This week in the Iowa Legislature

The 4th week of the 2024 Legislative Session was bustling, marked by the daily introduction of dozens of new bills, and large crowds of onlookers at various subcommittee meetings throughout the week. The pace is constant, and we expect it to only increase in intensity over the next two weeks as we head to the first funnel deadline on February 16th. Highlights on a few of the notable bills from the past week are below.

AEA Bill Divides Lawmakers

Governor Reynolds’ proposal to restructure the Area Education Agency (AEA) system has led to an outcry of concern from thousands of Iowans. After receiving feedback from constituents and lawmakers, the Governor drafted an amendment to scale back her proposal. The amendment retooled several sections but still allows schools to choose how to use some state and federal special education funding. Local school districts could use the funds for general education services, contracting private providers, hiring local AEA professionals, or they could retain funds for later use. Despite the amendment, lawmakers are still divided on the bill. House Republicans tabled it on Wednesday after substantial pushback from stakeholders and the public, while the Senate GOP moved it out of subcommittee on a party-line vote. Senate leaders said the bill still needs work, but they are committed to moving the bill forward while the House remains agnostic. We expect things to be a little quieter on this front over the next couple weeks since it’s made the funnel deadline and legislators have other priorities to focus on.

Other Headlines

  • Gender Civil Rights Bill: This controversial bill which would have removed gender from Iowa’s civil rights protections attracted hundreds of Iowans to the Capitol. The subcommittee voted unanimously against HF 2082. Advocates opposed to the bill were encouraged by the subcommittee’s 0-3 vote to kill the bill. Click here to read more.
  • Stalling CO2 Pipeline Permits: Since the Senate failed to act on the House’s eminent domain bill last session, Representatives are taking another crack at addressing the issue. House Study Bill 608 would put the authority of eminent domain back in the hands of the legislature by permitting state legislators, 21 representatives or 11 Senators, to determine if eminent domain should be used. This would halt the proceedings of carbon dioxide pipeline currently underway give landowners the opportunity to challenge eminent domain requests. It’s unclear on whether the Senate will entertain this approach, but in the meantime the House appears committed to keeping the issue alive. Click here to read more.
  • Limiting State Public Lands: Last session, a bill to limit the sale of private land for conservation and or recreation purposes passed the Senate, only to die in the House after much debate and several failed attempts to resuscitate it. This session, companion bills were introduced to essentially ban the same practice, but it was being pitched as the DNR’s current practice. Hundreds of advocates showed up at subcommittees in both chambers to oppose the bills this week. They advocated to instead expand access for outdoor recreation to help recruit younger individuals to Iowa and bolster Iowa’s economy. On Wednesday Senate Study Bill 3129 passed a subcommittee on a party-line vote while its companion in the House, HF 2104, failed to get any support on Thursday afternoon. While the ultimate fate of this issue is unclear, we expect those who support it will continue to press on. Click here to read more.

Looking Ahead

We expect the pace of subcommittee and committee meetings to stay constant as the funnel deadline inches closer. Lawmakers are likely to move the supplemental school aid funding bill for K-12 education next week to meet the legislature’s self-imposed budget deadline. In the meantime, policymakers remain vigilant as they push their personal policy priorities through a full committee before the funnel deadline. As a reminder, the Iowa Legislature posts a list of scheduled committee and subcommittee meetings with virtual access information, so you are welcome to participate on issues of interest. If you have challenges connecting with the virtual link, you can always call in as well.

Bills of Interest

Advocacy Strategies continues to ensure that every bill pertaining to you will be tracked. Along with this email report each week you will see a button with a link to your bill tracker chart developed by our bill tracking system, AdvoKit. Please review this and confirm your declared bills are correct. Please let us know if any changes need to be made.

Our ability to best represent you is based on quick and open communication. Once the legislative session progresses further, our requests for bill declarations will increase substantially. We ask you to let us know your organization’s position on each bill within 24 hours of your receiving daily bills in AdvoKit so we can respond accordingly.