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.
senate subcommittee meeting
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Republican senators advanced three proposals and tabled one this week that would change eligibility requirements for public assistance programs.

Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) chaired the three-member subcommittee meetings on each of the bills. The Opportunity Solutions Project, which is associated with a conservative think tank based in Florida, submitted the proposals.

“A lot of these bills are focused on the public general perception that there is a large fraud problem,” Schultz said. “But I’ve looked into it—I’m not sure there is.”

John Pemble / IPR File Photo

To amend the state constitution, two consecutive Iowa General Assemblies must approve a resolution. Then it must be approved by Iowa voters. But first, the Secretary of State must publish the amendment in newspapers.

jeff  danielson
John Pemble / IPR

Sen. Jeff Danielson (D-Cedar Falls) abruptly resigned Thursday afternoon from the Iowa Senate. 

The four-term Democrat submitted a one-sentence resignation letter Thursday to the leaders of the House and Senate.

reynolds
John Pemble/IPR file photo

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to allow Iowans to get some forms of birth control directly from a pharmacist without going to a doctor first has an uncertain future at the statehouse.

The bill would allow specially trained pharmacists to dispense up to a one-year supply of some forms of birth control, and would require insurance to cover it.

Rep. Shannon Lundgren (R-Peosta) chairs the House Human Resources Committee. She said Wednesday Republicans on the committee are discussing the proposal, a priority of the governor.

Julian Garrett
John Pemble / IPR

Senate Republicans advanced a proposal out of a committee Monday that would change the make-up of the judicial nominating commissions that recommend potential judges to the governor.

The bill would allow the governor and statehouse leaders from the same political party to appoint three-fourths of the members of each commission, and statehouse leaders from the other party would appoint the remaining fourth.

Jimmy Emerson/flickr

The Iowa House of Representatives passed a K-12 education package Monday evening that increases funding to public schools by nearly $90 million for the school year starting in the fall.

The first measure House lawmakers considered offered a 2.06 percent increase to per-student funding.

Woodleywonderworks/Flickr

 

 

The Governor has made K-12 education a priority, and Iowa lawmakers are at work crafting proposals at the Statehouse.

During this hour of River to River, hosts Ben Kieffer and Katarina Sostaric are joined by Democratic ranking member of the House Education Committee Rep. Ras Smith, and Republican chair of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink. They talk about proposed changes to K-12 education base funding as brought forward by the Iowa House and Senate.

 

John Pemble / IPR File Photo

State lawmakers are expected to vote on K-12 public education funding this week. It’s less than Governor Kim Reynolds requested, but it’s more than the last couple of years. This bill gives a 2.06 percent increase in base funding, or about $79 million. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checked in with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric. Here’s what to know about education funding and other issues going on at the capitol.

university of iowa
University of Iowa

A group of college students traveled to the Iowa Capitol Thursday to voice support for a proposal that aims to expand free speech rights on public college campuses.

“As conservatives, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we expected there to be a bias when we went to a public university,” said Jacob Minock, president of the Iowa State University College Republicans. “And we are okay with that. But we are not okay with being silenced. And that is why we are here.”

John Pemble/IPR

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, wants to expand marijuana access in Iowa.  Bolkcom says marijuana should be regulated and taxed like alcohol. Other states have legalized marijuana use in some form but it is still illegal under federal law, and it is unlikely Iowa legislators will take action.

But legislators are considering bills that would legalize sports betting.  In May 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that allows states to have this form of gambling. Eight states have legalized sports betting and Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, wants Iowa to be next.

John Pemble / IPR

Representatives of Iowa’s lottery, casino, and horse-racing industries were among those making a case to lawmakers to let them handle sports betting in the state.  Pro sports leagues are also making a bid to run sports betting.

A Senate subcommittee Wednesday took testimony on four sports betting bills that favor different stakeholders.  Casino representatives say they have a long and successful track record handing betting in Iowa, and they’re already regulated by the state’s racing and gaming commission.

jake chapman
John Pemble/IPR

Republican senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would amend the Iowa Constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights.

school bus
Cannon Air Force Base

A Senate panel advanced a deal Tuesday by Republican statehouse leaders to increase funding for Iowa’s K-12 public schools for the 2019-2020 school year.

It would provide a 2.06 percent increase in base funding, which is an additional $78.6 million. A separate proposal aimed at reducing historical inequities in funding and transportation costs across school districts brings the proposed total up to $89.3 million in new dollars for next year.

John Pemble / IPR file

Legalizing sports betting takes center stage this week at the Capitol as lawmakers return for week four of the legislative session. There was also some movement last week on a couple of possible constitutional amendments.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

In May, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that allows states to legalize, tax and regulate sports betting. Until then, Nevada was the only state where fans could legally put bets on games and point spreads. Eight states have now legalized sports betting.

Several proposals that would legalize sports betting in Iowa are set to get a first hearing at the statehouse Wednesday, and lawmakers will hear from numerous competing interests.

John Pemble / IPR

This week, the Iowa House voted for the first time in this General Assembly, but there wasn’t anything ordinary about this one.  During the election for House District 55, the incumbent Rep. Michael Bergan, R-Dorchester, won by nine votes.

Ballots arrived in Winneshiek County without postmarks and the county auditor tossed them. The Democratic challenger Kay Koether sued to have the ballots counted. A judge ordered the barcodes on the envelopes be scanned to determine if they were sent before Election Day. The scans indicate they were.

naacp presidents testify at statehouse
Katarina Sostaric/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal to automatically restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions passed its first legislative hurdle Thursday. Groups of many political stripes advocated for it.

regents presidents
Joyce Russell/IPR

Iowa’s three public universities asked lawmakers Tuesday for an additional $18 million after raising tuition, and amid plans by two universities to raise tuition again.

The presidents of the University of Iowa and Iowa State University said their requests for $7 million each would go to financial aid for undergraduate students as they continue to raise tuition.

Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen said she is optimistic, but if the request isn’t met, the financial burden will continue to shift to students in the form of bigger tuition hikes.

John Pemble/IPR file

Iowa’s economic development head made her case before state lawmakers Tuesday on the Iowa's leading challenges when it comes to fostering business and workforce. In making a pitch for maintaining her agency's funding, Director Deb Durham urged lawmakers on the Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee to consider how to improve quality of life in Iowa and prepare for a changing economy.

kayla koether
John Pemble/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa House of Representatives voted Monday night to not count 29 mail-in ballots in a close northeast Iowa statehouse race.

The 53-42 party-line vote approved a report saying the Iowa House does not have the legal authority to open and count the ballots, and upheld Republican incumbent Rep. Michael Bergan’s, R-Dorchester, win by nine votes over a Democratic challenger in House District 55.

Sebastiaan ter Burg

Governor Kim Reynolds has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow felons in Iowa to vote after completing their prison sentences, probation, and parole.

Since 2011, Iowa felons who serve their full sentences, including parole, must apply for the right to vote. Their ability to vote is then determined on a case-by-case basis by the Governor’s office.

John Pemble / IPR

IPERS is the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System, and has 360,000 members.  In 2017, a bill in the Senate proposed creating an alternative defined contribution plan for new state employees, but it didn’t go anywhere.  Democrats have expressed concerns about any change to IPERS and it was often a talking point during last year’s election.

kim reynolds
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds released details Tuesday about a proposal to automatically restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions, a priority she announced last week in her Condition of the State address.

She is proposing a constitutional amendment that would automatically allow people with felony convictions to register to vote after they’ve completed their sentence. That includes completing probation or parole under the current definition.

bobby kaufmann
Joyce Russell/IPR file

A Republican representative who chairs the House State Government Committee said Tuesday there will be no changes to the retirement benefits system for Iowa’s public employees, or IPERS, in the next two years.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, made the announcement in response to what he called “scare tactics” from some groups warning of imminent changes to IPERS.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Like with the last Iowa General Assembly, Republicans control the House, Senate, and the governor’s office. But this session begins without a revenue shortfall. It also begins in the first few weeks of a new Iowa tax code passed by the legislature last year.

John Pemble / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds has been sworn in as the first woman elected governor of Iowa. She won a four-year term in November, after serving out the remainder of Terry Branstad’s term.

During her speech Friday morning, Reynolds said too often people look to government to solve their problems and focus more on what everyone else is doing wrong. She says social media can be an accelerant for this way of thinking.

gun
Bruno Stergodt / Wikimedia Commons

Iowa lawmakers gave preliminary approval this week to two measures that would expand the circumstances in which loaded guns are allowed on school grounds.

One would make it legal for parents with a valid permit to have a loaded weapon on them while they’re in a school parking lot or driveway, dropping off or picking up their kids. It would not allow parents to bring weapons into school buildings.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, proposed the bill.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowa House lawmakers heard oral arguments Wednesday in the ongoing case of a disputed statehouse race. At issue is whether a special committee of representatives will count 29 mail-in ballots that were left out of the vote tally because they arrived after Election Day without a typical postmark. A central question is whether a timestamp used to date the ballots is usable under Iowa law.

mark cady
John Pemble/IPR

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady struck a more positive tone this year with his forward-looking speech to lawmakers Wednesday. He said the court system is building a culture of “continuous improvement.”

“Let us imagine what your courts can be and where they can take us in our pursuit to achieve justice for all Iowans,” Cady said in his ninth Condition of the Judiciary address. “When we have a chance to make a difference, we should take it. Let us make that difference together.”

kim reynolds
John Pemble/IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds delivered her second Condition of the State address Tuesday, but it was her first after being elected to a full four-year term.

“My vision for the future of Iowa hasn’t changed,” Reynolds said. “But the future I see isn’t around the corner, or after the next election. The future is now. The time is now to deliver on the promises we’ve made to Iowans looking for a way up.”

She called on lawmakers to help implement the vision she set forth in 2018, but it’s unclear how far they will go.

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