From the Capitol with Steve Firman - February 6, 2023

posted on Monday, February 6, 2023 in Government Affairs

Grow Cedar Valley

Week 5 Legislative Update

February 6, 2023

We're into the fifth week of the 2023 legislative session and education has been center stage so far. First came the Governor’s highest priority, the Education Savings Accounts that will be available for parents that want to use state money to send their children to private schools.  Last week, the Senate passed a bill last week that called for a 3% increase to state aid for public schools, marking the highest increase since 2015. The House is expected to match that proposal this week. And the Legislature is still working on other education issues, such as parents' rights, gender identity and increased transparency.

On other fronts, the pace quickened during the fourth week of session with committee activity increasing, sending several bills to floor debate in both the House and Senate.

Gov. Reynolds introduced a proposal to consolidate state government Wednesday. Senate Study Bill 1123 and House Study Bill 126, call for the realignment of all state cabinet level departments. The proposals, each over 1500 pages long,  are aimed at saving taxpayer dollars, increasing efficiency within the combined state agencies, and improving the overall operations, performance, and outcomes among state agencies.  Both the House and Senate versions have been assigned to their respective State Government Committees.

The Governor’s omnibus health care bill House Study Bill 91, passed through a House Health and Human Services subcommittee meeting last Wednesday. The proposal includes the following divisions:

  • State Licensure for Rural Emergency Hospitals
  • $1 Million Appropriation to the Regional Centers of Excellence Grant Program
  • Noneconomic Damages Awards Cap Against Healthcare Providers
  • State-funded Family Medicine Obstetrics Fellowship Program
  • Self-Administered Hormonal Contraceptives
  • Public Policy Considerations Related to the Review and Approval of Insurance Benefits
  • Fatherhood Initiatives, More Options for Maternal Support Program
  • State Employee Paid Parental Leave Benefit
  • Property Tax Modifications for Licensed Child Care Centers and Facilities
  • Adoption Subsidy Program
  • All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship Program

Many of the divisions included in the omnibus bill have been introduced in standalone bills as well. 

Both the Senate and the House have been fast-tracking a bill designed to fix an error that would prevent a property tax increase due to a calculation error at the Department of Revenue. The error occurred in the administration of a property tax rollback calculation concerning multi-residential properties that would negatively impact local government budgets. It could have amounted to a property tax increase of $120 million, which is the same amount by which local government budgets will have to be reduced.  The bill fixes the error and extends the deadline for local governments to certify their budgets so that they have time to make the necessary budget adjustments. Senate File 181 passed the Senate 49-0 and was sent over to the House where it will be debated and almost assuredly passed this week.

Tort Reform (Trucker Tort):

A tort reform bill concerning commercial trucking operations was introduced in both chambers last week.  The purpose of the bill is to address the shrinking market for umbrella insurance coverage available to commercial trucking companies by limiting the causes of action and capping noneconomic damages.  House Study Bill 114, passed out of subcommittee and committee last week, while the Senate companion file, Senate Study Bill 1114 passed a subcommittee. Those opposed to the bill argue that this would make the roads more dangerous, while supporters say it will provide family farmers and Iowa businesses with more predictability.

Three other bills we are supporting include:

House File 42: Would allow cities to authorize entertainment areas and to impose an entertainment surcharge within the area.

House File 47: This bill provides a tax exemption for the amount of wages received by a taxpayer for providing certain childcare services. 

House Study Bill 63: Creates a new resident and new graduate tax credit available against income taxes for new residents in the past year who are employed full time.

We are registered against Senate File 108  that prohibits employers from knowingly hiring individuals not legally allowed to work in the U.S. by requiring employers to utilize the E-verify system due to the unreliability of the system.   

Some notable dates in the session timeline are fast approaching.  They include:

  • March 3rd first funnel
  • March 31st second funnel
  • April 28th last scheduled day of session