April 4: Last week at the Iowa Legislature
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:
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 Many Iowans and Iowa lawmakers say the law is outdated, and a lot of businesses aren’t following the law anymore.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.
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 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.
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.
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