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April 4: Last week at the Iowa Legislature

The sun reflects off the golden dome of the Iowa Statehouse on a sunny winter day.
Madeleine King
IPR file
House Republicans said transgender girls should be ineligible to play against other girls because they may hold a physical advantage, but Democrats said there have been no significant issues with unfair competition in Iowa.

Republicans have the state government trifecta, meaning they control the Senate, House and governor’s office. But that doesn’t mean they agree on everything. Last week, GOP leaders said they're still working to resolve differences on some key priorities.

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

House GOP seeks deal with Senate on changes to Iowa's bottle bill

The bottle bill has been around for more than 40 years. Many Iowans and Iowa lawmakers say the law is outdated, and a lot of businesses aren’t following the law anymore. At the beginning of the pandemic, the state said grocery stores could stop taking bottle and can returns because of concerns about bringing contaminated containers into places where food is being sold. After the state ended that policy, a lot of grocery stores still didn’t accept the bottles and cans, making it more difficult for people to return them and overwhelming the state's relatively few redemption centers.

Stakeholders and lawmakers have a lot of different ideas about how to fix this. Iowa House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, says he is holding off on passing bottle bill changes in the hopes House and Senate Republicans can reach an agreement. The Senate passed a bill last week that would allow grocery stores to refuse bottle and can returns and make other changes to the bottle deposit law. The House planned to debate a similar bill last week but didn’t end up doing that. Democrats in the Senate opposed the bottle bill changes in that chamber, saying the proposal would kill the bottle bill. It’s not clear how House Democrats would vote on their chamber’s bill.

Senate passes education bill that would create voucher-style program for private school tuition

The Iowa Senate is putting its own education bill up against a separate bill passed by the House. Both bills require schools to make library catalogs and classroom materials available to parents, but only the Senate plan includes a voucher-style program proposed by Gov. Kim Reynolds. The plan in the Republican-controlled Senate (SF 2369) would create state-funded scholarships available to up to 10,000 students to help pay private school tuition. The Senate bill passed 31 to 18, with all but one Republican voting in favor. Republicans blocked a Democratic amendment that would require private schools to follow the same admissions and transparency rules as public schools.

Lawmakers consider cuts to unemployment benefits

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senatepassed bills March 23 that would cut the maximum time Iowans can receive unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks and require claimants to accept a lower-paying job more quickly. But lawmakers disagree on whether there should be a one-week waiting period for benefits. The governor and the Senate want that to happen, and House Republicans didn’t include that in their version. So there was not a deal on that at the end of last week.

What else we're watching:

Iowans to see end of extra SNAP benefits tied to the pandemic

Iowans who receive support through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - or SNAP - will see a reduction in their benefits as of last Friday. The change is a result of the end of Gov. Reynolds' Public Health Disaster Emergency Proclamation. It means individuals in Iowa could see a monthly reduction in food stamps of up to $230.

Iowa landowners push lawmakers to stop the use of eminent domain for carbon pipelines

Landowners gathered at the Capitol last Tuesday afternoon to oppose proposed carbon capture pipelines that would run through their land. The farmers asked lawmakers to stop private companies from using eminent domain in their projects. The Legislature is considering putting a ban on the use of eminent domain for a year. But many farmers say the legislation doesn’t go far enough and are pushing for lawmakers to ban the use outright.

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 the senior politics reporter for MPR News.