Iowa is one of three states that takes away the voting rights of anyone convicted of a felony forever, Gov. Reynolds would like to restore that right.
Kelsey Kremer, firstname.lastname@example.org
Legislation on the death penalty, guns and felon voting rights are unlikely to make it through the final weeks of the Iowa legislative session. But bills tightening the state’s animal cruelty laws and increasing access to birth control will continue to advance.
Friday’s “funnel” deadline means most policy bills would have needed committee approval in both the House and Senate to stay alive. The rule doesn’t apply to budget or tax bills.
Nothing is ever truly dead until lawmakers go home for the year. Lawmakers could tuck a policy idea into a budget bill, or place a bill into a legislative unfinished business list. But meeting the “funnel” deadline is the marker of what ideas will live and which ones are likely not.
File photo of the Iowa Capitol. (Photo: William Petroski/Des Moines Register)
ANIMAL CRUELTY: People who abuse, abandon, neglect or torture their pets would face stiffer penalties under this bill, which passed the Iowa House unanimously. The Senate will now consider the bill, which would strengthen Iowa’s weak animal cruelty laws. House File 737.
BIRTH CONTROL: The measure, backed by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds, would allow pharmacists to dispense birth control pills, hormone patches and vaginal rings to adults through a statewide “standing order” from the Department of Public Health’s medical director, a physician. That standing order would essentially serve as a prescription. Senate File 513.
GUN RIGHTS CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT: The House and Senate have passed the proposed constitutional amendment, which would state, in part, that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The resolution passed the Legislature last year, but the yearslong process to enact it was sent back to square one after Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate’s office failed to publish notice of the amendment. Senate Joint Resolution 18.
CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH: The legislation, another priority for Reynolds, would establish a children’s behavioral health system and a state board to provide guidance on its implementation. The system would mirror the regional system now coordinating mental health services for adults. Advocates say they want lawmakers to add details and money to the effort. Senate File 479/House File 690.
DISTRACTED DRIVING: The legislation would ban drivers from using their cellphones except in limited situations like emergencies. It would allow the use of hands-free mode to make phone calls. It would also make it a moving violation to drive while using a cellphone, a change that could lead to a suspension of a driver’s license. The proposal would also increase fines and penalties, including when a violation of the law causes injury or death.Senate File 76.
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EDUCATION INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING: The proposal, which has floated around the Legislature for years, would extend an existing statewide 1-cent sales tax used for school infrastructure spending to 2051. House File 546.
JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS: The Iowa Senate, on a party line vote, advanced a plan that would change the way Iowa judges and justices are nominated, giving lawmakers and the governor more power to appoint members of the commissions that select finalists. The House has advanced its own bill through the committee process, but the full chamber has not voted on the measure.Senate File 237/House File 503.
SPORTS BETTING: Iowa is moving forward on plans to legalize wagering on college and professional sports, as well as fantasy sports, after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year opened the door for states to do so. The plan would let Iowans place bets at casinos or online if they visit a casino once to register and prove they are at least 21 years old. It would prohibit in-game bets on college athletes who attend Iowa universities. Senate File 366/House File 748.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The House overwhelmingly voted for a bill that would remove a percentage cap on the amount of THC that can be present in medical cannabis, instead allowing the dispensing of 25 grams of the chemical to a patient or primary caregiver in a 90-day period. The measure’s future is unclear after there was renewed focus on a medical advisory’s ruling on the issue last year. A Senate committee has changed the latest version of the bill to restore the THC percentage cap. House File 732.
ABSENTEE BALLOTS: House lawmakers unanimously passed a bill to clarify the rules for receiving absentee ballots after a contested House race was decided by nine votes earlier this year and several lawfully-cast mail-in ballots weren’t counted. Senators have amended the bill to include a wide range of election-related provisions, including shortening the number of hours polling places are open on Election Day and changing the publication requirements for constitutional amendments. House File 692.
LAND PURCHASES: Private organizations would be barred from using a state revolving loan fund with low interest rates to purchase land, perform water pollution control projects and then sell it to a local or state government under this Senate bill. Senate File 548.
SOLAR ENERGY: The legislation would allow rate-regulated public utilities to charge new fees on homeowners, farmers and businesses that generate solar power. Senate File 538/House Study Bill 185.
UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS: There’s a pair of bills that could curb some unemployment insurance benefits for Iowa workers. One measure would redefine misconduct, the legal standard used to determine if out-of-work employees are disqualified from drawing unemployment insurance benefits. Another bill would reduce a worker’s benefits when their employer goes out of business and change some other bene. Senate File 561/House File 531.
BARBERING AND COSMETOLOGY: While a cosmetology license would still require 2,100 hours of training, a license only to cut hair would require 1,500 hours. A license to perform skin care like facials would require 600 hours of training; 325 hours of training would be needed to perform services like manicures. The boards of cosmetology and barbering would be merged. Senate File 582.
