2020 Legislative Session

Iowa's 88th General Assembly resumes its work representing the priorities and citizens of Iowa Monday, January 13th. With Republican majorities in both houses of the legislature and a Republican governor in office, key legislative priorities for the 2020 session are expected to be finding more solutions for the state's workforce shortage, passing a constitutional amendment to restore felon voting rights, funding mental health services, and changing Iowa's medical cannabis law. 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 2020 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-mailFacebook, 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.
iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file

Republican leaders of the Iowa Legislature announced Wednesday that the legislative session will resume June 3.

This is the third time top lawmakers have decided to delay their return to the Statehouse since they put the session on hold in the early hours of March 17 to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

John Pemble/IPR

In the spirit of social distancing, lawmakers are keeping their distance from the Iowa Statehouse, which could impact what's accomplished during the 2020 legislative session.

Suspending Session

Mar 17, 2020
John Pemble / IPR

With the coronavirus reaching community spread, Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative leaders are suspending the 2020 legislative session. In order to do this, first the House and Senate must meet to pass some spending measures and a resolution. In this podcast episode, we bring you the final day of the session before they pause for 30 days.

Natalie Krebs / IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds held a press conference at the State Operations Emergency Center in Johnston Monday to discuss her recommendation to close school for four weeks and other measures the state is taking in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Here is what we know about school closures. 

Iowa Capitol visitors are required to undergo a brief health screening in a tent before entering the building.
John Pemble / IPR

Iowa lawmakers unanimously passed a bill Monday night responding to issues related to COVID-19 and ensuring state government funding can continue before they officially suspended the legislative session for at least 30 days to prevent the spread of the disease.

John Pemble / IPR

Iowa's legislative session will be suspended for at least 30 days as a means to help limit the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Katarina Sostaric, IPR's statehouse reporter, speaks with River to River host Ben Kieffer on the latest news from the capitol. 

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John Pemble / IPR file

Iowa’s legislative session will be suspended for at least 30 days after state officials confirmed community spread of COVID-19 in Iowa, leaders announced Sunday afternoon.

John Pemble / IPR

The Revenue Estimating Conference meets to share a forecast of how much revenue the state will take in. For Fiscal Year 2020, things are on track from previous estimates, but FY 2021 is revised downward a bit over concerns about coronavirus. As of Thursday March 12, legislative leaders and the governor have not called to pause the session or restrict public access to the Capitol over coronavirus concerns. The 2017 Cannabidiol Act is revised this year in the House. The same was attempted last year, but the governor vetoed the bill. This year’s proposal has the THC at a lesser potency than last year’s bill. A bill passes the House that would require more information for asbestos lawsuits, including a complete work history.

revenue estimating conference
John Pemble / IPR

State revenue forecasters said Thursday it is too early to know the impact the new coronavirus will have on Iowa’s economy as it sends shockwaves through the world economy.

The Revenue Estimating Conference is predicting the state’s revenue will hold steady in the next fiscal year that starts July 1.

The state is still expected to bring in more than $8.2 billion in state fiscal year 2021, which is the year that lawmakers will have to pass a budget for before the legislative session ends. The new estimate gives them about $12 million less than December’s REC estimate.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file

Iowans who become sick from asbestos exposure would have to provide more detailed information to file a lawsuit under a bill that was sent to the governor for her signature.

The bill passed the Iowa House Tuesday on a mostly party-line vote of 54-46, with all Republicans and one Democrat voting for it.

Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said there have been problems with attorneys not doing enough work before filing asbestos-related lawsuits and naming too many defendants.

Stephen Andrews / Unsplash

The Iowa House has passed five bills related to increasing access to childcare.

Making Compromises

Mar 6, 2020
John Pemble / IPR

Three weeks ago the Senate and House passed different funding levels for K-12 public education. This week the chambers announced a compromise and now schools know where to set the budgets they will be submitting in April. A bill to help citizens of Puerto Rico move to Iowa for jobs passes a subcommittee, but with a much lower level of funding that originally proposed. Another House subcommittee moves forward a bill that passed in the Senate last year changing language and penalties in Iowa’s code concerning the termination of a pregnancy without the mother's consent. And the Senate passes a bill that puts additional requirements on a proposed constitutional amendment restoring a felon’s right to vote.

Dog on leash
Douglas Porter / Flickr

The Iowa Senate passed a bill Wednesday to enhance criminal penalties for abuse and neglect of companion animals.

Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, said the bill is the product of years of negotiations.

kim reynolds
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

The tax package Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is calling the “Invest in Iowa Act” got its first statehouse hearing Wednesday, but the chair of the Senate subcommittee started the meeting by saying they would not take action on the bill.

Iowa Capitol
John Pemble / IPR file

Iowa’s K-12 public schools will get a 2.3 percent per-student funding increase this fall under a deal passed Wednesday by the Iowa House and Senate.

