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Feb. 14: Last week at the Iowa Legislature

Sidewalk Fight
Charlie Neibergall
/
AP File
State law sets a deadline for the legislature to pass school funding in the first 30 days of the session.

There were a number of noteworthy bills debated in the Iowa legislature last week that have to pass through a committee this week to survive.

Here's what went on at the Capitol last week:

Transgender girls could not compete in girls’ sports, under bill moving through the House

An Iowa House panel is advancing a bill (HF 2309) that would prohibit transgender girls from competing in girls’ sports. The Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union currently allows transgender girls to compete if they identify as female both at school and at home. Supporters of the bill said in a subcommittee Thursday that girls should not be asked to play against classmates who they said may have a physical advantage. Opponents of the bill say it goes against anti-discrimination laws and further isolates transgender students who are at a high risk of depression and suicide. The bill now goes to the House Education committee, where it must pass by the end of the week to be up for consideration this session. Gov. Kim Reynolds said last year she’d support a policy like this.

Senate advances a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for teachers to give students access to ‘obscene’ books

A bill advanced by an Iowa Senate subcommittee (SF 2198) would make it a misdemeanor for a teacher or school librarian to give a student access to a book that is considered obscene. Melissa Peterson of the Iowa State Education Association spoke against the bill, and said that’s already against Iowa law. “We already have very clear definitions of what constitutes obscene materials. We already have severe penalties for our education professionals and employees should they happen to violate that existing standard,” she said. Several parents who support the bill read from books they said should be removed from schools because they include passages showing oral sex or describing masturbation. Obscenity law requires a book to be judged as a whole. Bill sponsor Sen. Jake Chapman, R-Adel, says his proposal would allow a parent to take their school to court to decide whether a book is obscene or not.

Iowa House and Senate advance competing school funding plans

A proposal to increase state aid for schools by 2.5 percent is moving ahead in the Iowa House. That matches what was proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and is slightly more than the increase advancing in the Senate. Public school advocates say it is not enough to keep up with the cost of inflation and would likely force budget cuts in some districts. If approved, the House plan would add around $157 million to the state’s share of K-12 funding. The House is also proposing an additional $19 million in one-time funding to help schools manage staffing shortages. Senate Republicans’ school funding plan includes an increase of 2.25 percent and no additional funding to deal with staffing issues. Democrats are calling for a 5 percent increase in K-12 school funding.

Iowa House advances bill that would create a quicker path to obtain a teaching license

A House subcommittee has advanced a bill that would create a quicker path to get a teaching license for those with a college degree. The bill would give an alternative teaching license to teach grades six through twelve as long as the applicant has a bachelor’s degree and three years of work experience. The bill would require applicants to complete at least 15 hours of additional coursework, depending on their degree and experience. This includes teacher training. They would then undergo a year of supervised teaching. The bill now heads to the House Education Committee.

Listen: Proposals would change education in Iowa

Host Ben Kieffer and Grant Gerlock spoke with guests about bills being crafted by Iowa lawmakers to change education in the state.

A bill aimed at protecting Iowa mobile home residents is advancing in the House
A House panel has advanced a bill with bipartisan support that would add protections for Iowans who live in mobile homes. The bill requires more advance notice of rent and utility increases, extends protections from retaliation by mobile home park owners, and makes several more changes. But it wouldn’t put limits on rent increases, as past bills would have done. Democratic representatives say they support the bill, but they’d like to do more. The Iowa attorney general’s office says they’re opposed, because the bill leaves out key protections.

What else we're watching:

House Republicans are considering investigating an Iowa judge

House Republicans will open an investigation into a north-central Iowa judge. A key lawmaker is asking for more information about Judge Kurt Stoebe, who stepped down as chair of a district judicial nominating commission last year. Stoebe left the commission, but not the judiciary, amid allegations that he lied about an applicant withdrawing from consideration. That led Gov. Kim Reynolds to reject both of the commission’s nominees. The commission later picked the same finalists without Stoebe. According to the judicial branch, the Judicial Qualifications Commission isn’t allowed to disclose ongoing investigations until they reach a conclusion.

Democratic legislator continues push for ban of factory farms

Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, has introduced a bill that aims to stop the construction of factory farms in Iowa. The measure would also hold big agricultural companies accountable for water and air pollution. Environmental organizations have been pushing for a ban on factory farms in Iowa for the last five years. Now they’re also calling for more protections for contract growers, which they say are the ones being punished for environmental violations, not large corporations. The bill is unlikely to find much support in the Republican-controlled legislature. In past years, similar measures have failed to advance.

Democrat running for Governor says Republicans are misrepresenting Iowa’s budget surplus

The most high-profile Democrat running for governor in 2022 says Republicans who run state government are misrepresenting Iowa’s billion-dollar budget surplus. Des Moines businesswoman Deidre DeJear says Republican leaders call the surplus a trust fund, and that implies a mindset of a person in privilege. A large portion of the state's budget surplus is deposited in the Taxpayer Relief Fund under Iowa law. Recent campaign filings showed Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds raised 13 times more than DeJear did at the end of 2021. Waterloo State Rep. Ras Smith ended his short campaign for governor at the beginning of the year.

Senate panel advances bill containing Reynolds’ workforce shortage proposals

A Senate panel has advanced a bill containing more of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposals aimed at fixing the workforce shortage. The bill would expand health care provider loan repayment programs, establish a statewide building code, and waive some fees for veterans to try to attract them to the state. It would make some changes to professional licensing laws, and the bill aims to expand work-based learning in high schools. The other part of Reynolds’ workforce package is a separate bill that would cut the maximum duration of unemployment benefits, which has advanced in the House and Senate in recent weeks.

For even more on Iowa politics and legislation, subscribe to the Political Sense weekly newsletter and check out the weekly podcast Under the Golden Dome.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter
Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter.