Your guide to which bills survived the first legislative ‘funnel’ (and which didn’t)

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By Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch

Most of the priority bills proposed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds and Republican legislators made it through the first major deadline for the 2024 legislative session. But the details of many of those major bills are still subject to change in coming weeks.

In her Condition of the State speech in January, Reynolds laid out goals to make significant changes to Iowa’s Area Education Agencies and the state’s mental health care system. She also announced plans to merge or cut many of the state’s boards and commissions.

Lawmakers moved bills on these issues, and many more, through the committee process in the past week. Most legislation had to be passed by a committee in at least one chamber by the end of “funnel week” to remain eligible for consideration during the session.

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There are exceptions to the deadline, such as bills involving government oversight, tax and spending components, as well as those sponsored by legislative leaders. Language in “dead” bills can also come back as amendments to surviving legislation.

Reynolds celebrated the advancement of her legislative goals on special education, student literacy, postpartum Medicaid coverage and individual income tax cuts.

“Iowans expect their elected leaders to lead on issues that help move our state forward,” Reynolds said in a statement Thursday. “… As the legislative process continues, so will conversations on how we deliver results for Iowans. Iowa has cemented itself as a national leader, and these priorities take us another step further.” 

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While legislation on these issues did survive the deadline, the final version of some bills may differ from Reynolds’ original proposals. House Republicans gave committee approval to bills on AEAs and boards and commissions that differed significantly from Reynolds’ version.

Outside of the targets outlined by Reynolds at the beginning of the session, lawmakers spent the last six weeks discussing and advancing bills on a wide array of subjects, from election conduct to adding “unborn person” language into Iowa law. Lawmakers held a public hearing earlier this week on another bill introduced by the governor to define sex, exclude transgender people from sex-segregated spaces and require birth certificates list a transgender Iowans’ sex at birth and their sex after gender reassignment treatment.

Democrats, the minority party in both chambers, criticized Republicans for “playing politics” and advancing measures that do not improve Iowans’ lives.

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Senate Minority Leader Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, said the bills passed through the first funnel week were “an attack on Iowans rather than an attack on the problems that Iowans have asked us to solve.”

“Many of us have traveled thousands of miles and have listened to Iowans, and they have consistently brought up that they want us to address fully funding public education, addressing the childcare crisis, lowering health care costs and housing costs, and in general, lowering the cost of living,” Jochum said. “… That is not what happened. But we did see as an attack on Iowans freedoms, their opportunities, and of course, no longer holding government accountable to the people.”

Here’s a rundown of  some of the notable bills that survived – and some that did not – during the first funnel week:

What survived:

Agriculture

Food labeling: Senate Study Bill 3162 would forbid the producers of faux meat to label it in a deceptive way to insinuate they are meat from slaughtered animals. The bill was also amended to prohibit research at the state’s regent universities into “manufactured protein products.”

Grain Indemnity Fund: Senate Study Bill 3174 would roughly double the fund’s operating balance and will expand its coverage to credit-sale contracts. The fund reimburses farmers for their losses when a state-licensed grain dealer buys their corn or soybeans but goes defunct before paying.

Livestock feedlots: Senate File 2371 would allow operators of open feedlots to dispose of manure under certain conditions if failing to do so risks contaminating the state’s waterways. It was amended to remove a provision that might have allowed feedlot owners to spread manure on farm fields for long periods of time without state approval.

Education

AEAs: Two versions of legislation making changes to Iowa Area Education Agencies – House Study Bill 713 and Senate Study Bill 3073, survived the funnel deadline. Both are different from Reynolds’ initial proposal making changes to the system. The original legislation would have allowed school districts to contract with companies or work with other AEAs to provide special education services for Iowa students with disabilities, as well as contract with other providers for general education and media services and given the state Department of Education more oversight and control responsibilities over AEAs.

The amended bill moved forward by the Senate Education Committee Wednesday would require AEAs to continue providing special education, general education and media services, with a gradual shift to allowing more funds to go directly to school districts. District would then be allowed to choose to continue working with AEAs or seek other service providers.

The House bill, advanced Thursday, would require special education funds be used by school districts with AEAs and sets out a three-year timeline for districts to begin to work with outside providers for media and general education services. The legislation would also scale back the education department’s oversight role.

