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State Government News

April 11: Last week at the Iowa Legislature

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John Pemble
/
IPR

Iowa lawmakers’ daily allowance will end after April 19, the 100th day of the session, but the session can continue for as long as it takes to pass the state budget.

And there are several other big issues lawmakers are wrestling with.

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

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ plan to create state-funded scholarships to use for private schools is one sticking point as Republican leaders negotiate an end to the legislative session. The Senate passed the private school scholarships bill, but there haven’t been enough House Republicans who support it to pass it in the House. It’s not clear if they’ll ever get to that point.

Another of the governor’s priorities is cutting unemployment benefits. House and Senate Republicans passed different versions of that proposal. They agree on cutting the maximum number of weeks Iowans can receive unemployment benefits. But they don’t agree on getting rid of Iowans’ ability to receive benefits in their first week of unemployment.

GOP lawmakers may consider repealing Iowa's bottle bill if they can't agree on fixing it
Two GOP lawmakers who are working on changes to Iowa’s bottle deposit law say if they can’t fix it, they may consider repealing it. Most people agree the law needs to change — a recent poll found more than 80 percent of active Iowa voters think the bottle bill has been good for Iowa, and people polled wanted more options for returning their bottles and cans.
House and Senate Republicans have competing proposals to allow grocery stores to stop accepting bottles and cans. They’d also give more money to redemption centers and allow beverage distributors to keep the money from unredeemed containers. Recycling advocates say the bills could make it much harder for some Iowans to return bottles and cans, and that beverage distributors would continue to keep tens of millions of dollars in unredeemed deposits each year.

State plans to close troubled Glenwood facility for Iowans with disabilities in 2024
Reynolds announced Thursday that Iowa will shut down one of its state-run residential facilities for people with severe disabilities in 2024. In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice found Glenwood residents were subjected to harmful human experimentation and poor medical care. The DOJ later said the state was likely violating federal law by caring for Iowans with disabilities in institutions, rather than in their homes and communities. The state’s negotiations with the federal government to address these concerns continue. But Reynolds and the top two Republican legislative leaders said in a statement that they decided Iowa wouldn’t be able to comply with the DOJ’s expectations for care at Glenwood.
Family members and guardians of Glenwood residents told the Des Moines Register that they were blindsided by this after the state’s top health official told them the center wouldn’t be closed.

Landowners feel powerless as lawmakers fail to resolve their eminent domain concerns
A key senator says the Iowa House has approved a meaningless plan that would prevent carbon pipeline developers from applying for government condemnation of land along pipeline routes before Feb. 1 of next year. According to Radio Iowa, Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, said it won’t do anything because eminent domain proceedings wouldn’t be completed by next February anyway. But he said he’s working on a different eminent domain bill that would be ready next year. Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, defended the House bill, saying that it sends a message to the pipeline companies and to landowners that lawmakers are willing to act if the companies don’t negotiate fairly with landowners.

Iowa House passes protections for mobile home residents, but many residents and their advocates say they don’t go far enough
The Iowa House has passed a bill that aims to respond to mobile home residents’ concerns about being exploited by out-of-state park owners. It would require 90 days’ notice for rent and utility increases, up from the current 60 days. And it would extend protections against retaliation by landlords. But many of the key requests from mobile home residents and their advocates were left out of the bill. It doesn’t limit the timing or amount of rent increases, and property tax relief for mobile home residents was also taken out of the final version.

What else we're watching:

Iowa Senate bill would fund anti-abortion pregnancy centers and more Medicaid coverage post-childbirth
The Iowa Senate voted last Tuesday to give $1 million of state money to anti-abortion pregnancy centers and voted to expand Medicaid coverage for Iowans up to a year after they give birth. Most Democrats voted against the bill. They say they support the additional post-partum Medicaid coverage, but not the funding for anti-abortion pregnancy centers.

Following series of deadly natural disasters, Iowa’s U.S. representatives introduce legislation to improve Weather Service communication
All of Iowa’s congressional representatives have introduced a bipartisan bill to improve communications from the National Weather Service. Following a string of deadly natural disasters in the state, Iowa’s Democratic and Republican U.S. representatives introduced the National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act to Congress.

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.