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Iowa Statehouse roundup: Legislators look toward March 31 funnel deadline

A semi-truck sits outside the Iowa Capitol building with a "No hazardous carbon pipelines" sign on its side.
Madeleine Charis King
The Iowa House of Representatives passed a bill Wednesday that would ban the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines unless 90% of the route is first acquired through voluntary land sales.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed two major pieces of legislation last week. Transgender kids in Iowa are now legally banned from starting gender-affirming medical treatments and from using school bathrooms that align with their gender identity under the new laws.

Lawmakers at the statehouse are also coming up on another legislative deadline that will either push bills forward or drop them for the session.

It’s funnel week, again

March 31 marks the second legislative deadline for the 2023 statehouse session. To pass the deadline, bills from one chamber must get through a committee in the opposite chamber, with a few exceptions.

Last week, the House passed a bill that would ban the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines unless 90% of the route is first acquired through voluntary land sales and would expand some protections for landowners if their land is damaged by a pipeline. The bill will need to get approval from a Senate committee before March 31 to stay alive.

Lawmakers are also considering changes to eligibility requirements for SNAP and Medicaid, a bill that would change what the state auditor is able to access during investigations, limits to public land expansion and new restrictions on hand-held phone use while driving. The House and Senate both have slightly different education bills that would restrict what books can be in school libraries and ban teaching about gender identity and sexual education.

State budget

Lawmakers must set a budget for the next fiscal year before the 2023 session officially closes. Proposals are out and House Republicans have put forward a plan that would spend more than the governor’s or Senate Republicans’ proposals to help pay for increasing nursing home costs and funding workforce programs among other expenses.

Reactions to anti-LGBTQ bills

A statement from Iowa Safe Schools said the bills block medically necessary, lifesaving care for transgender youth, and discriminate against transgender Iowans.

Advocates say Reynolds is putting trans kids in unsafe situations by barring them from using bathrooms that align with their gender identity. The Iowa State Education Association, which represents public school employees, issued a statement condemning what it called the Legislature and Reynolds’ repeated attacks on Iowa’s LGBTQ students.

The superintendent of the state’s largest school district, Des Moines Public Schools, said in a statement that the district is required to comply with the law that restricts bathroom and locker room use for transgender students, employees, parents and visitors. Matthew Smith said under the new law, any student who desires greater privacy when using the restroom or changing room may submit a written request to their principal that is signed by their parent or guardian.

Under the bill banning gender-affirming care, minors already receiving care will have 180 days to end their treatment in Iowa. The Iowa Trans Mutual Aid Fund is raising a travel fund for kids who may need to leave the state to get gender-affirming medical treatments.

Reynolds says the law is aimed at protecting kids

Asked about the bills at a news conference Tuesday, Reynolds said she believes the science around gender-affirming care for minors is not conclusive.

“It is about protecting these kids,” she said. “And I think, you know, we should pause and just see what the data and the science proves moving forward.”

Major American medical organizations support the use of puberty blockers, hormone therapy and sometimes surgery for trans kids.

Reynolds says she won’t be surprised if the bills face lawsuits once signed into law.

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Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter
Clay Masters is the senior politics reporter for MPR News.
Madeleine Charis King (she/her) manages and writes Iowa Public Radio’s newsletters. She also takes photos in support of IPR's news and music teams.