by House panel

Landowners from across Iowa gathered at the Statehouse late February to protest proposed carbon capture pipelines as an Iowa House panel advanced a bill that would restrict the use of eminent domain for the pipelines.

Twenty-two Republican representatives sponsored the bill that would require owners of 90% of the land in a carbon pipeline’s path to agree to the pipeline before eminent domain could be used to access land from unwilling owners.

It would also prevent the state from issuing a permit for carbon pipeline construction until new federal safety standards are complete. And it would require interstate pipelines to get permits from all other states before using eminent domain in Iowa.

Karen Seipold farms in Mills County, near the path of Summit Carbon Solutions’ proposed pipeline. She said the bill is needed to protect private property rights and people.

Read the full story.


Bill would change who qualifies for SNAP, Medicaid

Posted March 21, 2023 at 11:58 AM CDT

Status: Advanced by House panel

Republicans on a House panel advanced a bill in January that would change who can qualify for food and medical assistance in Iowa.

It would establish new limits on assets Iowans could hold while receiving food assistance, known as SNAP. Under the bill, the state would also ask the federal government for permission to enforce work requirements for some Medicaid recipients. And the bill would direct the state to do additional verification of Iowans’ eligibility for SNAP and Medicaid.

Republicans on the panel said the House Health and Human Services Committee would be working on changes to the bill, which would include seeking federal permission to ban the use of SNAP benefits to buy candy and soda.

Supporters of the bill say it will ensure taxpayer dollars are only spent on people who truly need the help.

A wide range of groups that advocate for low-income Iowans, people with disabilities, children, and health care organizations oppose the bill. They say people who need help with food and medical care could lose their benefits if the bill becomes law.

Read the full story.


Lawmakers continue effort to ban hand-held phone use while driving

Posted March 21, 2023 at 11:55 AM CDT

Status: Advanced by Senate panel

A bill advanced by an Iowa Senate panel would only allow hands-free use of cell phones while driving, as lawmakers continue a years-long effort to strengthen the state’s distracted driving laws and improve safety on Iowa’s roads.

According to the Iowa State Patrol, distracted driving caused one in five car crashes in the state in 2021.

Larry Loss of Clive said he was biking last spring when a driver who was looking at their phone cut him off, sending him crashing into a concrete barrier.

“I spent 17 days in the hospital. Had two surgeries. I was off work for two months. By the way, the driver never stopped. I am in support of this bill.”

Law enforcement officials have been telling lawmakers for years that the state’s current ban on viewing and sending messages while driving is very difficult to enforce.

Iowa State Trooper Wade Major said when a driver is pulled over on suspicion of texting and questioned about their phone use, they often say they’re using a GPS app to avoid getting a ticket.

“We have no rights to take their phone at this point in time. We know what they’re doing. We can tell what they’re doing. So at the end of the day…we end up penalizing those who are being honest with us up front.”

The bill advanced by a Senate panel would ban all cell phone use while driving except for the one touch it takes to answer or end a phone call. All other phone use would have to be hands-free, with some exceptions for certain professions and vehicles.

Read the full story.

Public lands

Bill advancing would prevent expansion of public lands

Posted March 20, 2023 at 4:29 PM CDT

Status: Passed in Senate, advanced through House subcommittee

A bill that passed in the Senate and advanced through a House subcommittee would require the Department of Natural Resources to prioritize maintenance of existing public lands above acquiring new lands.

Buchanan County Conservation Board Director Dan Cohen opposes the bill.

“In rural Iowa, we don’t have minor league baseball stadiums, we don’t have huge museums — we have waters, we have woods, we have lands that bring people in. And knocking out the ability for us to attract and have people come and use our areas, maybe by reducing the amount that we can acquire and have for those purposes, would be detrimental to rural Iowa.”

Kevin Kuhle, a lobbyist for the Iowa Farm Bureau, one of two groups registered in support of the bill, says its members want the state to focus more on managing current public lands and reduce efforts to acquire more land.

He suggested land being sold for conservation could instead be sold to beginning farmers, but the DNR says the state doesn’t usually buy highly productive farmland.

Iowa ranks nearly last in the country for percentage of public lands.

Read the full story.


Bill requires insurance cover replacing child safety seats after wrecks

Posted March 17, 2023 at 4:07 PM CDT

Status: Passed by Iowa House, moved to Senate for consideration

The Iowa House has unanimously passed a bill requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of replacing child safety seats that are damaged in accidents.

Some insurance companies deny coverage if a child was not in a safety seat at the time of the crash or if the automobile’s owner cannot provide receipts or a photo of the seat.

