This week in the Iowa Legislature

The second half of the 90th General Assembly commenced on Monday. The Perry High School shooting hung over the building on the first day with moments of silence and comments by lawmakers, as well as a protest of gun violence by area students Monday afternoon. Governor Reynolds delivered the Condition of the State address on Tuesday evening, Chief Justice Sue Christensen delivered her fourth Condition of the Judiciary Wednesday night, and Major General Stephen Osborn remarked on the Condition of the Guard Thursday morning. The second session is scheduled to end on April 16th, 10 days shorter than last year, but we expect it to be equally as busy!

Condition of the State

On a snowy Tuesday night, Governor Reynolds delivered her annual Condition of the State Address outlining a continuation of her ambitious education and government reorganization agenda. Highlights of the speech include:

  • AEA Reform: Iowa schools are legally required to provide support for students with disabilities. Currently, Area Education Agencies (AEAs) supply disability services, such as speech pathology and physical therapy, in local school systems. The Governor’s proposal would allocate funds directly to school districts, with the option to pursue contracts with private companies or partner with other school districts to bring in specialists. The objective is to give school districts control of funding instead of the state. The Governor argued the AEAs have become top-heavy and are underperforming citing Iowa students with disabilities are performing below the national average.
  • Education Investments: The Governor’s education proposal would increase the minimum salary for starting teachers to $50,000 and educators with 12 or more years of experience to $62,000. The increase is estimated to cost the state $96 million and put Iowa in the top-five states for teacher starting pay in the country. Governor Reynolds also proposed establishing a Charter School Start-up Grant Program; the initiative would provide $5 million in grants to support new or high-performing charter schools already in operation.
  • Continuation of Government Reorganization: In 2023, the legislature passed a massive state agency reorganization bill, which started with consolidating the state’s 37 cabinets to 16. One provision of the bill established a Board and Commissions Review Committee to review and make recommendations on Iowa’s 256 current boards and commissions. Over the interim, the committee recommended cutting 111 boards, or 43%, of the 256 boards. Governor Reynolds supports the findings, saying many of the boards to be eliminated are “redundant or obsolete.” The legislation would also eliminate the mandatory gender balance for any panel.
  • Mental Health and Medicaid:The Governor proposed changes to improve service delivery and access to mental health, substance abuse and some Medicaid programs. She recommended the consolidation of Iowa’s 32 substance abuse and mental health regions into 7 unified behavioral health districts to improve coordination of treatment delivery. This would include a $20 million investment from the opioid settlement fund for drug use rehabilitation. Other major healthcare changes proposed include helping new moms and babies by expanding Medicaid coverage from 2 months to 12 months. This expansion has been discussed for several years and Iowa is one of the last states to implement it. Finally, she recommended creating an initiative called “Thrive Iowa,” modeled after Florida’s program, which would utilize private entities to support moving Iowans utilizing government assistance programs to a path of self-sufficiency.
  • Expanding Income Tax Cuts: Legislation passed in 2022 is gradually cutting Iowans’ income tax to a flat rate of 3.9% and will be phased in by 2026. Governor Reynolds proposed speeding up the process expanding the tax cuts this year. Her proposal would reduce the state income tax rate to 3.65% in 2024 and 3.5% by 2025. The Governor indicated this would be a 25% tax savings for the average family of four with an income of about $78,000 will see a tax savings of over 25%. A single mother of two making $47,000 would see an even greater savings of more than 42%.  The proposal is estimated to reduce state revenues by $3.8 billion over the next 5 years if enacted.

Legislative Leadership Priorities

In addition to the Governor announcing her agenda, the leaders of each legislative caucus highlighted their priorities for the session. The priorities include:

  • House Republicans: Increasing School Resource Officers, Protecting Children’s Mental Health, Raising K-12 and Higher Education Standards, Cut Income Taxes
  • House Democrats: Lowering Cost of Living, Investing in Public Schools, Legalizing Marijuana, Protecting Reproductive Rights, Gun Safety, Middle-Class Tax Relief
  • Senate Republicans: Protect Parents Rights, Government Transparency, Cut Taxes, Control Spending, Reform Government
  • Senate Democrats: Invest in Public Schools, Gun Safety, Middle-Class Tax Relief, Affordable Childcare, Reproductive Freedom

 Governor’s Budget Recommendations 

Governor Reynolds also released her budget Tuesday night, calling for an increase in state spending to $8.9 billion in 2025. This is an increase of $367.1 million, or 4.3% from FY 2024, leaving almost $1 billion in surplus. You can find the full budget details here.  If you receive a budget allocation and did not hear from us, your appropriation or those you follow have been recommended for level funding.

Looking Ahead

Due to Martin Luther King Jr., Day, a federal holiday, the legislature will not meet on Monday. However, we expect Tuesday through Thursday to be incredibly busy with a substantial uptick in bill introductions and subcommittee hearings as the committee process gets underway.

And the day you have all been waiting for… The Iowa Caucus’ will finally be held on Monday (1/15)! Whether you are Republican, Democrat, or Unaffiliated, you can participate in the Republican or Democratic Party Caucuses by utilizing same-day voter registration. For the Republican Party Caucuses, you can find caucus locations and information here. And for Democrats you can find location information here.