116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — The work of this Iowa legislative session is almost concluded. The vast majority of state lawmakers have been sent home and told to wait for any deals on the unresolved issues.
It’s up to Republican leaders — specifically Majority Leader Jack Whitver in the Iowa Senate, Speaker Pat Grassley in the Iowa House and Gov. Kim Reynolds — to reach agreements on these remaining bills. But there are some hefty proposals in that pack of unresolved legislation — bills that would significantly impact the lives of Iowans.
Here’s a look at what’s holding up the finish to session:
Private school tuition assistance
What it does: One of Reynolds’ top priorities, which she’s pursuing for a second consecutive year, would create a taxpayer-funded program in which public school students from moderate and low-income families would be able to apply for one of 10,000 roughly $5,500 scholarships to be put toward private school tuition. The funding would shift from the public school the student is leaving to the private scholarship.
Where it stands: Just like last year, the proposal has strong support among Senate Republicans but measured resistance among House Republicans. No Democrat has expressed support; in fact, it’s probably their top target for opposition. If it’s going to pass this year, it probably will be part of a session-ending deal in which legislators swap support for multiple bills to get them passed.
K-12 curriculum transparency
What it does: Largely produced by Rep. Garrett Gobble, a Republican whose day job is a teacher in Ankeny, the House proposal would require schools to post their library materials and classroom curriculum online and allow them to use a web-based tool that would allow teachers to update and make changes as necessary. The Senate proposal is more stringent, requiring those materials to be posted twice annually, and that parents be notified of any changes. The Senate proposal also provide avenues for parents to shield their children from any sexually explicit classroom materials.
Where it stands: The two proposals are similar in spirit but the Senate’s goes a little farther. The chambers will have to close the gaps where they exist: Specifically, how often materials are required to be posted and to what degree the state dictates how parents are able to ask the school to remove materials those parents deem to be obscene or sexually explicit.
What it does: Reynolds proposed reducing the duration of unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16. The proposal also lowers the income threshold for taking a job that pays less than the unemployed Iowans’ previous job. In other words, job-seekers will have to accept lower job offers or risk losing unemployment benefits. The House and Senate both passed the bill, but the Senate then added a one-week period before an unemployed worker starts receiving benefits.
Where it stands: The one-week waiting period is the sticking point. In order to reach an agreement, Senate Republicans will have to agree to let it go, or House Republicans will have to agree to accept it.
What it does: A proposal in the House would prohibit government agencies, schools and businesses from requiring any vaccine as a condition of employment and would prohibit them from requiring face coverings.
Where it stands: House Republicans tried to run the proposal as part of a combo bill that also included insurance protections for commercial truck drivers, but that legislation was rejected in an unusual procedural move. The proposed limitations on vaccine requirements could still be attached to another policy bill or a budget bill this session.
E15 ethanol mandate
What it does: Another Reynolds proposal, this would require all Iowa gas stations to have the higher E15 blend of ethanol available in at least one pump.
Where it stands: The House made this the first bill it passed off the floor this session. It has stalled in the Senate, where the bill moved through the committee process Feb. 8 but has not been heard from since. It’s all up to Senate Republicans whether this Reynolds priority gets to her desk.
What it does: Again, the House and Senate have proposals that are mostly similar but just different enough to keep them at loggerheads. Both bills would increase the fee paid by beverage distributors with the goal of creating more funding for redemption centers where Iowans can return their recyclable bottles and cans. But both bills also continue to allow, if not expand, the ability for grocery stores to opt out of serving as redemption centers.
Where it stands: The House and Senate seem close on this one. Still, it remains to be seen whether this finally is the year that legislators approve an attempt to update Iowa’s four decades-old deposit recycling law.
What it does: Both chambers released their state spending targets back in late February, and were only about $80 million apart in a roughly $8.2 billion proposed state budget.
Where it stands: Thus far, the House has passed all of the budget bills for the myriad state agencies, but the Senate is yet to take any action.
Comments: (515) 355-1300, email@example.com