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.
marijuana plants
Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

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.

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.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR

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.

Proposal To Make More Iowa Parents Eligible For Child Care Tax Break

Apr 16, 2019
John Pemble / IPR file

The 2019 Iowa legislature may be poised to increase the number working Iowans who can claim a tax credit for child care expenses.

Parents with an annual income above $45,000 are not currently eligible. A bill that’s cleared a Senate subcommittee would make Iowa parents who earn up to $57,000 a year eligible for child care tax credits.

“It’s important that parents have dollars that they can spend on child care and so forth,” said Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, who has been working on the proposal. “and that’s what this does.”

governor reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds established a flood recovery advisory board Monday and called on lawmakers to set aside state funding to address catastrophic flooding that hit southwest Iowa over a month ago.

“Sometimes it can take months to years for FEMA and other federal funding to be made available to Iowans impacted by the flood,” Reynolds said. “And we know that these communities and Iowans can’t afford to wait.”

Federal disaster aid for Iowa and other Midwest states is held up in the U.S. Senate as part of a larger relief package for hurricane damage in Puerto Rico.

John Pemble / IPR

In the first month of the legislative session it’s common to see heads of large departments visit a committee to explain their budget requests. In January, the Department of Transportation asked for $259 million dollars for its highway division.

The DOT set aside $13 million a year to buy 225,000 tons of salt. Normally they use 156,000 tons in a season.  In February, Iowa received record or near record amounts of snowfall and the DOT used a lot of salt on the roads.

electronic cigarette
haiberliu / Pixabay

Three senators advanced a bill Wednesday that would raise Iowa’s minimum age for buying tobacco products and nicotine pods from 18 to 21.

Senate President Charles Schneider, R-West Des Moines, said his proposal is part of a national trend of states taking that step.

House And Senate Move To Ban Female Cutting In Iowa

Apr 10, 2019
iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file

A bill getting strong bipartisan support in the Iowa legislature would make it a felony to perform female genital mutilation on an Iowa girl or young woman.

Last year a judge tossed out a federal law that had banned the practice nationwide, ruling it was up to states to prosecute such crimes. Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said this bill is necessary because it’s unclear if current Iowa child abuse laws could be used to prosecute these cases here.

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds said Tuesday she will meet with Iowa lawmakers this week to discuss additional state funding that might be needed for flood recovery efforts. 

“We’re going to act while they’re here [in Des Moines],” Reynolds said. “Of course we’ll do that while they’re still in session.”

The Iowa legislative session is scheduled to end May 3, but that can easily change.

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