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Property tax changes move through Statehouse

Top of Iowa Capitol building
Madeleine Charis King

Lawmakers moved forward with several measures last week, including a bill to allow gun owners to keep their firearms in their cars at certain public buildings and sending a bill that tightens eligibility requirements for public assistance programs to the governor’s desk. There is also bipartisan support for a bill moving through the House that would cap property tax increases.

Limits on public assistance

Republicans in the Iowa House sent a bill to the governor’s desk last week that would deny food assistance, or SNAP, to households that have more than $15,000 in assets. That doesn’t include a home, one car of any value or a second car worth up to $10,000.

The bill also requires the state to have a real-time eligibility verification system for all public assistance programs and requires Iowans who get health insurance through Medicaid to cooperate with child support recovery.

Extending gun carry rights

The Iowa House has passed a bill that would authorize legal gun owners to keep their firearm in their car at a public university or community college, or while visiting a public school. It would require the gun to be locked in the car and out of sight.

The bill that was passed Wednesday also includes a requirement for schools to offer gun safety classes. The House bill says those programs should be based on a gun safety program developed by the National Rifle Association.

(More) changes to the Iowa caucuses

Iowa Democrats made several proposals as part of their attempt to keep their first-in-the-nation caucus status in the party’s presidential nomination calendar, including a mail-in system. Supporters argued the move would improve accessibility.

A bill introduced by Rep. Bobby Kaufman, R-Wilton, would require Iowans to caucus in person. He’s argued that a mail-in system is too similar to New Hampshire’s primaries and could cause the state to jump ahead of Iowa. He says the bill is necessary to keep Iowa’s spot at the head of the presidential nominating process despite Democrats’ concerns.

Property tax limits

A property tax relief proposal passed unanimously out of a House committee last week. The measure would prevent an individual’s residential or agricultural property tax bill from increasing by more than 3% per year, with some exceptions. The bill would also reduce a property tax levy that funds schools, which would cut property taxes statewide by more than $200 million per year, which lawmakers say would be made up by the state.

Democrats say they support the changes, but want to ensure the state keeps its commitment to filling the gap in school funding that would be created with the tax cut.

In the Iowa Supreme Court

Supreme Court justices heard arguments last week in Gov. Kim Reynolds’ appeal to reinstate Iowa’s 2018 “fetal heartbeat” abortion ban. The law was blocked by a Polk County District Court and never enforced. Reynolds brought the appeal after the court ruled there is no fundamental right to abortion subject to strict scrutiny in the Iowa Constitution and the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer. A ruling is expected by the end of June.

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a separate case involving the governor, which will allow a lawsuit from several media outlets over their public records requests to proceed.

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.