2019 Legislative Session

Iowa’s 88th General Assembly is being sworn in January 14, 2019, when it begins its work representing the priorities and citizens of Iowa. With Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature and a Republican governor in office, key legislative priorities for the 2019 session are expected to be lowering property taxes, funding mental health systems for adults and children, changing the judicial nominating process, legalizing sports betting, a constitutional amendment related to gun rights, and funding workforce development programs that were created in 2018's legislative session. The legislature will adjourn in spring, once the annual state budget has been passed and submitted to Governor Reynolds.

If you want the latest on news and priorities from the statehouse, IPR News is your source:

  • State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric provides daily reports on the actions of the legislature – reporting on legislative priorities and committees, votes in the chambers, and ultimately, the bills that will be passed during the 2019 session. Her reports can be heard throughout the day on IPR’s News and News/Studio One signals.
  • Mondays at noon, River to River, co-hosted by Ben Kieffer and Katarina Sostaric, is an expanded conversation with lawmakers, those who want to influence policy, and Iowans who may be impacted by legislative action. You’ll learn about why lawmakers are supporting certain priorities. It’s also an opportunity for you to join the conversation to ask questions or share your thoughts. You can join the conversation by calling 866-780-9100 or submit questions via e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Our weekly podcast Under the Golden Dome recaps legislative action. Reporter John Pemble summarizes the noteworthy activities of the past week. He takes you to the debates, the rallies, and the events at the statehouse, and captures the evolution of priorities and legislation from the beginning to the end of the session.
jason schultz
John Pemble / IPR

Republicans in the Iowa Senate passed a bill Tuesday that would require some Medicaid recipients to report they are working or volunteering at least 20 hours a week in order to receive the government-funded health benefits.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said it will give people a “better chance at life.”

“If there’s nothing holding you back except your own decision not to move forward, we’re going to bump you forward,” Schultz said.

Max Pixel

Mary Neubauer and her husband tried to find their way through Iowa's mental health system for years, seeking help and support for their son Sergei, who died by suicide at the age of 18 in 2017. 

"Truly a labyrinth." That's how Neubauer, now an advocate, describes mental health services in Iowa.

Justgrimes/Flickr

More than 70 thousand students would be unable to vote early on their college campuses under a wide-ranging election bill making its way through the Iowa Senate. 

On this "news buzz" edition of River to River, host Emily Woodbury speaks with University of Iowa College Republicans Chair Kyle Apple and Iowa State College Democrats President Taylor Blair to learn about student reactions to the proposed bill. 

Also on this episode:

John Pemble / IPR

The governor appoints hundreds of people to serve in state departments. The roles range from board member, director, or member of a judicial nominating commission.  All of these individuals require confirmation by the Senate by a two thirds majority for them to continue in their appointed role.

university of iowa
Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

A bill that aims to expand free speech rights on public college campuses in Iowa passed the House and Senate this week in spite of concerns that it would open the door to discrimination in student organizations.

The House of Representatives debated the measure Thursday.

reynolds signs bill
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Thursday that critics are calling “Ag Gag 2.0” just two months after a federal judge struck down a similar law as unconstitutional.

The law creates a specific trespass crime for a person who lies to get into an agricultural facility with the intent to cause financial or physical damage. It would allow the prosecution of people who go undercover to investigate livestock operations, slaughterhouses and puppy mills.

Iowa House And Senate Endorse Gun Rights Amendment Again

Mar 14, 2019
iowa senate
John Pemble / IPR file

The Republican-led Iowa Legislature has again endorsed a proposed gun rights amendment to Iowa’s constitution.

Sen. Brad Zaun, a Republican from Urbandale, said the amendment’s “strong language” is necessary “in case of laws coming out of D.C. or in case of any court decisions that would weaken our Second Amendment rights.”

Sen.Tony Bisignano, a Democrat from Des Moines, was among those who suggested that if voters approve the amendment, it could lead to the repeal of current gun-related laws.

iowa capitol
John Pemble / IPR

An Iowa House panel advanced a proposal Wednesday that is meant to address concerns Republican leaders said they heard from voters about property taxes.

The bill caps property tax revenue growth at 2 percent each year.

felon voting application
John Pemble / IPR

Iowans with felony convictions will receive invitations from Gov. Kim Reynolds to apply to get their voting rights restored upon release from prison or completion of probation or parole in a simplified process.

Reynolds announced Tuesday her office is streamlining and expediting the process for ex-felons to apply to get their voting rights restored as she continues to advocate for a constitutional amendment to automatically restore those rights.

John Pemble/IPR

The Iowa Legislature is in it's ninth week at the Statehouse, with last Friday marking the first deadline of the session. During this River to River episode, Clay Masters talks with reporters about what bills are still being considered and what bills didn't make the cut after last week's "funnel." 

Guests include: 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

March 8 was the deadline for most bills and resolutions to pass a House or a Senate committee. Most of those that haven’t are no longer eligible for a subcommittee. Exceptions include appropriations, ways and means and government oversite. There are others ways a bill subject to the deadline could emerge later, but most won’t. This is also called the "funnel deadline."

The 2019 Iowa Legislative Session is scheduled for 110 days. That's 16 weeks, so it’s likely we are in the middle of this session.

voting sign
John Pemble / IPR file photo

Republican senators advanced a wide-ranging elections bill Thursday ahead of a key statehouse deadline for legislation to remain eligible in this session.

