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Deadline looms for lawmakers to push Republican priorities
House pipeline bill, limits on gender identity teaching likely to clear ‘funnel’
Caleb McCullough, Gazette-Lee Des Moines BureauErin Murphy
Feb. 24, 2023 5:27 pm, Updated: Feb. 24, 2023 5:49 pm
DES MOINES — Iowa House Republicans plan on moving a bill that would put limits on planned carbon dioxide pipeline constructions out of a committee before a key deadline next week that legislation must clear to keep being considered this session.
The bill is one of several high-profile bills that would need to pass a full committee vote before the “funnel” deadline Friday. Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley of New Hartford said he expects the pipeline bill will pass the Judiciary Committee next week.
“We didn’t file a bill without trying to move it forward,” he told reporters. “That’s not our expectation.”
Budget and tax policy bills are exempt from the funnel deadline. Even if other legislation doesn’t clear the deadline, there remain ways legislative leaders can maneuver if they want to introduce new bills or bring back old bills later in the session. Still, the funnel winnows the number of bills lawmakers will consider over the next several weeks.
The pipeline bill, House File 368, would prevent pipeline companies from receiving eminent domain authority unless they have secured 90 percent of the route miles through voluntary easements first, and blocks the projects until a federal regulator announces new safety regulations.
It also requires the companies to be in compliance with all local zoning ordinances along the path, receive permits from other states along the route before being granted one in Iowa, and provides more compensation options for landowners who do have their land taken through eminent domain.
Two of the three CO2 pipeline companies have asked regulators for eminent domain authority. Wolf Carbon Solutions, which includes Linn County on its route, did not ask for the power in an application filed Thursday.
But the House bill’s chances of being considered in the Senate, where other pipeline proposals have not been given hearings, is unclear.
What other bills will make it?
Grassley didn’t name other specific bills that he expects to pass through committees in time, but he said the House will be advancing some of Republicans’ priority bills.
“We’ve laid out a lot of pieces early in session that were priorities,” he said. “Some of those have seen action, some have not. So I think you’re just going to see a broad amount of bills.”
Democrats criticized the bills that have already gone through the committee process or are on the docket next week as being unproductive and ignoring the needs of Iowans.
“While the Republican majority has been focused on things like banning books and punishing teachers in the classroom and sending public money to private schools, we’ve been ignoring critical issues like child care, health care access, affordable housing and the things that Iowans really care about,” House Democratic leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights told reporters.
LGBTQ, book topics in school
Iowa Republicans have moved several bills that would limit instruction around gender identity and sexual orientation in schools and require parental notification if a student wants to go by a different set of pronouns, but a similar proposal from Gov. Kim Reynolds has not yet cleared a committee.
A subcommittee Thursday advanced Reynolds’ Senate Study Bill 1145, which would prohibit teaching about gender identity and sexual activity in kindergarten through third grade and would require schools to tell parents if they believe a student is transgender.
It also hits on school transparency and library book rules that Republicans have been considering this year. It would put any book successfully removed from one school library on a statewide “removal list” that requires parents’ permission to check out at all other schools in the state, and requires districts to put their course materials online.
Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, said the bill proposes “heavy-handed requirements that go against basic Iowa values.”
“It will require more school bureaucracy that will not accomplish the bill’s stated purpose of more parental involvement,” he said.
Grassley said the bills restricting LGBTQ topics and library materials are being introduced with the goal of involving parents and keeping instruction age appropriate.
“A lot of times our objectives in these pieces of legislation are empowering the parents to be able to make these kinds of decisions for and with their students,” Grassley said.
Drug sales resulting in death
Reynolds and Attorney General Brenna Bird, both Republicans, proposed separate bills that would increase the charge for a drug sale that results in a death, but the proposals are likely to be combined before moving through a committee next week.
Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, said this week Bird’s office was planning to submit an agreement between the two bills.
“We are going to run a bill, I would probably guess it will probably be the governor’s bill because it was more expansive than the attorney general’s,” he said.
Reynolds’ bill, House Study Bill 104, would heighten penalties for selling fentanyl. It would also triple the sentence for the sale of a drug that results in the death of another person. A person who manufactures drugs in the presence of a minor would be subject to twice the sentence. The bill also expands the availability of naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.
“I think it’s actually a stronger bill by the time we brought the two together,” Reynolds told reporters last week. “They had some great enhancements to the language that we put in place.”
Child labor laws
Republicans must decide whether to advance a proposal to relax child labor laws.
Under the proposal, 16- and 17-year-olds could serve drinks in a bar or restaurant, and 14- through 17-year-olds could work in manufacturing, meat lockers and construction, with parental consent and a state waiver.
Each of the bills, Senate File 167 and House Study Bill 134 has passed out of subcommittee, but neither has been approved by the chambers’ respective committees.
Republicans who approved the proposals in subcommittee said the bills would help businesses find workers in a tight employment market and to help young Iowans become more engaged in work.
“We’re going to end up with a generation of skilled leaders because of these efforts,” said Sen. Jason Schultz, R-Schleswig.
Democrats who opposed the proposal warned that it could be perilous to allow younger Iowans to work in some of the jobs permitted in the bills.
“My hope is that this bill does not advance through the funnel this next week and then we can get back to focusing kids on actually having rewarding, enriching childhoods and that their employment opportunities are age-appropriate and are safe,” Wahls said.
Tom Barton of The Gazette Des Moines Bureau contributed to this report.