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.
polk county court
Stephen Matthew Milligan / Wikimedia Commons

The process for selecting Iowa Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges was discussed in Polk County District Court again Friday as part of the second lawsuit over changes Republican lawmakers made earlier this year.

Workers at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa, take the first bets at the casino's new sportsbook.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Iowa is officially open for business for sports betting. Several casinos across the state took their first wagers Thursday, making Iowa the 11th state in the U.S. to officially legalize gambling on sports.

Iowa Racing and Gaming commissioner Julie Andres moves to approve a casino's sports betting license at a meeting in West Des Moines.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Iowa casinos are making preparations to take their first wagers on sporting events starting at noon on Aug. 15. The Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission approved the final rules for sports gambling at its meeting Tuesday. The commission also gave initial approval to 18 casinos that had applied for sports gambling licenses.

marijuana plants
Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

This story was originally published May 29, 2019. 

Democratic lawmakers are calling on the Republican-controlled Iowa Legislature to return to the Statehouse to overturn the governor’s veto of a bill that would have expanded the state’s medical marijuana program.

kim reynolds
Grant Gerlock / IPR

A new Iowa law creating the framework for a statewide children’s mental health system went into effect July 1.  The system will still be in the planning stages for several months, so most families won't have access to new services yet.  

First, a new state board is being put together to oversee the children's system, and the mental health regions have to reconfigure their boards.

Kayla Lyon speaks during a subcommittee hearing on February 26, 2019.
John Pemble / IPR file photo

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has chosen a member of her own staff to head the state Department of Natural Resources. Kayla Lyon is the first woman appointed to lead the agency.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

A group of Iowa House Democrats is waiting to hear what comes next in a lawsuit aimed at rolling back changes to the process for choosing Iowa Supreme Court justices. The lawmakers are challenging new rules passed on the last day of the legislative session giving the governor more influence over the membership of the judicial nominating commission.

John Pemble

In this hour of River to River, host Ben Kieffer is joined by five freshman lawmakers who reflect on their first session at the Iowa Statehouse. They discuss what propelled them into politics, the challenges they faced as new lawmakers, and what they hope to focus on next year.

polk county court
Stephen Matthew Milligan / Wikimedia Commons

Updated Wednesday, May 29, 4:39 p.m.

A Polk County judge issued an order Wednesday temporarily blocking a new Iowa law from taking effect that bans Planned Parenthood from participating in two federally-funded sex education programs.

governor reynolds
John Pemble/IPR file

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a bill into law Thursday that makes some changes to how cities and counties raise property taxes.

tom miller
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds vetoed a measure Wednesday that would have limited the Democratic attorney general’s authority to join out-of-state lawsuits. Instead, the two officials had a private meeting and reached an agreement that will have a similar effect.

Wikimedia Commons

Last minute changes to the state health and human services budget have raised concern for members of Iowa’s LGBTQ community and organizations that provide sex education services as well as abortions.

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds now controls a majority of the 17-member panel that nominates potential Iowa Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges. She signed controversial judicial selection changes into law Wednesday.

iowa capitol
John Pemble / IPR

This post was updated Friday, May 3, 2019 at 5:35 p.m.   

Iowa lawmakers wrapped up the 2019 legislative session Saturday afternoon. It was the third consecutive year with Republicans controlling the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the governor's office.

Read more to catch up on what high-profile legislation passed, what didn't, and what is still waiting for Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds' signature. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

This is the last week for the 2019 Iowa Legislative Session. It was scheduled for 110 days,but ended a bit early on day 104.

This is also the last episode for this year’s podcast. On this final episode, we cover the passage of the sports betting bill. It legalizes both sports wagering and fantasy sports. In May 2018, the United States Supreme Court made a ruling allowing state to add sports wagering.  So far eight states have done so.

John Pemble / IPR file

This post was updated Friday, May 3, 2019, at 5:32 p.m.

In the final days of the legislative session, Republicans at the Iowa Capitol moved to block Planned Parenthood from getting government grants to provide sex education programs in the state.

“Sexual health education is what gives young people the skills to have the healthiest lives they can have,” said Planned Parenthood Executive State Director Erin Davison-Rippey. “And by defunding Planned Parenthood, you’re removing one of the most significant providers of sex education from the system.”

marijuana plants
Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

In the final hours of the legislative session Saturday, the Iowa Senate sent a bill to the governor that would expand the state’s medical marijuana program.