Teacher pay: The Senate Education Committee advanced a teacher pay provision as part of the AEA bill, setting a new starting teacher salary minimum at $46,251, lower than the governor’s $50,000 minimum starting salary proposal. House lawmakers introduced a separate bill, House Study Bill 714, to raise teacher salaries to a $47,500 minimum in year one and then to $50,000. The bill also set a minimum $15 hourly wage for education support personnel.

Fetal development videos: House File 2031 would require Iowa schools to show students videos on fetal development, from the process of fertilization to pregnancy, in health and human growth and development classes. The bill cites “Meet Baby Olivia,” a video produced by an anti-abortion organization, as an example of material to show students. The bill was amended by the House Education Committee to only be shown to students in grades 7-12.

Improving literacy: Both chambers’ education committees advanced bills aimed at improving literacy rates for Iowa elementary students. Senate Study Bill 3155 and House Study Bill 650 would train teachers in the “science of reading” approach to literacy instruction and require teachers pass a “foundations of reading” test. The proposal would also have schools notify parents if their child is not proficient in reading by third grade, giving parents the option to hold the student in third grade for a year to obtain proficiency.

Gender-neutral terms in world language classes: House File 2060 would prohibit the introduction of gender-neutral terms in public and private-school classes teaching a language “that utilizes a grammatical gender system.”

Use of preferred names and pronouns: House File 2396 would forbid school districts and charter schools from taking disciplinary action against teachers and students for using a student or school employee’s legal name instead of their preferred name or pronouns – even if a parent has registered a request for their child to have a different name or pronouns used in school.

Community college state aid distribution formula: Senate File 2373, formerly Senate Study Bill 3164, would establish a “presidents council” made up of Iowa’s community college presidents and chancellors to determine and approve the formula to distribute state appropriations among the colleges on a yearly basis. 

Tuition caps, program changes at state universities: House File 2558, formerly House File 2327, would cap tuition and fee increases at 3% and guarantee steady costs for students admitted to a state university next school year, alongside requiring universities to conduct studies of cost-reducing measures. It would also codify DEI directives from the Iowa Board of Regents to state universities, bar universities from hiring certain administrators without board approval and add two ex-officio, nonvoting members of the state’s general assembly to the board of regents. 

Community colleges as well as state universities would need to form programs for students to work part-time under a registered employer while attending classes, with the employer paying their tuition and wages, and craft in their strategic plans ways to prioritize high-demand careers in the state.

Community college reporting requirements: An amended version of House File 2347 would require community colleges to report data on graduate income and student debt, among other items, and provide them to school districts for juniors and seniors. College and career transition counselors would also be made exempt from supplemental weighting caps for shared operations in school districts.

Student teaching requirement changes: Senate File 2260, formerly Senate Study Bill 3143, would shorten student teaching requirements for certain groups with paraeducator or substitute teaching experience and expand work-based learning programs for students who wish to participate when school is not in session. It would also allocate $30 million from the Unemployment Compensation Reserve fund to the new Workforce Opportunity Fund and change eligibility requirements and programming for the Last-Dollar Scholarship program. 

Similar legislation in the House also made it through the funnel deadline. House File 2516, formerly House Study Bill 686, would also change student teaching requirements and establish the Workforce Opportunity Fund, but does not include where dollars for the fund would come from. 

Citizenship proof for in-state tuition: House File 2320, formerly House File 2128, would require students admitted to Iowa’s community colleges and state universities to provide proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S. to qualify for in-state tuition and fees.

Health care

Defining ‘sex,’ sex-segregated spaces, birth certificates: House File 2389 defines the terms “male” and “female” in Iowa code on the basis of a person’s biological reproductive system requires that birth certificates list a transgender person’s sex as designated at birth and as designated after gender-related medical care. The bill would allow transgender people to be excluded from sex-segregated spaces such as restrooms, locker rooms and domestic violence shelters. Lawmakers held a public hearing on the legislation Monday.

Mental health and substance abuse: Both Senate and House committees advanced the governor’s proposal to establish a Behavioral Health Services System (BHSS) in Iowa to provide mental health, substance abuse and other addiction recovery services. House File 2509 and Senate File 2354 would divide the state into seven districts for providing mental health and substance abuse services, taking over services currently provided through the Mental Health and Disabilities Services system. Disability services would move under the Iowa HHS’ division of disability and aging services.

