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State Government News

Iowa lawmakers end the 2022 legislative session

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Madeleine C King
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Iowa’s 2022 legislative session ended shortly after midnight, five weeks after the target adjournment date. Iowa lawmakers passed major tax cuts this year, but didn’t deliver on the governor’s education proposals.

Iowa’s 2022 legislative session ended shortly after midnight Wednesday, five weeks after the target adjournment date. Iowa lawmakers passed major tax cuts this year, but didn’t deliver on the governor’s education proposals. IPR's state government reporter Katarina Sostaric joined Morning Edition host Clay Masters Wednesday to discuss the final hours of the session.

Masters: So let's get right to it. What happened last night, when many were still sleeping in the state?

Sostaric: The legislature finally wrapped up its session. It was just five weeks late. One of the last things that they did was a budget bill — that's kind of the kitchen sink bill. They can put all kinds of proposals into it at the last minute. And the headline from that is Republican lawmakers voted to remove the March 1 deadline for students to apply to open enroll into a different school district. Republicans said this would give parents and students more choice in education. And school districts could still reject students that want to transfer in. But Democrats said that this could really hurt school districts ability to plan for the upcoming school year in terms of their funding and knowing how many teachers they need, and that it could also lead to students leaving rural school districts. This was proposed at the last minute of the session, so it never really got a hearing or input from the public.

Okay. So there's been a long stretch of time where lawmakers weren't really doing anything at the Capitol. So what else happened this week, when there was just so much going on?

One of the biggest stories of the week is what didn't pass: House Republicans just couldn't get enough support to pass Gov. Kim Reynolds' bill to create state-funded scholarships for students to go to private schools. And that bill was why the end of the session was so delayed because they were still trying to see if they could reach an agreement. And that bill also included language aimed at addressing some parents' complaints about school library books that they say are inappropriate for students — that died along with the scholarship proposal. So for all their talk about school curriculum and library books earlier this year, the Republican majority didn't end up passing anything related to that.

Okay. So what did they actually pass then?

They did pass some major changes to the bottle bill. They voted to ban COVID-19 vaccine requirements at schools and colleges. Republicans passed a bill allowing people to hunt deer with semi-automatic rifles. And the very last bill that passed the session was a bill that got bipartisan support. It would keep pharmacy benefits managers from taking back money that it already paid to small pharmacies. Lawmakers say it'll help rural pharmacies survive.

All right. At the start of every legislative session, Gov. Kim Reynolds outlines her priorities. Every governor does this, as well. Now it's over. And you kind of look back. How did those other priorities do that she announced at the beginning of the session?

They did pretty well. Three months ago, lawmakers passed two major tax cuts that were very similar to what she proposed that will phase in a 3.9 percent flat income tax. They've passed cuts to unemployment benefits and a law requiring gas stations to sell gas blended with more ethanol. They also passed a ban on trans women and girls participating in women's and girls sports.

Okay. So what did the state House leaders say about the session as they kind of gave their ending speeches yesterday?

Republican leaders said that they're proud of the tax cuts that they passed and proud of their conservative approach to the state budget. They say that next year they have more work to do on giving parents more choices in where to send their kids to school. House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, says that she's disappointed that the legislature didn't do more to address the workforce crisis. She wants to see more on child care and affordable housing. She says the Republican majority was rewarding special interests this session and leaving lots of Iowans behind.

All right — it is an election year. We're done with the legislative session. What's kind of next? What's up for you? What are you watching moving forward now that this session is over?

Well, the governor will sign these bills over the next few weeks. She might veto some things, but typically that's pretty rare. Lawmakers will be out campaigning in their new districts. Redistricting was completed last year. So there's a lot of primaries and the primary elections are underway with the primary Election Day coming up on June 7.