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With Reynolds' school choice bill signed, lawmakers advance bills for limiting malpractice lawsuit payouts, public assistance eligibility

The Iowa House of Representatives seated.
Madeleine C King
The Iowa House of Representatives.

Gov. Kim Reynolds has signed a bill into law that will eventually offer taxpayer-funded accounts to all families who have kids in private schools. It moved swiftly through the House and Senate just two weeks after the governor proposed the plan during her Condition of the State address.

The plan will start phasing in this fall.

Now, Republican leaders say they'll start discussing public school funding, and Democrats have criticized them for addressing private school funding first. Reynolds is expected to introduce a bill related to what she calls "parents' rights" and transparency in schools. Lawmakers also plan to work on proposals for recruiting and retaining teachers in the state.

Lawmakers have advanced new bills

Lawmakers are also moving forward with other proposals. One bill proposes changes to who should be eligible for public assistance,including SNAP and Medicaid.

The bill got a lot of attention for its provision that would only allow SNAP participants to buy certain foods off a limited list that excluded fresh meat, but lawmakers running the bill said they’re taking that out and only want to restrict purchases of candy and soda. The change would require federal approval.

The bill would also put limits on what assets Iowans could hold to qualify for SNAP and would request federal permission to require some Medicaid recipients to work 20 hours a week. Republicans have considered bills like this for several years, saying they want to make sure taxpayer dollars are going to those who truly need the help, but the bills have never passed.

Opponents say the bill could lead to low-income Iowans losing the help that they need.

Proposed changes to medical malpractice lawsuit payouts

Another of Reynolds’ priorities is putting limits on payouts in medical malpractice lawsuits. The bill advanced by Senate Republicans last week would cap noneconomic damages in medical malpractice judgments at $1 million. Medical providers in favor of the bill say huge medical malpractice verdicts and high insurance rates in Iowa are driving the health care workforce shortage and contributing to a lack of health care access in rural Iowa.

Lawyers and some victims of medical malpractice say the bill would deny justice in cases where Iowans are severely injured or killed by medical negligence. Some Republican opponents of the bill accused their colleagues of hypocrisy when they say they’re pro-life, then assign a $1 million price tag to a person’s life.

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Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter
Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.
Josie Fischels is IPR's Arts & Culture Reporter, with expertise in performance art, visual art and Iowa Life. She's covered local and statewide arts, news and lifestyle features for The Daily Iowan, The Denver Post, NPR and currently for IPR. Fischels is a University of Iowa graduate.