Birth control: House Study Bill 642 allows pharmacists to dispense birth control from behind the pharmacy counter, with various check-ins and self-risk assessments with the patient, for a total of up to 27 months before the patient would be required to see a physician in order to continue the prescription.

Nursing home inspections: House Study Bill 691 would allow the Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing to opt out of conducting in-person nursing home inspections under certain conditions. The bill would also allow nursing home representatives to “review” allegations of substandard care with DIAL so they could provide additional “context and evidence” before top officials at DIAL decide whether to issue the citations. Department inspectors would also participate in joint training sessions with nursing home industry officials to review the violations cited most frequently in the state.

Postpartum Medicaid: House Study Bill 643 and Senate File 2251 would expand postpartum Medicaid coverage to a year for mothers and infants. The bill limits eligibility to those with incomes at 215% of the federal poverty level, or about $42,000 a year, lawmakers say.

State government

Boards and commissions: House and Senate committees passed different plans for consolidating Iowa’s system of boards and commissions. Senate Study Bill 3172, a bill introduced by the governor’s office, follows the recommendations of the Iowa Boards and Commissions Review Committee to merge or eliminate 111 of Iowa’s 256 existing boards and commissions. House Study Bill 710 would only consolidate or cut 49 boards or commissions.

Gender balance: House File 2540 and Senate File 2096 would eliminate the requirement that Iowa boards and commissions have equal gender representation.

Eminent domain: House File 2522 would allow those who are subject to pending eminent domain requests to petition a district court judge to decide whether the requests are proper, prior to a final ruling by the Iowa Utilities Board. The bill was amended from an earlier version to remove a provision that enabled state lawmakers to pause carbon dioxide pipeline permit proceedings.

Foreign land ownership: Senate File 2204 would enhance reporting requirements for land that is owned or leased by foreigners. 

Election law: House Study Bill 697 and Senate Study Bill 3161 make changes to absentee voting in Iowa, banning ballot drop boxes, requiring absentee ballots be received by county auditor’s offices the day before the election to be counted, and requiring voters list their driver’s license or voter identification numbers when returning absentee ballots. Ranked-choice voting would also be banned under the law.

The legislation would also limit challenges that Iowans can make to a federal candidate’s eligibility to appear on the ballot, a measure critics linked to former President Donald Trump’s 2024 campaign.

Private CPAs conducting state audits: Senate File 2311 would allow state agencies and departments to employ a certified public accountant to conduct their annual audits instead of the state auditor’s office. Iowa Auditor Rob Sand criticized the bill in a news conference Thursday, saying it would decrease government accountability.

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Hemp regulation: House Study Bill 665 includes measures allowing the state Department of Health and Human Services to more directly regulate the sale of hemp-derived and cannabis products. The bill outlaws selling alcoholic beverages infused with THC and also creates a criminal penalty for distribution of consumable hemp products to people under age 21 and for underage possession.

Parking meters: House Study Bill 669 requires parking meters to allow the use of a parking space by any user for the duration of the time purchased, regardless of whether the person who paid for the parking is occupying the space. It would also require meters, kiosks, or internet applications used to purchase parking to display any remaining time left by a previous user.

Public lands: Senate File 2324 would bar the Iowa Department of Natural Resources from obtaining new land at auction or from not-for-profit organizations that obtained the land at auction.

Union recertification: Senate File 2374 would require the decertification of public employee bargaining units if the government employer fails to provide a list of eligible employees to the Public Employee Relations Board within 10 days of receiving written notice of intent to conduct a certification election. The bargaining unit or bargaining representative could avoid decertification by petitioning the court to compel the government to provide the employee list.

Use of artificial intelligence in election materials:  House File 2549, formerly House Study Bill 599, would ban the use of artificial intelligence technology in voting equipment and make it a felony to fail to disclose the use of AI in published election materials. The bill would also criminalize publication of a “materially deceptive depiction” of a candidate without disclosure, as well as making or publishing a false representation of a candidate or ballot issue with the intention of influencing an election.

Labor and the workforce

Job-search requirements: House Study Bill 655, renumbered as House File 2524, would set the statutorily required number of work searches for the receipt of unemployment benefits at four per week. It also would require Iowa Workforce Development to verify the identity of each claimant before any benefits are paid out. The bill would essentially bring Iowa’s state law into alignment with existing practices and administrative rules that already require claimant identification and four job searches per week.

