From the Capitol with Steve Firman - March 6, 2023

posted on Monday, March 6, 2023 in Government Affairs

Grow Cedar Valley

March 6, 2023

We made it!  First Funnel is now behind us.  The beginning step in the Legislature’s self-imposed system of winnowing the upwards of 1500 bills introduced in the first eight weeks of the session has now passed.  It seems that more bills made it through this first narrowing than usual, but now they face passage in one Chamber and passage through a full committee in the other prior to the second funnel on March 31.


Several issues that we have been monitoring closely because they affect the business community or the Cedar Valley directly are still in play.


Youth Employment:

House Study Bill 134 would allow for the Iowa Workforce Development and Department of Education to provide exceptions for prohibited jobs for 14-17 year old employees who participate 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 who would rather enter the workforce early and develop skills outside of typical high school extracurriculars as well as combatting workforce shortages. Opponents of the legislation argue the risks to youth employees are too high. House Democrats raised major concerns about the bills provision to allow younger workers to serve alcohol in bars and restaurants. After much discussion, HSB 134 was passed out of the House Commerce Committee on Wednesday afternoon. The Senate Workforce Committee approved their companion bill, Senate File 167 on Thursday.


Income Tax:

Senate Republicans remained focused on tax reform as a key priority. Senate Study Bill 1126 would expand last year’s income tax decrease, dropping the tax incrementally over the next decade to eventually eliminate it entirely. An individual income tax relief elimination fund would be created to help support the overall goal of eliminating income tax in the state. The bill would also provide favorable cuts to corporations, which could see a drop from last year’s 5.5% to 4.75% in the coming years. A Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee recommended the bill’s passage to full committee on Wednesday, because the bill impacts taxes it is exempt from the funnel deadline.


DEI prohibition:

House File 616 would prohibit the State’s Regents from funding diversity, equity, and inclusions (DEI) programs, which includes hiring of professionals to serve as DEI officers. The bill also enables any person to alert the Iowa Attorney General to the University’s violation of the bill. HF 218 was passed out of the House Education Committee on Wednesday, making it eligible for floor debate as early as next week.


State government reorganization:

A priority for the Governor, Senate File 514  is her government reorganization bill that survived the legislative funnel in both chambers. Both the Senate and House have indicated they will consider amendments during floor debate to address concerns raised during the lengthy subcommittee process. The 1600+ page proposal would consolidate departments and reduce the number of state department directors from 37 to 16.


MEGA projects:

The Iowa Economic Development Authority introduced House Study Bill 147 to create a Major Economic Growth Attraction Program that would provide additional incentives for large economic development projects meeting certain criteria, primarily that the investment in the project must exceed $1 billion. The House advanced the bill through the first funnel on Thursday. Senate companion bill, SSB 1162, was referred to the Ways and Means Committee.


Guns in workplace parking lots:

Senate Study Bill 1168 would prohibit employers from prohibiting firearms in employer parking lots, so long as the owner of the firearm stores the firearm in a locked vehicle out of sight. The proposal has been introduced in previous years but has failed to pass both chambers. The Senate Judiciary passed the bill out of committee on Thursday and the House Public Safety Committee approved the House companion bill on Thursday.


A more complete run down of the bills that lived and died Friday, including many of the social and education issues that are out of our “lane” can be found here: First Funnel Recap.