Where Things Stand At The Iowa Statehouse After The First Deadline

Iowa lawmakers considered dozens of bills last week ahead of a legislative deadline known as the first “funnel” of the 2020 session.

Most bills that don’t relate to taxes or budgets had to pass through a subcommittee and full committee by the end of last week to remain eligible for debate. 

But there are many exceptions to that rule, because legislators can tack policy onto other bills that are moving forward. Here are some key bills that are “alive” and “dead” after the first funnel:

Public assistance changes

Senate Republicans said they would prioritize what they call “welfare reform” this year, and have advanced two related bills. One would require some Iowans on Medicaid to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week, and prohibit the state from waiving food assistance work requirements during economic recessions. A second bill would require the state human services agency to get an additional computer system to do extra checks to confirm the eligibility of Iowans receiving public assistance. A similar bill in the House did not advance.

Child care

A few bills related to child care access advanced. One would phase families receiving child care assistance out of the program as income increases, helping to address the child care “cliff effect.” Others would tweak existing law to boost reimbursement for some child care providers. And the governor’s workforce bill includes a matching grant program to help with construction or renovation of child care facilities.

Abortion

The Iowa Senate passed a proposal that would amend the Iowa Constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights. The House kept that proposed constitutional amendment and three other abortion-related bills alive. One would put additional licensing requirements and fees on abortion facilities. Another would require abortion providers to inform patients that it may be possible to reverse a medication abortion, but the nation’s leading association of OB-GYNs says there is not enough scientific evidence to back up that claim. The House also advanced a bill that would require women who had a miscarriage, abortion or stillbirth to choose burial or cremation for the fetal remains. A Senate bill requiring a 72-hour abortion waiting period died in the funnel.

College athlete compensation

A bill that would allow college athletes to earn money from endorsement deals remains eligible for debate. The Iowa Board of Regents says lawmakers should wait for the NCAA to develop national rules.

Felon voting rights

The proposed constitutional amendment to automatically restore voting rights to ex-felons who complete their sentences passed the House in 2019, so it was not subject to the first funnel deadline as the Senate decides whether to consider it. But the Senate kept a bill alive that would add restrictions to who gets their voting rights back if the constitutional amendment passes, potentially moving Senate Republicans closer to supporting the amendment itself. In a last-minute move before the funnel deadline, the House State Government Committee approved an addition to a bill to restore felon voting rights through state law.

Medical cannabis

The House and Senate advanced different bills for expanding Iowa’s medical cannabis program. The Senate bill would allow patients to obtain a lot more THC than the House bill. On the Iowa PBS program “Iowa Press” Friday, Gov. Kim Reynolds said she would be comfortable with the amount of THC in the House bill. She vetoed the amount the Senate is proposing last year.

Mobile home park protections

A bipartisan bill to increase protections for mobile home park residents was tabled by Republican leadership ahead of the funnel. House leaders said it went too far in the direction of rent control, and mobile home park residents were at the Capitol asking lawmakers to help them.

Housing voucher discrimination

A bill to prevent cities and counties from banning housing voucher discrimination remains eligible for debate in the Senate. Des Moines, Marion and Iowa City already have ordinances banning landlords from discriminating based on potential tenants’ source of income.

Vaping

Bills to raise the smoking age to 21 advanced, which will allow state law to match the change that was already made at the federal level. A bill to ban vaping in public places where smoking isn’t allowed failed to advance.

Gun policy

A House bill advanced that would prevent cities and counties from restricting gun accessories like high-capacity magazines and bump stocks. It also says local governments that ban firearms at public buildings have to provide armed security. A Senate bill that would allow Iowans with a permit to carry to have a gun on them while in a school parking lot or driveway remains eligible for debate. A bill that would prohibit employers from fully banning firearms on their property, allowing employees to keep their guns locked in their cars, died with the funnel deadline.

School behavior

A bill that would encourage schools to establish “therapeutic classrooms” for students with aggressive behavior remains eligible for debate. It proposed $2.5 million in grants to develop those classrooms.

LGBTQ issues

A bill that would ban conversion therapy for LGBTQ children failed to advance, but a Republican lawmaker pledged to keep working on the issue. An attempt to remove gender identity from the Iowa Civil Rights Act also failed. A bill that would require schools to notify parents of any classroom content that includes sexual orientation or gender identity also failed to advance before the funnel deadline.

Vaccines

A bill requiring immunization information on death certificates for children up to 3 years old has advanced. Other anti-vaccination proposals failed to advance ahead of the funnel. Public health officials say vaccines are safe.

Nonresident alien offenses

A Senate bill that would require law enforcement agencies to collect information on offenses by immigrants who aren’t U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents is dead.

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

A bill that would raise the legal threshold for enforcing a law when a person says it’s against their religion failed to advance. Opponents said it would weaken civil rights protections.