Iowa Statehouse Roundup: What passed the second legislative deadline
Iowa lawmakers have passed the second legislative deadline. After another “funnel week,” the House and Senate now have a shorter list of bills to consider. A bill to restrict eminent domain use for carbon capture pipelines and a bill to limit public lands expansion died last week.
There are exceptions to the deadline, but here are some of the major bills that are still eligible for debate and some that are likely dead.
“Parents’ rights” education bill: Gov. Kim Reynolds’ bill went through a round of changes in the Senate and, this week, in the House. As it stands, the bill would ban instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-6. It would ban books from K-12 schools that have “graphic” descriptions of sexual activity. It would require schools to contact parents if a transgender student asks to use a different name or pronouns. Parents would have to consent to school health surveys unless they are required by law. And the state board that oversees educators would have to have an equal number of parents and teachers.
Distracted driving: The bill would ban all handheld cell phone use while driving. Hands-free phone use would still be allowed. It passed the Senate and got through a committee in the House. Current law only bans texting while driving.
Behind-the-counter birth control: This priority of the governor’s would allow Iowans to get hormonal birth control from a pharmacist without first seeing a doctor for a prescription. After being amended by a House committee, it would allow for an initial 3-month supply of birth control, and after that, a year’s worth of birth control could be dispensed. The patient would have to see a health care provider for a refill after that.
Public assistance eligibility changes: A House committee moved the Senate’s bill forward that would establish a new asset test for low-income Iowans to get food assistance, require Iowans on Medicaid to cooperate with child support, and set up a new state computer system or contract for real-time checks of Iowans’ eligibility for public assistance programs. The bill has several differences from what the House originally proposed, and it’s not clear which pieces of both bills might get final approval.
Auditor bill: The bill that would establish new rules for the state auditor was passed by the Senate and then amended by a House committee.
Property tax relief: Taxation bills aren’t subject to the funnel deadline, so this issue can still move forward. House and Senate Republicans have very different proposals for lowering property taxes, and it’s not clear if or when they will reach an agreement.
Child labor: This bill still hasn’t made it through the full Senate or House, but both chambers moved it to their “unfinished business” list, keeping it alive through the funnel deadline. They have two different versions of the bill that would relax some of Iowa’s child labor laws to let teens work more hours and in more types of jobs.
Eminent domain for carbon pipelines: The bill would ban the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines unless 90% of the route was first acquired through voluntary land sales. The Iowa House passed the bill with bipartisan support and opposition, but Senate Republicans decline to bring it up for an initial hearing.
Public lands: The Senate bill would make maintenance of existing public lands a higher priority than acquisition of new land, which raised concerns that it would severely limit the expansion of public lands in the state. A House committee failed to advance the bill ahead of the funnel deadline.
Election bill: The House bill would add another voter ID requirement for voting absentee and change the rules for election recounts. It didn’t get a floor vote in the House and never made it to the Senate.
Death penalty: The Senate bill would reinstate the death penalty for adult defendants found guilty of kidnapping, sexually abusing and murdering a child. It did not get a vote on the Senate floor, and never made it to the House.
Banning the LGBTQ panic defense: The House bill would make it illegal to use the discovery of a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity as part a “temporary insanity” defense when being prosecuted for a violent crime. A Senate committee failed to advance it.
Ready for governor’s signature
Government reorganization: The 1,500-page bill proposed by Reynolds was passed by the House and Senate and awaits her signature to become law. The bill would merge agencies to cut the number of cabinet-level agencies by more than half, eliminate vacant government positions, and give the governor and attorney general more power.
Already signed into law
Education Savings Accounts: Reynolds signed her priority bill into law in January. Under the law, all Iowa families, regardless of income, will soon be eligible for taxpayer-funded accounts to pay for private school tuition.
Ban on gender-affirming care: Reynolds signed a law that bans transgender minors from getting puberty blockers, hormone therapy and surgery to transition to a different gender. Those already receiving treatment have about 6 months from the day the law was signed to end treatment in Iowa.
Restricting school bathroom use: The new law immediately blocked transgender students and adults from using K-12 school bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their gender identity.
Rural emergency hospital designation: The new state licensure process allows some hospitals to get the federally-created designation of “rural emergency hospital.” It allows struggling hospitals to stay open for outpatient and emergency services while stopping inpatient services.
Medical malpractice damages cap: Another priority for the governor, the new law caps non-economic damages in medical malpractice verdicts at $2 million for cases against hospitals and $1 million for cases against independent clinics or physicians.