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“SCHOOL CHOICE”: The bill would have allowed K-12 students receiving special education to be eligible for public money from an “education savings grant” to pay for expenses including tuition and fees at an accredited nonpublic or public school; textbooks, fees or payments for educational therapies; and tuition or fees for nonpublic online education programs. Senate File 547.
FELON VOTING RIGHTS: One of the governor’s signature priorities this year was a proposed constitutional amendment that would make felons eligible to vote once they have completed their sentences. The proposal passed the House 95-2, but won’t move forward this year after Republican senators said they want to place conditions on what counts as a completed sentence. House Joint Resolution 14.
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT ON ABORTION: A proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution would have stated that “the Constitution of the State of Iowa does not secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” The proposal was meant to nullify a 2018 Iowa Supreme Court decision that found the state’s constitution protects the right to abortion. Senate Joint Resolution 21.
FETAL HOMICIDE/UNBORN PERSON: The bill would have defined “unborn person” in Iowa law beginning from the moment of fertilization, which Democrats say could lead to future restrictions on abortion. Republicans said the bill wasn’t related to abortion but was intended to increase criminal penalties for ending a woman’s pregnancy without her consent during the commission of a crime. Senate File 523.
DEATH PENALTY: The death penalty in Iowa would have been reinstated for someone convicted of first-degree murder if the crime also involved kidnapping and sexual abuse against a minor. The death penalty has been outlawed in Iowa since 1965. Proposals to bring it back have been introduced in previous years, but have never passed. Senate File 588.
E-VERIFY:Employers in Iowa would have been required to participate in the federal government’s E-Verify program. Businesses could have faced the suspension or loss of their licenses if they knowingly employ workers who are in the country illegally. Senate File 516.
MEDICAID WORK REQUIREMENTS: The bill would have required recipients of Medicaid — the health care program for the poor and disabled — to work or volunteer as a condition of eligibility. Certain individuals, including someone medically certified as physically or mentally unfit for employment would have been exempt from the work requirements. Several other bills that would have placed more oversight over the state’s public assistance programs, including Medicaid and food assistance programs, also did not advance. Senate File 538.
CHILD SEX ABUSE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS: This bill would have removed the statute of limitations for bringing criminal charges against people accused of several sex crimes against minors, including incest and sexual exploitation. Currently, charges must be brought within 10 years of the victim’s 18th birthday. A separate, broader Senate bill that would change sentencing requirements for several crimes would extend, but not eliminate the statute of limitations. Senate File 487.
COUNTY ATTORNEY PERMITS: County attorneys and assistant county attorneys would have been part of a list of professions able to obtain a professional permit to carry firearms while on the job, except for courtrooms, where judges have jurisdiction. Senate File 587.
GUNS AT WORK: Iowans with permits could have brought firearms to work with them if they left the weapons and ammunition out of sight in locked vehicles in the employers’ parking lots. Senate File 459.
GUNS IN COURTHOUSES, SCHOOLS, WORK: Iowans with permits to carry weapons would have been allowed in most parts of county courthouses, other than courtrooms and court offices. That includes allowing them to carry to work if the weapon is out of sight in locked vehicles, and to schools if the weapon-owners remain on schools’ driveways, parking lots and sidewalks. House File 636.
GUNS IN SCHOOL PARKING LOTS: Licensed gun owners would have been able to bring loaded weapons onto a school parking lot if they remained in their vehicle. The change was intended to allow parents to drop off and pick up kids from school without stopping to unload their weapons and lock them away. Senate File 116.
STUDENT DENTAL, VISION, LEAD SCREENINGS: The bill would have removed a requirement that schools collect information about students’ dental and vision screens and testing for lead in their blood. Parents and medical providers would have still been required to report the data to the state. A previous version of the bill would have removed a requirement for school districts to hire nurses or librarians. Senate File 438.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: The bill would have directed that the government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, unless it is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. It added that a person whose exercise of religion has been burdened may assert such violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding. Senate File 508.
TRAFFIC CAMERAS: Legislation on automated traffic enforcement cameras will not advance this year. The Senate passed a bill that would ban the devices, while the House proposed regulating them and allowing the state to collect 60 percent of the revenue. The lack of action on the issue continues a several-year stalemate regarding the cameras. House File 674/Senate File 343.
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Signed into law
‘AG GAG’: A successor to a 2012 law that is on appeal in the courts, this bill would criminalize gaining access to an agricultural facility using deceptive means and “with the intent to cause physical or economic harm or other injury” to the facility’s operations, animals, personnel, business interests or customers. Senate File 519.
CAMPUS FREE SPEECH: The Iowa Board of Regents — which oversees the state’s three public universities — would be directed to adopt a policy that states, in part, that the primary function of an institution of higher education is the discovery and dissemination of knowledge. Democrats argue one section of the bill could lead to discrimination against some students. Senate File 274.
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