This week in the Iowa Legislature
The third week of the legislative session started out with a bang! Both the House and Senate spent Monday caucusing on Governor Reynolds’ education reform and school choice bill. They debated the bill late into the night with final passage coming after midnight. The Governor hosted a signing ceremony first thing on Tuesday morning marking the huge victory on her number one legislative priority. Lawmakers from both chambers continued to introduce bills and move them through the subcommittee and committee process at a brisk pace. The House ended the week passing two bills on the floor sending them over to the Senate. The pace is constant at the Capitol, and we expect it will only move faster in the coming weeks.
Governor’s Education Reform Package Signed into Law
Gov. Kim Reynolds signed her school choice and education reform package, or the Students First Act, into law on Tuesday. The signing followed heated debate by Democrats and Republicans in both chambers of the legislature. Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, said the state should support parents who want to switch from public to private schools and the bill is about “putting parents in charge of their children’s education”. Twelve Republicans voted with Democrats to oppose the legislation demonstrating there is not a consensus on the issue within the GOP. Democrats and public-school advocates opposed the bill, citing concerns about how the legislation would impact public schools, especially those in rural areas.
The legislation establishes an education savings account (ESA) program for K-12 students, giving students an account of $7,598 each year to use for private school tuition and associated costs. Only incoming kindergarteners and current public school students are eligible in the first year then all Iowa students are eligible for an ESA by year three of implementation.
Tort Reform Advances
The Senate Judiciary Committee passed Senate Study Bill 1063, renumbered as SF 148, on a 11-7 vote shortly following its advancement from subcommittee Wednesday. The legislation would put a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages in lawsuits against health care providers. Gov. Reynolds identified tort reform as a top priority in her Condition of the State address and argued medical malpractice lawsuits were driving providers out of Iowa. While Democrats, such as Sen. Nate Boulton of Des Moines recognizes the lack of rural health providers, he says these limits do not consider the real harm done to victims of medical malpractice. On Thursday a House HHS subcommittee advanced a similar limit on noneconomic damages. After years of debate, the bill remains a priority for many Republican legislators this session.
Next week is expected to look very similar to this week with intense subcommittee and committee schedules and the possibility of some floor debate sprinkled in. A list of scheduled committees and subcommittees with their virtual access information can be found at the provided link.