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.
State senators Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig (left), and Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, listen to testimony about a proposal to require work for some Medicaid recipients.
Grant Gerlock / IPR

Updated Thursday, February 20: The Labor and Business Relations Committee advanced a Medicaid work requirements bill (SSB 3158) Thursday, making it eligible for debate in the Iowa Senate.

Kate Payne/IPR file

A bipartisan proposal to give mobile home residents more rights and protections advanced in the Iowa House Monday.

Restricting rent increases, mandating 180 days’ notice before raising rent, and requiring good cause to evict tenants are just some of the provisions in the lengthy bill. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate crafted it together after an out-of-state company bought some Iowa mobile home parks in 2019 and started phasing in steep rent increases.

John Pemble / IPR

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR statehouse reporter Katarina Sostaric speak with lawmakers from both parties about a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution that could open the door to more abortion restrictions within the state.

John Pemble / IPR file

An Iowa House subcommittee has passed a bill that would allow college athletes to earn money from endorsement deals, despite concerns raised by university groups that it would add to a growing patchwork of state laws.

John Pemble / IPR

One of the first legislative debates of the year is over school state aid. Forty-three percent of the state’s budget goes to K-12 public education. This year the Senate and House are at odds over how much to increase funding. A bill in the House Education subcommittee has advanced that would require K-12 schools to notify parents if sexual orientation or gender identity are part of curriculum or school instruction of any kind. Parents would have the option of excusing the student from participating. And compensating college athletes for the use of their likeness would no longer be prohibited under a bill from a Senate subcommitte

Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Republican lawmakers on a House panel advanced a bill Thursday that would require abortion providers to inform patients that it “may be possible to reverse” a medication abortion, though there isn’t enough reliable scientific evidence to support the practice, and some evidence suggests it could cause harm.

iowa senate
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

The Iowa Senate passed a resolution Thursday that would amend the state constitution to say it does not protect abortion rights.

John Pemble / IPR file

Republicans in the Iowa Senate are advancing a religious freedom bill that opponents say would weaken civil rights protections. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SF 508) would raise the legal threshold to enforce a state or local law when a person says it violates their faith.

Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, listens to testimony at a subcommittee considering a constitutional amendment raising the threshold for passing an income tax increase.
John Pemble / IPR

Law enforcement agencies would be required to collect information on offenses committed by immigrants who aren’t U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents under a bill advanced Tuesday in the Iowa Senate. 

kim reynolds
John Pemble / IPR file

This story was updated at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12. 

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said Wednesday she can't comment on a lawsuit brought by former staff of the troubled state-run Glenwood Resource Center for severely disabled residents.

MedPharm's Aliviar branded medical cannabis products were on display at the MedPharm manufacturing facility in Des Moines
Katarina Sostaric / IPR file

A bill that advanced Tuesday in the Iowa House of Representatives would expand some parts of Iowa’s medical cannabis program, but disagreement remains about the amount of THC, the chemical that can make cannabis users high, patients should be allowed to purchase.

dawson and bisignano
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Republicans on an Iowa Senate panel advanced a bill Monday to exclude some Iowans with felony convictions from automatic voting rights restoration if a proposed constitutional amendment to expand felon voting rights passes.

John Pemble / IPR File

On this episode of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR statehouse reporter Katarina Sostaric speak with lawmakers from both parties about the ongoing debate within the Iowa house and senate regarding how much of the state budget will go toward funding k-12 education. 

Iowa Capitol
John Pemble / IPR file

An Iowa House subcommittee passed a bill (HSB 615) Monday that would prohibit local ordinances from being stricter than state law for gun accessories such as high capacity magazines.

The wide-ranging proposal also states that if local governments ban weapons at public buildings, they must also provide screening and armed security.

John Pemble / IPR

Directors of state agencies visit appropriations subcommittees to explain their department goals, budget needs, and to answer legislators questions. The Iowa Department of Revenue director Craig Paulsen and deputy director Mory Mosiman speak about IT upgrades and improvements made in their taxpayer call center. A House subcommittee passes a bill that would fine drivers for using electronic communication devices. In the Senate, a subcommittee advances a bill expanding veterans drug treatment courts.