It would block students at the University of Iowa, Iowa State University and the University of Northern Iowa from voting early on campus. That’s one result of a proposed overall ban on hosting satellite voting stations in state-owned buildings, which would also include the Iowa Veterans Home.

John Pemble/IPR

A bill that would reinstate the death penalty for someone who kidnaps, rapes and murders a child advanced out of an Iowa Senate committee Thursday with an 8-7 vote.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said it is meant to address what he calls a “perverse incentive to kill children.”

Pat Blank / IPR

The inscription just above the sun visor in William Burt’s mini-bus reads, “Life is a journey, and only you hold the map.”  Burt’s journey began when as a child, he moved with his family from Mississippi to Iowa.  He became a father for the first time at the tender age of 14 and was soon in his words, “making money the easy way” by dealing drugs.

He was eventually arrested and sent to prison.  At the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility, Burt gave haircuts to the other prisoners, and realized he had pretty good skills.

medical marijuana
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

A bill that would expand Iowa's medical marijuana program is being fast-tracked by some House members ahead of a key statehouse deadline.

Rep. Jarad Klein, R-Keota, said the bill is a good step in the right direction, and comes in response to issues brought up with the current law.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file photo

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ administration is refusing to release information about how many harassment complaints are being investigated in state agencies. The state lawmaker seeking the information filed a complaint Wednesday with the Iowa Public Information Board.

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John Pemble / IPR

Lawmakers in the Iowa House advanced a bill Tuesday that would ensure absentee ballots that get mailed on time are counted in a consistent way.

It is a bipartisan effort to avoid repeating what happened in a recent northeast Iowa contested election that was separated by nine votes.

solar panels
Warren McKenna / Farmers Electric Coop

Utility companies would be allowed to charge an additional fee to customers who use solar panels to generate electricity under a bill that advanced out of an Iowa House committee Monday.

Rep. Gary Mohr, R-Bettendorf, said customers who don’t have solar panels are subsidizing utility infrastructure for Iowans with solar panels. 

julian garrett
John Pemble/IPR

All Iowa businesses would be required to use the federal E-Verify program to check if their employees are legally eligible to work in the United States under a bill that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The state could suspend or revoke the business license of employers that knowingly hire undocumented immigrants.

Michael Leland/IPR

A bill that would have cut the use of state dollars to help acquire public lands ran into a roomful of opposition at the Statehouse Monday.  People representing various conservation groups, as well as private citizens, spoke out against the bill, which was filed last week by Rep. David Sieck, R-Glenwood.

John Pemble/Iowa Public Radio

 

Iowa lawmakers are looking to end the statute of limitations on cases of child sex abuse in Iowa.

During this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and Iowa Public Radio Statehouse Reporter Katarina Sostaric discuss two senate bills aimed at eliminating this statute of limitations.They also explore legislation aimed at increasing access to birth control without a visit to the doctor.

 

John Pemble / IPR

Many of Republican Governor Kim Reynolds’ priorities have passed early hurdles in the legislative process, and a deadline for lawmakers to move bills forward is Friday. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters talks with IPR State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric about the week ahead at the legislature.

josquin2000 / Flickr

Conservationists are bashing a plan to cut off state funding to buy public lands, at the state and local level. Critics are calling the bill “potentially disastrous” and a “direct attack on conservation”, and say the plan could undermine wildlife habitat, economic development and water quality.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Part of a 2017 law that banned abortions after 20 weeks included a provision that a woman must wait 72 hours after the initial doctor consultation to have the procedure. In June, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled the 72 hour waiting period was unconstitutional.

 

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Wikimedia Commons

A bill that would remove the time limit on filing criminal charges in child sex abuse cases advanced in the Iowa Senate Thursday, but its future at the Statehouse is unclear.

Current state law says criminal charges must be filed within 10 years after the victim turns 18.

children's mental health subcommitee
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Lawmakers in the Iowa Senate advanced a plan Wednesday to start a children’s mental health system in the state.

Stakeholders said they support starting the system, but they have concerns about the need for sustainable funding, the bill’s lack of deadlines, and what some say is too narrow of a focus on children diagnosed with a severe emotional disturbance.

Jo Naylor

Updated: 9:00 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 28

Senators scaled back a plan Wednesday afternoon to eliminate several state requirements for school districts. The Senate Education Committee removed a section of the bill that would strike the requirement for each school district to have a nurse and a teacher librarian. 

The rest of the bill, which deals with topics including student health screenings, environmentally-preferable cleaning products, and others, advanced out of committee with Republicans voting in favor.  

mariannette miller-meeks
John Pemble/IPR

A three-member Senate panel voted unanimously Tuesday to advance Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal that aims to expand access to birth control in Iowa.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

Iowa lawmakers are considering three bills that would change eligibility requirements for public assistance programs like Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. 

Jack Reardon, who grew up in Des Moines in a single parent household says that there isn't a need to increase oversight for the program, but that there is a need to expand programs like SNAP. 

John Pemble / IPR file

There are a number of bills moving forward that would limit or eliminate abortions in Iowa. That’s despite recent court rulings. Last week, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds declined to appeal a court ruling over abortion but says she will continue fighting for abortion opponents. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checked in with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric to talk about abortion legislation and preview the week ahead at the capitol.

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