The bill allows for more potent medical marijuana products at the state’s five dispensaries. It would remove the 3 percent cap on THC—the chemical that makes people feel high—and replace it with a per-person limit of 25 grams in 90 days.

One exception to the limit is a waiver available to terminally ill people with a life expectancy of less than one year.

steven holt
John Pemble / IPR

Republicans at the Iowa Capitol approved a plan Saturday, the final day of the legislative session, to give the governor more power in the process of selecting Iowa Supreme Court justices and appeals court judges.

Katarina Sostaric / IPR

This post was updated Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 2:48 p.m.

Republicans at the Iowa Capitol voted Friday and Saturday to ban publicly-funded health insurance, including Medicaid, from covering transition-related surgery for transgender Iowans.

This change to the Iowa Civil Rights Act was embedded in a budget bill on one of the last days of Iowa’s legislative session.

dustin hite
John Pemble / IPR

Republican lawmakers at the Iowa Capitol sent a bill to the governor early Thursday they say will make local property taxes more transparent, despite concerns raised by Democrats that this would hurt the state’s public pension fund and trample on local control.

The bill requires cities and counties to inform residents that when property values increase overall, local officials could lower the property tax rate if they planned to spend the same amount of money on public services as the previous year.

GOP Lawmakers Develop Spending Plan For UI, ISU, UNI

Apr 24, 2019
Christopher Gannon/Iowa State University

Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate have developed a spending plan for Iowa’s three public universities that’s less than what Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed for next year.

Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, said the plan still provides a spending increase.

“We knew that we couldn’t fund everything to the ask of what everybody wanted, but yet we wanted to be fair and offer them something that could be sustainable in our budget,” Kraayenbrink said.

tom miller
Joyce Russell/IPR file

This post was updated Wednesday, April 24, 2019 at 6:10 p.m. 

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature voted this week to limit the Democratic attorney general’s authority to pursue out-of-state lawsuits because he joined legal challenges of Trump administration policies.

andy mckean
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The longest-serving Republican in the Iowa Legislature announced Tuesday he is switching to the Democratic Party, citing increasing discomfort with Republicans’ stance on many high-profile issues and his unwillingness to support President Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file

Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2019 at 10:50 a.m.

Iowans 21 and over could soon legally place bets on professional and college sports under a bill that lawmakers sent to the governor Monday evening.

Christine / Flickr

  

A bill that would raise the cost of owning solar panels has divided Iowa legislators.

In this episode of River to River, co-hosts Ben Kieffer and Katarina Sostaric talk with lawmakers about possible additional fees for solar customers.

Later, they discuss the debate over stricter laws governing drivers who want to use cell phones behind the wheel.

First half guests:

Iowa capitol
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Senate has sent a bill to the house that would legalize sports betting in the state. Morning Edition host Clay Masters talks with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about the bill as well as other issues like Republican lawmakers trying to restrict Attorney General Tom Miller's ability to join national lawsuits.

iowa capitol
John Pemble / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds invited Republicans to a press conference to announce the creation of a Flood Recovery Advisory Board.  She says it will help decide what to do and how to use funds from the federal and state level. The governor is asking legislators to make $15 million available from fiscal year 2019’s ending balance go to the flood mitigation fund.  She’s also asking for $10 million in the next fiscal year for the Workforce Housing Tax Credits to accelerate housing improvements in flooded areas.

O. Kay Henderson / Radio Iowa

A proposal meant to limit property tax growth advanced at the Iowa Capitol Thursday with the support of Republicans on a Senate committee.

Lawmakers Seek New Protections For Iowa Mobile Home Park Residents

Apr 17, 2019
John Pemble/IPR file

Two eastern Iowa Democrats say they’re looking for Republican allies in the legislature to give the residents in mobile home parks more rights.

A Utah-based company recently purchased five mobile home parks in Iowa, giving some residents 60 days’ notice of sizable rent increases. Don Lund has lived in Gulf View Trailer Court in North Liberty since 1997. The rent on his lot will go from $285 to $450 a month.

The board that oversees Iowa’s public universities will not consider new tuition rates at its meeting scheduled for this week because lawmakers at the Iowa Capitol are still working out their differences on state education funding.

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