Iowa 2021 Legislative Report - Week 13

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Budgets and floor debate dominated week 13.  Most of the work was packed into Tuesday, April 6, and Wednesday, April 7, with short sessions at the beginning and end of the week.  Debate was limited to bills that were previously placed on the Unfinished Business Calendar and bills that were received by the opposite chamber (e.g. the House was considering Senate bills and the Senate was considering House bills). 

Both chambers took this opportunity to clear calendars.  We are now four weeks out from the 110th day of session, April 30.  In addition to tackling the FY2021-2022 budget and number of outstanding policy issues, the legislature will also need to come to agree on major tax issues included in SF576 (Inheritance Tax/Tax Triggers) and SF87 (Property Tax Reform). 

Appropriations

Floor work was limited on Monday, April 5, though Appropriations work began heating up with the Senate Appropriations advancing SSB1256 (now SF592) the Transportation budget on a bipartisan vote (20-0), the first of the budget bills to move this appropriations season.  The Senate introduced and moved additional budget bills for this session, including the Block Grants/COVID Funds appropriation (SSB1257) and the Administration and Regulation appropriation (SF594). 

Appropriations work was not left to the Senate this week, the House also began efforts to introduce and move budget bills.  On Tuesday, April 6, three House appropriations subcommittees met to move five budgets: 

  1. Agriculture and Natural Resources appropriations (HF860)
  2. Justice Systems appropriations (HF861)
  3. Judicial Branch appropriations (HF864)
  4. Transportation appropriations (HF862)
  5. Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) appropriation (HF863

All five bills were moved out of subcommittee on Tuesday and out of full House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.  The House rounded out the week with the Education appropriations subcommittee approving the Education appropriation and the full House Appropriation committee voting out the Administration and Regulation appropriation (HF867).

Most significant in the House version of the Administration and Regulation Appropriation budget (HF867) is the $100 million appropriation for the Broadband Grant program (HF848).  The policy for the program has been approved by both chambers (see below), but the House and the Senate still need to reach an agreement on funding.  The Governor proposed $450 million over three years.  The House has included $100 million in HF867 and stated that this is a more realistic funding level.

Coming into this week, the legislature had not introduced a single budget bill–now every budget bill has been introduced and most advanced, with only the HHS budget and the Standings left to be introduced.  The House has not released overall budget targets for this year; the Senate has set an overall target of $7.999 billion but has not released individual budget targets for appropriations subcommittees. 

The House and the Senate will have a lot of work ahead to advance budget bills through the opposite chambers and to reconcile those budgets that have been started in both chambers (versions of the Administration and Regulation and the Transportation budgets have been introduced in both chambers; typically one chamber is assigned to start a bill and that budget will advance through the appropriations committee process then through each chamber).  

Appropriations bills House Senate Final
Supplemental FY21   SF284 SF284 (Signed by Gov 2/23)
SSA In-Person HF532    
Block Grants/COVID Funds   SSB1257  
Admin & Regulation HF867 SF594  
Ag & Natural Resources HF860    
Economic Development   SF595  
Education  LSB 1003YA    
HHS      
Judicial Branch HF864    
Justice Systems HF861    
Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF) HF862    
Transportation HF863 SF592  
Standings      

Floor work

In addition to appropriations work in committee, Tuesday, April 6, brought floor action in both chambers.  The House passed eight bills with bipartisan or near bipartisan support.  Action in the Senate on Tuesday was very different, they advanced 11 bills and one resolution, among those were four significant priority bills:

Property Tax Reform (SF587)

The Senate introduced this massive tax package two weeks ago; the floor manager of the bill stated that the bill makes bold changes to tax policy that the state needs, addressing inequities in the current system and bringing relief to property taxpayers.  The bill does this by shifting the costs of mental health from the cities and counties to the state; the Democrats have serious reservations about the state taking over mental health funding and the control localities will have over mental health services.  Provisions included in the bill:

  • Creation of a Mental Health and Disability Services regional fund; establishes funding formula and creates a risk pool.
    • Eliminates property tax replacement payments (backfill) to local government as of FY 2028; establishes a new formula for payments to phase out the backfill from Fy 2023-2028. 
    • Increases the state school aid base to 88.4% as of the 2022-2023 school year.
    • Eliminates the tax trigger requirement before the 2018 income tax changes take effect (see also SF576).
    • Strikes the charitable conservation donation income tax deduction.
    • Makes changes to:
      • Calculating income tax deduction
      • Makes changes to the elderly property tax credit
      • Makes changes to the forest/fruit tree property tax credit

The bill passed the Senate (30-17) and now goes to the House.   The House does not have a similar tax plan and will have to decide whether they want to take up the Senate tax bills (SF576 (Inheritance Tax/Tax Triggers) and SF87 (Property Tax Reform).  These tax bills will likely become a large part of the conversation as we approach the end of the legislative session.

No Right to Abortion Constitutional Amendment (HJR5)

This bill proposed an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to defend the life of unborn children, that no right to abortion can be found in the Iowa Constitution.  The bill was passed by the House in January.  The Senate conformed to the House Resolution to SJR2 the No Right to Abortion amendment that was filed by the Senate; the Senate version provides additional language on the dignity of life and on protecting mothers and unborn children against the expansion of abortion rights, in addition to the language that no right to abortion can be found in the Iowa Constitution.  The Senate adopted the resolution as amended (30-17) and the bill now returns to the House for further action.

Broadband Grants (HF848)

Expanding broadband in rural Iowa is a priority for the Governor this legislative session.  HF848 creates a framework for broadband grants for underserved areas. The bill passed the Senate on Tuesday unanimously (47-0) (this bill has been a bipartisan effort and has received a vote of approval from every legislator present to vote ‘yes’ on the bill).  Now that the House and Senate have both approved HF848, the bill goes to the Governor for her signature.  HF848 provides the policy related to broadband service, legislators still need to determine the funding level for the grants in the appropriation process (see the Administration and Regulation Appropriation budget (HF867) information above).

Voluntary Diversity Plans (HF228)

HF228 strikes the implementation of a voluntary diversity plan as a reason for denying open enrollment and strikes the requirement that the State Board of Education adopts rules on voluntary diversity plans.  The bill has now been voted on and approved by the Senate twice.  This time, the Senate amended the bill to make it effective upon enactment and to waive open enrollment deadlines for the upcoming (2021-2022) school year.  The amended bill passed on a party-line vote (29-17) and now returns to the House for them to consider the bill with the new effective date.  Republicans believe that hundreds of parents are denied the right to open-enroll due to diversity plans and this bill will empower them; Democrats believe these plans are small efforts that are used by a small number of districts to improve diversity in their schools.

Thursday, April 8, brought more floor work, but a lighter load–both chambers ran non-controversial bills moving a total of 28 bills down to the Governor.  To date, the legislature has enrolled and sent 65 bills down to the Governor.

Redistricting

The Iowa Supreme Court issued a statement on redistricting.  The Court said that while it cannot commit to a future course of action, it is prepared to meet its constitutional responsibility as directed by Iowa Code Chapter 42 if the legislature is unable to meet the constitutional deadline for redistricting due to the lack of data from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Under the Iowa Constitution, the duty to draw redistricting maps falls on the Supreme Court if the legislature has not approved a new map by September 15.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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