From the Capitol with Steve Firman - February 20, 2023
posted on Monday, February 20, 2023 in Government Affairs
February 20, 2023
The last two weeks have seen a great deal of legislative activity. The Legislature is racing to move bills through the process before the first funnel or first winnowing step occurs on March 3. Back-to-back subcommittee meeting are being held throughout each day, along with meetings of the full committees in both the House and the Senate. The weeks leading up to the first funnel are always among the most hectic of the session. There are several bills that Grow Cedar Valley is watching that are detailed below.
Before looking at things that are coming, let’s review some of the big things that Governor Reynolds has or soon will sign into law. Bills that establish school choice and approve a 3% increase to public K-12 funding have been passed and signed. Another one of the Governor’s top priorities that she signed was the bill capping the non-economic damages to $2 million when medical malpractice suits involve a hospital and $1 million for suits involving independent clinics. Though non-economic damages have been capped, economic and punitive damages remain without limit.
The Governor will soon sign a bill passed by both Chambers to fix an error that occurred in the administration of a property tax rollback calculation concerning multi-residential properties that would negatively impact local government budgets. A 2021 law was passed that affected property classifications, but the formula for calculating the appropriate rate for taxation was not updated. Though this bill will save Iowa property owners upwards of $130 million in property tax hikes, local governments will need to plan quickly to readjust their budgets in anticipation of this shortfall.
Now to pieces of legislation winding their ways through the process. One of the multiple bills that have been introduced this year to attempt to combat the ongoing child care shortage, HSB 50, would make families automatically eligible to receive state funded childcare assistance (CCA) if a parent is employed full time as childcare provider. The fact that it passed a bipartisan subcommittee unanimously indicates that both parties are willing to work together to find a solution to childcare demands in the state.
The Iowa Economic Development Authority introduced its MEGA Program, HSB 147, last week. The bill creates a new program focused on providing new incentives for major economic growth attraction projections. Director Durham presented the proposal to the Senate Economic Development Budget Subcommittee, sharing that the program is necessary for Iowa to compete for large projects.
Projects would have to meet the following criteria to be eligible for the program:
- More than $1 billion in capital investment
- Advanced manufacturing, biosciences, research businesses only
- Created jobs must pay at least 140% of the laborshed wage at the time the project is completed
- Must offer qualified benefits plan (consistent with High Quality Jobs Program)
- Located at a certified site (industrial or mega), site must be 250 acres
Another priority bill for the Governor is SSB 1123, the government reorganization bill. Among many other provisions, this bill would reduce the number of department heads in the state government from 37 to 16 through merging the activities of some departments into others. The Governor claims this will save the state millions of dollars each year. Due to size of the bill (1569 pages), it is being broken into its divisions and subcommittees are being held on the various parts.
Both chambers have received subcommittee approval for proposals to rewrite Iowa’s child labor laws to allow flexibility for certain previously prohibited work activities. One of the components of the bill would allow for the Iowa Workforce Development and Department of Education to provide exceptions for prohibited jobs for 14-17 year old employees who participated in a work-based learning or a school or employer- administered, work related program. The bill also exempts businesses from civil liability due to the company or employee’s negligence. Proponents of the bill argue the legislation will provide more opportunities for students participating in work-based learning programs and help combat the workforce shortage, while opponents argue the risks to youth employees are too high. In addition, the bill also updates the types of duties 14–17-year-olds can perform, expands their allowable work hours and would expand the student driving permit to include places of employment.
Finally, again this year, a bill to establish daylight saving time as the official time for the state of Iowa throughout the entire year has been introduced and referred to the House State Government Committee. Similar legislation has been introduced in previous years but has failed to garner enough support in both chambers to pass.