This week in the Iowa Legislature

State lawmakers spared no time jumping into floor action after a very busy funnel week. On Monday afternoon, the House passed a few noncontroversial bills on the floor. On Tuesday, the Senate took up three of the most controversial issues this session including a ban on gender-affirming care, a prohibition on transgender student bathroom usage, and the Governor’s massive government realignment bill. Then on Wednesday, the House took up the gender-affirming care ban, a bill setting age-appropriate standards for books in school libraries, and legislation banning instruction on sex or gender until after the 6th grade. Each chamber also passed several other noncontroversial items across the rotunda with the 2nd Funnel Deadline just three weeks away.

We do not expect the pace of debate to slow next week as lawmakers push their priority bills forward in the process. Below is a high-level overview of some of the more contentious items debated under the Golden Dome this week.

Gender Affirming Care Ban to the Governor

This week both the Senate and House passed SF 538 which bans gender-affirming treatment for minors. The floor managers of the legislation argued the bill intends to stop life-altering medications with limited research to be administered to minors. Democrats harshly criticized the bill saying it didn’t support Republicans’ running theme for the legislature of “parental choice,” and freedom for all Americans. The legislation passed with only Republican support in each chamber, but five House Republicans joined Democrats in opposing SF 538. The bill is now on Governor Reynolds’ desk awaiting her signature which we understand will come in short order.


Governor’s Education Flexibility Legislation Passed by Both Chambers

Governor Reynolds outlined a number of improvements to school administrative flexibility in her Condition of the State in early January. SF 391 was the culmination of those efforts and was presented as an education improvement bill removing some administrative requirements for school districts. The bill passed largely on party lines in each chamber with Democrats arguing that some of the provisions would ill affect Iowa students, especially the reduced requirements for teacher librarians and world language standards. The House amended the legislation slightly so the Senate will have to give final approval before it goes to the Governor.


Senate Approved Massive Government Reorganization Bill

This week the Senate passed the Governor’s state reorganization bill on a 34-15 vote, with Democrat Senator Tony Bisignano joining Republicans in advancing the 1,700-page document. Democrats offered a number of amendments, but all were voted down on party lines. Senator Bisignano voted for the legislation stating he wanted to be part of the conversation as he was told changes would be coming to the bill in the House. The AS team sent out the Legislative Services Agency’s analysis of the bill along with the Governor’s office’s handouts this week. Please reach out with questions or concerns as the House considers changes to the massive piece of legislation.


House Passed Age-Appropriate Standards for Books in Schools

On Wednesday the House passed HF 597 which requires Iowa’s educational standards, programs, and all materials in school libraries to be age-appropriate. The bill defines what age-appropriate is largely concerning sexually explicit materials. Democrats argued the definitions in the bill could lead to the banning of famous classical literature and even the Bible. Republicans disagreed and advanced the bill on partisan lines.


Senate Sent Prohibition on Transgender Student Bathroom Usage to the House

The Senate also approved SF 482, a bill requiring K-12 schools to designate multi-occupant restrooms and changing rooms as being for one sex and defining sex as a child’s biological sex, this week. Senator Westrich argued the bill is about protecting children in school bathrooms.  Senator Quirmbach countered arguing that local school districts are better suited to making these decisions. The bill passed on party lines but has yet to be brought to the House floor for consideration.


Senate Amended Bill to Limit the State Auditor’s Powers

With a last-minute amendment on the floor, Senate Republicans added language to SF 478 which Senate Democrats argued would limit the ability of the auditor to conduct audits, lead to additional waste and fraud, and is intended to restrict the power of the only statewide elected Democrat, State Auditor Rob Sand. Senator Bousselot argued that the bill is an important step in protecting the privacy of Iowans and offered an amendment to expand the material protected under the bill. The bill passed along party lines and must go through the House committee process before the second funnel deadline.


Looking Ahead

The first week following the initial funnel deadline did not disappoint with the extremely high volume of floor debate. We expect this same volume next week with a little committee work, primarily in Ways and Means and Appropriations, sprinkled between debate and caucus sessions. Some subcommittees are being scheduled for next week, but we really expect those to increase again the week of March 20th. To stay up to date on scheduled committees and subcommittees and their virtual access information, follow this link.