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Lawmakers focus on education following ban on medical care for transgender youth

Machine with voting decision buttons at each lawmaker's desk in the Iowa House of Representatives.
Madeleine Charis King
Lawmakers are able to vote using buttons on each representative's desk.

Several bills passed in the state legislature last week, including a ban on gender-affirming health care for minors that reached Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk less than two weeks after it was introduced. The Iowa House also passed education proposals, including a ban on gender identity and sexual orientation as school topics for certain grades and a bill that would redefine what’s “age appropriate” for books and curricula taught in Iowa schools.

Gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors

Republican lawmakers fast-tracked this bill, introducing and advancing the legislation two weeks ago during “funnel week.” Both chambers passed the measure largely along party lines in under 24 hours last week.

The legislation would prohibit Iowa doctors from providing puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery for transgender people under the age of 18. People who are already receiving this care would have 180 days to stop their treatments or seek care in another state.

One Republican lawmaker who voted against the measure in the House, Rep. Chad Ingels, R-Randalia, said choosing to focus this legislation on an extremely small population is sad. He noted none of his constituents brought this up to him as an issue.

LGBTQ-rights protests backdrop Statehouse action

There were multiple protests at the state capitol last week as lawmakers advanced additional anti-LGBTQ bills. At one gathering, community organizer Jo Allen said these bills are focused on expelling trans people from public life. Allen said trans youth deserve the same love and protection as everyone else.

Republicans in the Senate passed a bill last week that would ban transgender students from using school bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The bill would also apply to school locker rooms.

In the Iowa House, lawmakers advanced two bills that put some restrictions on classroom topics and materials. Republicans in the House passed a bill to ban teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation through sixth grade. Another bill defines age appropriate materials for K-12 schools to mean that books cannot be obscene, or show or describe sexual acts.

Conservative parent groups such as Moms for Liberty have been lobbying for limits on graphic content in school curriculum and library books. A lot of opposition has been against specific books, many of which feature LGBTQ characters and the experiences of other marginalized groups of people.

Government reorganization bill continues to move forward

Reynolds' plan to reduce the number of state agencies and expand the authority of the governor and attorney general has advanced out of the Iowa Senate. Democrats proposed several amendments to scale back or remove some of the more controversial parts of the bill, including expanding the attorney general’s powers and having the governor appoint the director for the Department for the Blind.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, who led the bill through the Senate, said he had similar concerns after hearing from various groups of Iowans through the subcommittee process. Republicans rejected all amendments put forward by Democrats. Schultz said he ultimately decided the governor got it right and that Republican senators wanted to pass the legislation without substantive changes.

The governor says the bill would improve the function of the executive branch, elevate services for Iowans and save taxpayers money. Democrats have called the bill a power grab by the governor. The House is still working through the bill and House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, has not made it clear if that chamber will introduce any changes.

Limits on the state government’s watchdog

Republicans in the Senate introduced and passed legislation last week related to the state auditor’s office that current auditor, Democrat Rob Sand, said would be “catastrophic” for the state’s finances.

The measure came in as an amendment to a bill related to the auditor’s office. With the change, the bill would bar the state auditor’s office from accessing certain information unless the agency being investigated agrees to provide it.

Republicans say it’s needed to protect Iowans’ personal information that’s not relevant to routine audits. Sand, the lone Democrat in statewide office, said it was the most pro-corruption bill he’s seen out of the state Legislature. He said it will limit his office’s ability to root out waste and fraud and that it could impact the state’s bond and credit ratings or jeopardize federal funding.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter
Grant Gerlock is a reporter covering Des Moines and central Iowa
As the newsletter product manager, Madeleine (she/her) coordinates and writes for Iowa Public Radio’s newsletter portfolio, including The Daily Digest and Political Sense.