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Week in Iowa, March 20, 2023: Recap of news from across the state
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
Mar. 26, 2023 6:00 am
Laws affecting trans youth signed: Transgender youth in Iowa soon will be unable to receive gender-affirming health care under a bill Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law Wednesday. Reynolds also signed a bill into law that prohibits transgender K-12 students from using a school bathroom that aligns with their gender identity.
The first bill, championed by statehouse Republicans over the last month, would bar the use of puberty blockers, hormones and cosmetic surgeries for the treatment of gender dysphoria in minors. Republicans said the science on gender transition for minors is not settled, while Democrats said the care is a life-saving intervention.
False shooting reports at Iowa schools: At least 30 Iowa schools received false shooting reports Tuesday, in an organized "swatting" incident. Affected schools included Cedar Rapids, Davenport and Muscatine. State law enforcement said there was no active threat, and an investigation into the source of the calls is ongoing.
State leaders set budget targets: Iowa House Republicans said Thursday they aim to spend $8.58 billion in the upcoming budget year, an increase of about 4.5 percent from the current year. Senate leaders said earlier this month they are aiming for $8.49 billion, which matches the budget Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed in January.
Pipeline bill passes House: Iowa lawmakers passed a bill that would require companies seeking to build carbon dioxide pipelines in the state to obtain 90 percent of the route through voluntary easement before being granted eminent domain. Provisions blocking their construction until new safety regulations come out and requiring stronger zoning and permitting rules were taken out of the bill.
The vote split down odd political fault lines, but garnered a majority support from both parties. People supporting the bill said their goal was protecting property rights, and that eminent domain should not be used to take land for a for-profit project by a private company. Some opponents argued it doesn't go far enough, or that it arbitrarily sets a threshold without protecting rights in a more holistic way.
Democrats float abortion amendment: Iowa House Democrats introduced a package of legislation this past week dealing with reproductive rights, including an amendment that would enshrine the right to an abortion in the state constitution. With Republicans in control, the measures are not likely to advance, but Democrats said it was important to show Iowans where they stand on the issue.
Penalties for drug overdoses: Iowa lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday increasing penalties for selling or providing a drug that results in an overdose — a measure intended to address rising overdose deaths in the state and nationally. The bill also increases the penalties for selling fentanyl, a potent opioid that has become more prevalent in recent years.
They said …
“This is an extremely uncomfortable position for me to be in. And I don’t like it. But I have to do what I believe, right now, is in the best interest of the kids until we can have some more research done.” — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds on bill banning gender-affirming care for minors
"I don’t think the governor is truly as upset as she says. She is not the victim here. The victim here are kids … who have been targeted over and over and over again by this governor.” — Iowa House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights on bills affecting transgender youth
Odds and ends
2024 watch: Former Vice President Mike Pence visited Iowa last weekend to discuss foreign policy with U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst. He said at the event that the potential future indictment of former President Donald Trump appears "politically charged," and said supporters should protest peacefully. Trump, a candidate for the 2024 election, said on Truth Social he expected to be arrested Tuesday, but he was not.
School instruction: Iowa schools would be barred from instructing on gender identity and sexual orientation under a bill the Iowa Senate passed this past week. The bill also prohibits books with sexual material from school libraries, requires schools to notify a parent if a student is transgender, and requires schools to publish curriculum online.
Public assistance: Senate Republicans passed a bill that would change eligibility requirements for low-income Iowans to get food and health care assistance. The bill limits food assistance to households with a maximum of $15,000 in liquid assets, and sets the income to qualify for food stamps at 160 percent of the federal poverty level.
Hands-free driving: Using a mobile device while driving would be illegal except when in hands-free mode under a bill the Iowa Senate passed last week. Supporters said it would rein in distracted driving and save lives. The bill has been floated in the Capitol for years, but this marked its first passage in the Senate.