© 2024 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Iowa's 2023 legislative session has ended

Iowa Capitol dome
Madeleine C King
Iowa's 2023 legislative session ended Thursday.

Iowa’s 2023 legislative session ended in the early afternoon Thursday after nearly four months of action.

This session was was focused on the passage of state-funded scholarships for kids to go to private schools, a sweeping reorganization of state government, property tax cuts, bills targeting LGBTQ youth, and an attempt to limit eminent domain for carbon pipelines.

It was the seventh consecutive legislative session in which Republicans held full control of the House, Senate and governor’s office.

Gov. Kim Reynolds got almost everything she asked lawmakers for at the start of the session.

“I just want to say how proud I am of the legislative session that we just wrapped up,” she told reporters Thursday.

Her biggest priority of the year, tax-funded accounts for families of any income level to pay private school tuition, passed in the first weeks of the session. Reynolds’ other education-related priorities got approved as well, including banning instruction related to LGBTQ topics in grades K-6 and getting rid of some education regulations.

She also got lawmakers to approve her 1,500-page bill to reorganize the state government, a bill to raise criminal penalties for offenses related to fentanyl and other drugs, and her proposal to limit damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits.

However, the GOP-majority legislature declined to pass parts of Reynolds’ maternal health care package.

They agreed to fund family medicine obstetrics fellowships. But they declined to approve behind-the-counter birth control access, paid parental leave for state employees, and funding for fatherhood initiatives.

Reynolds said she won’t give up on that.

“We’ll continue to work with the legislature,” she said. “I’ll work over the interim, and you’ll probably see it again next year as part of my program.”

Reynolds has 30 days from the end of the session to sign bills into law or veto them.

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said House Republicans got most of their priorities to the governor’s desk this year.

“We’ve been in the majority now for over 10 years,” he said. “And whether you like the things we try to do, or you don’t like the things we try to do—whether it’s in this chamber or Iowans as a whole—we try to make commitments and follow through with those things we tell Iowans we’re going to do.”

House Republicans were not able to get their bill passed in the Senate that would have put new limits on the use of eminent domain for carbon capture pipelines. Grassley said if it’s not too late to make those changes next year as pipeline proposals move forward, the House will engage on the issue again.

Democratic leaders said Iowans are worse off because of some of the bills passed this legislative session.

“This session will go down in history as one of the most divisive and cruel ever seen in the history of the Iowa Legislature,” said Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville.

Wahls and House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, criticized Republican bills that restrict school bathroom use and ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth, put new limits on food assistance for low-income Iowans, send taxpayer dollars to private schools, and ban certain books from school libraries.

But Konfrst also said she is proud of the bipartisan work on property tax relief and on making changes to the child labor bill to make it safer than the original proposal.

“I look forward to doing more together next session, and I see glimmers of hope here at the end,” she said.

Looking ahead to next year’s legislative session, Republican leaders said they want to do more to overhaul the property tax system.

Reynolds said she wants to eliminate the income tax. Last year, she and Republican lawmakers passed major income tax cuts that would phase in a flat income tax of 3.9%.

Grassley and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Grimes, did not say whether they will consider more legislation related to LGBTQ Iowans next year.

“The issues that came up this year from constituents, from the people we represent, we largely addressed,” Whitver said. “And so there’s not a lot of hangover in the next session with these issues, in my opinion.”

He said lawmakers would “address future issues” if they come up.

This post was updated Friday, May 5 at 2:12 p.m.

Katarina Sostaric is IPR's State Government Reporter