This week in the Iowa Legislature

The week started relatively slow and quiet but quickly picked up pace mid-week. With the impending funnel deadline on March 15th, lawmakers spent much of their time caucusing and working in committees. However, both chambers made time for floor debate to send their final priorities across the rotunda to give time for the bills to move through the committee process in the opposite chamber. Senate leadership was primed to debate the Governor’s AEA proposal on Wednesday, but rank and file members had a different plan. Senate Republicans failed to garner enough votes to pass the bill. As a result, the Senate screeched to a halt and leadership sent them home for the rest of the week. The House continued to work throughout the week into late Thursday afternoon; again, passing many more bills than the Senate.

We expect the House to spend time on Monday passing the last of their bills over to the Senate while the Senate has only scheduled committee work. Then, all their attention will turn to subcommittee and committee work to make Thursday’s deadline. To pass the second funnel deadline, a bill must pass through a full committee in both the House and Senate.

Notable Bills Debated This Week

As noted above, the House enjoyed lengthy caucus and floor debate sessions this week. Meanwhile, the Senate finished their work on Wednesday. Outlined below are some of the more contentious issues debated this week.

  • Banning Guaranteed Basic Income: Uplift Iowa, a pilot program offering monthly basic income stipends to Iowans, might lose its ability to operate. This week, House Republicans passed House File 2319 which would restrict Iowa cities and counties from implementing programs that provide “unearned” cash payments that “may be used for any purpose.” Currently, Uplift Iowa operates in Central Iowa and consists of several non-profits and businesses. The pilot program provides 110 randomly selected Iowans with $500 a month for 24 months. The program wants to study the impact of offering supplemental basic living stipends. Uplift Iowa does not use state dollars but is funded through non-profits, businesses, and federal pandemic relief money. Rep. Holt argued universal basic income programs actually negatively impact the workforce and undermine Iowa’s economy. House Democrats argued the program is a study and banning it is taking money away from poor Iowans. A subcommittee has already been scheduled in the Senate next week.
  • GOP Election Integrity: The House passed House File 2610 along party lines on Wednesday. The bill changes current voting standards in Iowa and was met with fierce opposition from House Democrats. Under the bill, in-person voting will remain at 20 days, but absentee mail-in ballots must arrive at the county auditor’s office one day before Election Day, and ballot drop boxes will be banned. The bill also allows convicted felons to run for federal office in Iowa, while limiting citizens from contesting presidential candidates presented on the ballot. Democrats argued the legislation suppresses voter rights, but Representative Kaufmann said, “Five hundred and four hours. That is how much time we have to vote here in Iowa under these election integrity bills. Five hundred and four hours.” The bill has a Senate companion and is funnel proof.
  • Megasite Tax Incentives: The House considered the Mega site bill, Senate File 574, on Wednesday evening. The proposal stalled in the House last session due to concerns on foreign land ownership and the overall cost of the proposed tax incentives. It will establish a nearly $100 million tax incentive program for investment projects in Iowa. Projects must span over 250 acres, “primarily engage in advanced manufacturing, biosciences, or research and development,” and create jobs that provide high wages and quality benefits for employees. The House added an amendment to allow existing entities to qualify for tax incentives if they meet the outlined standards. The bill is supported by the business and economic development communities and now just has to pass the Senate floor before heading to the Governor.

Storm Water Bill Fails on House Floor

On Wednesday night, there was a rare occurrence — legislation failed on the House floor. Typically, lawmakers only debate a bill on the floor if they know they have the votes for final passage. House leaders called up Senate File 455, which would prohibit cities and counties from passing stricter stormwater and topsoil regulations than outlined in the General Permit 2 requirements outlined by the DNR. After a long debate outlining the concerns with the bill, legislators were surprised the votes in support of the bill stopped at 48. The final vote was 44-49, with several legislators voting for the bill before changing their vote to no prior to the vote ending. Senate File 455 passed the Senate chamber last year with a 33-15 vote. Bill manager Representative Dunwell argued the bill as amended will ensure affordable housing rates, so buyers will not have to pay extra to meet excessive stormwater standards in their communities. Several legislators from both parties spoke against the bill on the House floor arguing the bill removes local control and the option for flexibility in individual cities or counties. Representative Baeth said the legislation would gradually raise taxpayer costs if environmental concerns were not addressed. It is unclear what the bill’s path forward is from here. Leaders Windschitl requested a “Motion to Reconsider” so they can bring the bill up again later this session, but only time will tell.

Looking Ahead

As we look forward to next week, both chambers will likely set aside limited time for floor debate early in the week and focus most of their work in subcommittees and committee to ensure their priorities meet the looming second funnel deadline. All legislation not referred to Ways and Means or Appropriations must pass a House and Senate full committee by March 15th.

Another deadline is set for March 15th: candidates must file to run for the Iowa Legislature. This will give of insight into key legislator retirements and primaries going into the 2024 election cycle. The Revenue Estimating Conference is also scheduled to meet this coming week on Friday. This will outline the overall budget limit the legislature has to work with as they start putting their budgets together for FY25. The pace will dramatically change after next week as they roll into wrapping up policy bills and start budget discussions. To stay up to date on scheduled committees and subcommittees and their virtual access information, follow this link.

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 bill tracker chart developed by our new bill tracking system, AdvoKit. Please review this and confirm your declared bills are correct. Please let us know if there are any changes that 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.