In late January, the House and Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a 2.5 percent school funding increase, and the Senate suggested 2.1 percent. This week, they met in the middle with $85.57 million in new public school base funding.

senator dan dawson
John Pemble / IPR

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will support a bill the Iowa Senate passed Tuesday to put some restrictions on felon voting rights restoration if that’s what it takes to advance her proposed constitutional amendment.

Reynolds’ proposal would automatically restore voting rights to Iowans with felony convictions who complete their sentences, including probation and parole. It has to pass the legislature twice before going on the ballot for voters to decide.

Iowa Capitol
John Pemble / IPR file

Republicans in the Iowa Senate have passed a bill that would require a portion of the state’s Medicaid recipients to work in order keep access to health coverage.

Pat Blank / IPR

A two-year dream by a Waterloo barber to allow mobile barbering in Iowa is about to come true.

The Iowa House and Senate this week unanimously passed a bill that will let William Burt to take his Kut Kings van on the road.

John Pemble/IPR file

Iowa is the only state in the nation that still automatically bans all people with felony convictions from voting. As of now, it’s up to the tens of thousands of Iowans with such convictions to appeal to the state to get their voting rights restored – a process that faced a significant backlog in the weeks leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

iowa capitol
John Pemble / IPR file

The criminal penalties for Iowans convicted of intentionally or accidentally ending a pregnancy without the consent of the mother would be increased under a bill advanced Monday by Republicans on a House panel.

Iowa Catholic Conference lobbyist Tom Chapman supports the bill. He said Iowa should treat the killing of a fetus without the consent of the woman as a form of homicide.

John Pemble / IPR

The governor appoints hundreds of people to positions requiring Senate confirmation. This week some of the individuals making it through the required two-thirds majority vote are Department of Natural Resources director Kayla Lyon and Department of Human Services director Kelly Kennedy Garcia. The Senate takes up a bill requiring a third-party vendor to verify the income of a person on a public assistance program. And the House holds a public hearing on a controversial constitutional amendment stating the state constitution does not guarantee access to abortion services.

wendy shoemaker
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Wendy Shoemaker has lived with chronic pain for decades, and she was prescribed opioids to treat it.

“All you do is stand there and watch your life,” she said.

Shoemaker said she couldn’t do much with her daughter when she took opioids. She has holes in her memory from that time, and she was in heart failure. But almost a year ago, she was weaned off opioids and joined Iowa’s medical cannabis program.

Hearing Held At Capitol On Constitutional Abortion Amendment

Feb 26, 2020
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John Pemble / IPR file

A Statehouse hearing Tuesday night gave supporters and opponents of abortion a chance to voice their opinions on a proposed constitutional amendment.

Republican lawmakers have drafted the amendment in response to the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling that Iowa’s constitution guarantees women a right to an abortion. Renee Aamodt of Des Moines supports the proposed amendment that says the state constitution does not secure the right to an abortion.

Grant Gerlock / IPR file

Gov. Kim Reynolds acknowledged Tuesday her June 2019 firing of former Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven was partly related to his response to concerns about increased deaths at a state-run facility for disabled residents.

Lindsey Moon and John Pemble / IPR

The 2020 Iowa Legislature gaveled in for the session on Jan. 13. They're scheduled to continue meeting at the Statehouse until sometime around April 21. Over the course of the 100 days lawmakers have to conduct business, file and debate legislation, and pass bills, there are two important deadlines. 

John Pemble / IPR file

Iowa lawmakers considered dozens of bills last week ahead of a legislative deadline known as the first “funnel” of the 2020 session.

Most bills that don’t relate to taxes or budgets had to pass through a subcommittee and full committee by the end of last week to remain eligible for debate. 

Natalie Krebs / IPR

In some parts of Iowa when you call 911, there’s no guarantee that an ambulance will be available, and this is a big problem in rural areas, where volunteers are scarce. That’s because emergency medical services are not considered essential, like fire or police.

John Pemble / IPR

During funnel week, dozens of bills come before subcommittees hoping to make it past the committee level to stay in play for the rest of the session. One bill that would add clarity about “bona fide religious purpose” to Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 doesn't make it. Legislators say the language is too broad for it to advance. A bill requiring vaccination information to be on a child's death certificate passes a committee and is eligible for floor detate. And two bills about Iowa’s 41-year-old can and bottle redemption program come before subcommittees.

solar panels
Warren McKenna / Farmers Electric Coop

A controversial bill that would have allowed utilities to charge extra fees to Iowans with solar panels is being changed to a proposal that almost all stakeholders praised at a subcommittee meeting Thursday.

The original version of the bill pitted MidAmerican Energy against environmental groups and pork producers. The Senate passed it last year, but it did not have enough support to get through the Iowa House of Representatives.

John Pemble / IPR file

State lawmakers are behind schedule when it comes to passing funding for K-12 education. Republican leaders in the Iowa House and Senate still have not come to an agreement on how to reconcile their competing proposals.