Justice and public safety

Arming school staff:  House Study Bill 675 allows school personnel who pass several training courses and receive a permit to carry a firearm. The state would provide all schools with up to $50,000 in matching funds if they choose to hire school resource officers or private security. The bill also indemnifies school districts from liability arising from the “use of reasonable force” in the workplace.

Bail for violent offenses: House File 2555 would raise to $100,000, from the current minimum of $10,000, the bond for charges ranging from attempted murder to possession of a firearm by a felon.

Bestiality penalties: Senate File 2180 and House File 2318 expand the definition of sexual abuse of an animal and increase penalties for violations.

Eligibility for public assistance, expanded definition of human smuggling:  House File 2112 would expand the definition of human smuggling and also require background checks of noncitizen applicants for public assistance.

Employer verification of legal residency: Senate File 108 would require employers to use a federal system called E-Verify to check the immigration status of job applicants.

Firearm regulation: House File 2556 creates penalties for officials of political subdivisions that enact firearms ordinances that are more restrictive than state law. The bill would allow a judge to impose penalties of up to $2,500 per day of the violation on a person who “knowingly participated” in the violation.

Hands-free cell phones and traffic cameras: Senate File 2337 would prohibit drivers from using cell phones and other electronic devices behind the wheel, except in hands-free mode.  The legislation also would ban the use of traffic cameras for enforcement of speed limits and other roadway laws. A companion bill, House Study Bill 668, did not receive a subcommittee meeting.

Illegal immigration: Senate File 2211 proposes making illegal immigration a state crime in Iowa, giving law enforcement the authority to arrest undocumented immigrants, and state courts the ability to order the deportation of people who entered the country illegally. 

Jail booking photos: House File 2309 would allow county jails to withhold photos of those who are arrested until they are convicted, with some exceptions.

Police officer decertification: House File 2413 extends the list of offenses that require decertification by the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy. It applies to an officer who twice pleads guilty to or is convicted of driving a vehicle with a blood-alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more, or with a measurable amount of a controlled substance in their blood or urine.

Religious freedom:  House File 2454 and Senate File 2095 would raise the legal bar for government actions that burden a person’s exercise of religion, requiring a compelling government interest. A government body that is found to be in violation could be assessed actual damages, attorney fees and court costs.

Unborn personhood: House Study Bill 621 would increase penalties for the nonconsensual termination of a pregnancy. The legislation also amends current language on these crimes from referring to the termination of a “human pregnancy” to the “death of an unborn person.”

Natural resources

Lake Panorama: House File 2485 would allow large homeowners associations near public lakes to regulate their members’ conduct on those lakes and to place buoys on them. The bill is meant to assist the Lake Panorama Association, which worries a recent court decision will erode its authority.

What died:

Education

Free school meals: Rep. Sami Scheetz, D-Cedar Rapids, criticized Republican lawmakers for not taking up House File 575, a bill that would have provided free breakfast and lunches to students who qualify for free and reduced school lunches. In a news release, Scheetz said the measure would have provided meals for 23,000 Iowa students in low-income households.

“Unfortunately, Republican leadership in the Iowa House chose to put politics over Iowa kids,” Scheetz said. “Every child deserves access to nutritious meals, regardless of their family’s income. Child hunger is a serious issue that requires immediate action. Sadly, the Republican Party in our state government appears ready to put politics over the needs of the people they were elected to serve.”

Singing the national anthem: The House Education Committee did not take up House Study Bill 587, a bill that would have required Iowa students sing a verse of the national anthem each school day.

School chaplains: ​​House File 2073 and Senate Study Bill 3092 would have allowed chaplains to be employed or volunteer at Iowa schools, providing “support, services and programs” to students.

State university tuition guarantee and supplemental funding: House File 2352, introduced by House Democrats with the goal of lowering costs for Iowa college students, did not make it to subcommittee. The bill would have frozen tuition and fees for students entering their first year at a state university between 2024 and 2028, and offered additional funds to universities to help recoup lost funds. The tuition freeze was added to House File 2558, which passed through the House Education Committee. 

