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.
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.

jon jacobsen
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.

 

gavel
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.

John Pemble / IPR

A House subcommittee bill is discussed that would prohibit a person from running as a non-party political organization candidate if they lose a Democratic or Republican primary. Another bill with a similar goal would require candidates from any party to file their nominating papers with the secretary of state on the same date.

hibo jama
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

A Senate panel advanced a proposal Monday to make female genital cutting a crime in Iowa.

The bill would also make it a felony to transport a minor out of the state for the procedure, which is performed in Africa and some parts of the Middle East and Asia. A House panel advanced the proposal last week.

Everyone at Monday’s meeting agreed female genital cutting should be stopped, but advocates are divided on whether it should be criminalized.

bill signing
John Pemble/IPR file

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds announced Monday she will not appeal a decision by a Polk County judge that struck down the fetal heartbeat abortion law and declared it unconstitutional.

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.

John Pemble / IPR file

UPDATE: Gov. Reynolds office Monday announced she would sign education bills Tuesday morning at the Statehouse.  Those bills were among the topics discussed earlier Monday on IPR's Morning Edition.  That conversation between Clay Masters and State Government Reporter Katarina Sostaric is below.

The Iowa legislature has sent an education spending bill to the governor. There’s been a lot of talk from lawmakers about changing public assistance and last week we had a sudden resignation of a Democratic state senator.

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

Updated Monday, Feb. 18:

Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, set a special election Monday to replace former Democratic Sen. Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls for March 19. 

Senate District 30 covers Cedar Falls, Hudson and part of Waterloo. It's up to party conventions to nominate their candidates for the seat. Democrats are slated to choose a candidate Saturday, and Republicans will do that on Monday. 

Four Democrats have already said they will run. Former Rep. Walt Rogers, a Republican, is also reportedly considering a run.  

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.

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