Rep. Keenan Judge, D-Waukee says it’s an important bill.

“I’ve heard from constituents, believe it or not, about this bill — how happy they were. Being the proud grandfather of two, my wife insisted we buy one of these expensive car seats.”

Child safety seats range in price from $40 or $50 up to a few hundred dollars. Booster seats for older children are less expensive.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing a child’s car seat following a moderate or severe crash, even if it appears the seat was not damaged.

LGTBQ issues, trans issues

Bill barring trans Iowans from using school bathroom matching their gender identity sent to Reynolds’ desk

Posted March 16, 2023 at 4:36 PM CDT

Status: Passed, awaiting governor's signature

Republicans in the Iowa House sent a bill to the governor’s desk on Thursday to ban transgender Iowans from using school bathrooms that align with their gender identity.

The bill would leave unisex single occupancy bathrooms as one of the only options for trans students in K-12 schools.

Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, says the bill tries to be sensitive to trans students by listing accommodations that can be made.

“But what about the legitimate concerns — safety concerns and privacy concerns — of our daughters who don’t want to change clothes in front of a biological male, or our young men who don’t want to change clothes in front of females.”

Rep. Elinor Levin, D-Iowa City, says trans kids just want to be able to use the bathroom like everyone else and don’t want to hurt anyone.

“We are accepting the false narrative that there is a problem so that we can sweep in and be heroes, all while disregarding that our trans kids are the ones who face harassment and even violence as a result. I am asking you, personally, please do not do this to them.”

The bill will take effect immediately after the governor signs it into law.


Bill would eliminate individual income tax

Posted March 16, 2023 at 4:34 PM CDT

Status: Approved by Senate committee

A Senate committee has approved a bill that would gradually eliminate the state income tax if state tax surpluses continue to grow.

Sen. Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, who is chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the bill continues to modernize Iowa’s tax code and keep it competitive.

“...Not only for families to come here, to stay here but as well as for businesses to recognize that Iowa has a very competitive and compelling footprint here to locate.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law last year that will gradually reduce the state income tax to 3.99%. The new bill would cut the rate to 2.5% by 2028 and it would reduce Iowa’s corporate income tax from 5.5% to 4.9%.

The five Democrats on the committee voted against the move. Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said getting rid of the state income tax will lead to cuts in state services.

According to Quirmbach, 56% of the state budget is spent on education. Dawson said cuts won’t be necessary if the state budget and tax cuts are “managed appropriately.” He said under the bill, state income taxes are only reduced if there’s money in the Taxpayer Relief Fund.

Republican lawmakers are also developing a plan to reduce property taxes. Reynolds has said she’s left drafting of property tax cuts up to GOP lawmakers because her priority this year was state-funded education savings accounts for private school expenses — something she’s already approved.

Government reorganization

House passes Reynolds’ government reorganization bill

Posted March 16, 2023 at 4:33 PM CDT

Status: Passed, awaiting governor's signature

Iowa House Republicans passed Gov. Kim Reynolds’ bill to reorganize the state government on Wednesday, sending it to her desk for her signature.

Five Republicans joined all Democrats in voting against the bill.

The 1,500-page bill would cut the number of cabinet-level state agencies from 37 to 16 and expand the authority of the governor and attorney general.

Rep. Jane Bloomingdale, R-Northwood, managed the bill’s passage. She says the bill isn’t perfect, but it’s necessary and good for Iowa.

“We’re going to streamline the state government. We’re going to save taxpayer dollars. We’re going to create efficiencies. And with all of that, we are going to better serve all of Iowans.”

Democrats offered several amendments to address concerns raised by various groups of Iowans. Republicans rejected all of them. Democrats accused Republicans of being a rubber stamp for a power grab by the governor and of not listening to Iowans who will be affected by the bill.

Read the full story.


Bill to create new licensure designation for rural hospitals heading to Reynolds’ desk

Posted March 16, 2023 at 4:31 PM CDT

Status: Passed, awaiting governor's signature

The Iowa Senate unanimously passed the bill that would create a new state licensure category called the Rural Emergency Hospital designation.

The new license allows rural hospitals to end inpatient services and operate outpatient care with an emergency room. It would provide higher reimbursement rates through Medicaid and Medicare.

It was established by Congress in late 2020, but state legislatures are required to create their own licensure designations before hospitals can apply for it.

Lawmakers like Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley have strongly supported the new designation as a way to help struggling rural hospitals avoid closure.

Iowa saw its first rural hospital closure in more than two decades when Blessing Health in Keokuk closed last fall.