Katie Peikes / IPR File

The Iowa Senate unanimously approved an additional $20 million for flood relief Thursday. If passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law, it would bring the total direct state money for flood recovery projects stemming from the 2019 floods to $35 million.

kayla lyon
John Pemble / IPR file

The new director of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources appears to be on track to be confirmed to the post after a hearing in an Iowa Senate committee Tuesday.

Director Kayla Lyon, appointed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds last summer, described her career background to the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

She worked for the dairy industry, and lobbied for farmers and agribusiness, and worked for former Gov. Terry Branstad and Reynolds, and then worked as the lobbyist for Reynolds’ office.

John Pemble / IPR file

The Iowa Statehouse will be empty Monday so lawmakers can caucus tonight in their home districts. But they’ll be back Tuesday to continue debating K-12 public school funding. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters talks with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about the week ahead at the legislature.


Jan 31, 2020
John Pemble / IPR

Current law does not allow barbers in Iowa to cut hair in a mobile facility, but a bill is gaining support to change that as a Waterloo barber visits the Capitol to convince lawmakers.

There is a proposal from the governor to cut income taxes and raise the state sales tax. The Legislative Services Agency makes an extensive analysis of this proposal and also a short explainer video

Lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment that requires a two thirds majority to raise income taxes.

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file

A bill advancing in the Iowa legislature (SSB 3080) would encourage schools to set aside space for students who threaten violence toward teachers and classmates.

Schools will sometimes clear out a classroom when a student has a dangerous outburst. Under the bill advanced by a Senate subcommittee Thursday, those students could be placed in “therapeutic classrooms” to address behavioral problems.

iowa capitol
John Pemble / IPR file

A group of nine Republican lawmakers introduced a bill Wednesday morning that would remove gender identity from the Iowa Civil Rights Act, a move opponents said would eliminate all anti-discrimination protections for transgender Iowans.

But on Wednesday night, a Republican committee chair tweeted that he will not allow the bill to advance.


Iowa lawmakers have started debating K-12 public school funding, with Republican leaders in the House and Senate proposing plans that differ by nearly $20 million.

Senate Republicans want to add $76 million in base public school funding, about the same increase as last year.

John Pemble / IPR file photo

Under a proposal moving ahead in the Iowa Senate, the Department of Human Services would take extra steps to confirm the eligibility of people receiving Medicaid and other forms of public assistance. The bill (SSB 3068) requires the agency to adopt a computer system to search state and federal databases for unreported income and other assets.

mike randol
John Pemble / IPR File

Iowa lawmakers questioned Medicaid officials Tuesday about the finances and performance of the state’s health insurance system for low-income and disabled Iowans.

Medicaid issues have been controversial at the Iowa Capitol since the state hired private insurance companies in 2016 to manage the government-funded system.

Madeleine McCormick/IPR

An Iowa Senate panel advanced a proposal Monday to ban almost all cell phone use while driving.

The bill would make it illegal to use a cell phone while driving except in hands-free mode, or to push a single button to accept or end a call.

John Pemble / IPR file photo

Republican state senators are advancing an abortion-related constitutional amendment early in Iowa’s legislative session. Iowa Public Radio Morning Edition host Clay Masters talks with state government reporter Katarina Sostaric about the proposed amendment and other issues facing lawmakers in the week ahead in the legislature.

A Changing Judiciary

Jan 24, 2020
John Pemble / IPR

Last year a law changed how justices make their way to the bench.  Senate Republicans supported the change because they claim some court rulings are examples of “judicial activism.”  Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins says the job of the court is to make sure laws don’t violate the constitution. This year, Senate Republicans are trying to pass a state constitutional amendment in response to a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court ruling about abortion access. This is also happening at a time when the governor will be appointing two new justices to the high court in 2020.

gun subcommittee
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Lawmakers advanced proposals Thursday to allow Iowans to have loaded firearms on work and school property, which would override some employers’ no-firearm policies.

Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig, said it’s difficult for Iowans to carry the guns they have permits for when restrictions are in place at work and their children’s schools.

Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, listens to testimony at a subcommittee considering a constitutional amendment raising the threshold for passing an income tax increase.
John Pemble / IPR

A proposal advancing in the Iowa Legislature would amend the state constitution to make it more difficult for lawmakers to raise income taxes. The amendment would require any income tax increase to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate.

brad zaun
John Pemble / IPR

A Republican state lawmaker is proposing a bill that would retain a popular provision of the Affordable Care Act in Iowa if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down the whole federal health care law.