Health care

Nursing home reform: A package of legislation offered by Democrats this week didn’t make it past their assignment to a subcommittee. The bills included Senate File 2304, which would have established a Long-Term Care Facility Safety Council to add an element of citizen review to the oversight process, and resulted in the hiring of 30 additional nursing home inspectors and assisted living monitors. Senate File 2305 would have established a new minimum wage of $15 for front-line caregivers, with that minimum gradually rising to $20 an hour. Senate File 2303 would have increased, from $50 to $85, the Medicaid-funded personal needs allowance that care facility residents receive each month to pay for such things as cell phone bills, favorite snacks or shampoos, and other sundries. It has been 21 years since the Iowa Legislature last raised the personal needs allowance. Senate File 2306 would have provided support for alternatives to institutional long-term care to better enable Iowa seniors to age at home.

State and local government

Gender identity as a protected class: A House subcommittee did not advance House File 2082, a measure to remove “gender identity” as a protected class under the Iowa Civil Rights Act and classify “gender dysphoria” as a disability.

Obscene performances: Senate File 2176 proposed making the act of exposing a minor, selling a minor a ticket, or admitting a minor, to a performance that involves the exposure of genitalia or sexual acts or which “appeals to the prurient interest and is patently offensive” a misdemeanor offense. Advocates said the measure could be used in litigation targeting LGBTQ+ events and drag shows.

Libraries: Lawmakers discussed several bills related to library oversight in recent weeks, but none advanced. Senate Study Bill 3168 would have given city councils the ability to oversee and change hiring practices for library directors, and allowed the use of certain library tax money by ordinance without a referendum. A similar measure, House Study Bill 678, proposed giving city councils this power as well as the ability to overturn library board policy decisions on issues like book selection without requiring a public vote.

Senate Study Bill 3131 would have allowed city councils to change the makeup and duties of library boards, as well as removed state law requirements for local governments to levy taxes for libraries.

Homelessness: Unauthorized camping, sleeping or long-term shelter on public property would be a misdemeanor under Senate Study Bill 3175. The bill proposed providing state funds to political subdivisions to create parking lots, camping facilities and shelters for homeless people, as well as restricting state funds from going to local governments in areas with higher per capita rates of homelessness than the state average.

Child care assistance for child care workers: House File 2338 would make child care workers eligible for state child care assistance, expanding an existing pilot project statewide. The bill, sponsored by House Democrats, was not assigned to a subcommittee.

Medicaid wait list: House File 2205 would eliminate the waiting list for Home and Community-Based Services under Medicaid for people with disabilities. The bill, sponsored by House Democrats, was not assigned to a subcommittee.

Minimum wage:  House File 2293 would raise the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026. The bill, sponsored by House Democrats, was not assigned to a subcommittee.

Permanent daylight saving time: House File 498 would make Daylight Saving Time permanent throughout the year. 

Banking discrimination: Financial institutions, like banks and credit unions, would be prohibited from discriminating against people or businesses through use of a “social credit score,” defined as tracking of religious practices, associations, protected speech, expression or conduct under Senate Study Bill 3094. The bill would have also prevented financial institutions from declining to provide services based on business activity involving firearm, gas or oil sales, or in instances where a business owner does not disclose information on issues like greenhouse gas emissions, diversity audits or refusal to assist employees in “obtaining an abortion or gender reassignment service.”

Justice and public safety

Death penalty: Senate Study Bill 3085 would reinstate capital punishment in Iowa for first-degree murder cases where a person intentionally murders a police officer or prison employee. A second bill, Senate File 357, would have allowed the death penalty in cases where a minor is kidnapped, raped and murdered.

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Age verification for viewing pornography: House File 2051 proposed holding commercial entities and social media platforms liable if their platforms did not implement an age verification method before being allowed access to obscene material.

Expanding medical cannabis program: House Study Bill 532 would have expanded the state definition for “medical cannabidiol” to include forms of oral, topical and inhalable cannabis — including raw flower cannabis products.

Natural resources

Anonymous environmental complaints: Senate Study Bill 3103 would have required people to supply their names if they notified the Iowa Department of Natural Resources of a potential violation, and it would have required the department to reveal the name of the complainant to the potential violator. It was recommended by a subcommittee but did not get consideration by a full committee.

Firefighting foam: Senate File 2229 would have required airports and other departments of cities and counties to cease their purchases of firefighting foams that contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly known as PFAS or “forever chemicals — which have been detected in the drinking water of more than a dozen Iowa cities and are linked to cancers and other health ailments. It was advanced by a subcommittee but did not get committee consideration.

— Jared Strong, Kathie Obradovich, Clark Kauffman and Brooklyn Draisey contributed to this report.

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