IOWA LEGISLATURE

Iowa Legislature 2020: Funnel claims abortion, religious freedom, cigarette tax hike proposals

#x201c;... We feel like we're in a really good spot to start debate next week and start moving the bills through the pro
“... We feel like we’re in a really good spot to start debate next week and start moving the bills through the process,” Jack Whitver, Senate Majority Leader, says. (James Q. Lynch/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Iowa women will not be required to wait three days to receive an abortion.

Iowans also will not see higher speed limits on state highways, higher prices for a pack of cigarettes or higher pay for low-wage jobs now that a self-imposed legislative deadline has tossed those bill drafts into the Capitol recycling bin.

Similarly, medical patients facing terminal illnesses will not be able to consider end-of-life options while young motorbike riders won’t be required to wear helmets and businesses will not have enhanced religious freedom protections thanks to this week’s “funnel” deadline that required measures to win the support of a House or Senate committee to stay alive this session.

The deadline officially arrives Friday, but legislators already left the Capitol en route back to their home districts. So scores of filed legislation, study bills and resolutions that deal with policies other than budget or tax issues no longer are eligible for consideration during the 2020 session that has an April 17 adjournment target.

“We had all of our priority bills that cleared through the funnel this week, along with several governor priority bills that went through as well. So we feel like we’re in a really good spot to start debate next week and start moving the bills through the process,” said Jack Whitver, the Republican Senate Majority Leader from Ankeny.

“Overall, we’re very pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish so far.”

The majority of the ideas cast aside were proposals offered by minority Democrats who are outnumbered by Republicans, 32-18 in the Senate and 53-47 in the House.

Still, Democratic Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids took solace in some of the Republican-led bills that faltered.

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“The good news of the week is going to be that some of the bad proposals didn’t make it,” Hogg said.

The legislation that would have required a mandatory ultrasound and three-day waiting period before a woman can have an abortion was pulled from the Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda Thursday afternoon just as legislators were finishing their work for the week.

Just before the proposal was nixed, Whitver said Senate Republicans’ focus will remain on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that would state the document does not guarantee the right to an abortion.

Priorities Secured

While the casualties were many, legislators — most notably majority Republicans — also succeeded in preserving many of their priorities, including:

• An effort to require work, job training or volunteering for able-bodied Iowans receiving Medicaid or food assistance

• Make daylight saving time permanent

• Ban hand-held electronic devices while driving

• Raise the legal age to possess tobacco or vaping products to 21

• To designate honeybees as the official state insect.

Gov. Kim Reynolds fared well with her plan to shift state tax burdens to fund environmental and mental health programs, reform professional licensure rules, fund skilled workforce and broadband initiatives and amend the Iowa Constitution with abortion-related language all remaining intact.

“I think it shows that we have listened to Iowans,” said House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, in touting the bills dealing with workforce shortages, rural broadband connections, and child-care access and affordability that have bipartisan support and are among the governor’s priorities.

“Those are concerns that we hear from all over the state,” Grassley said, “and we’re trying to address some of these issues. We’re not just passing things to pass things. We’re passing them because we want to see them get to the governor’s desk, and we’re leaving room within the budget to make them work.”

Honeybees

Proposals that would give schools more power to manage disruptive students, require felons to pay restitution to their victims before getting their voting rights restored, and allow college athletes in Iowa to receive financial compensation all managed to make their ways to legislative debate calendars.

One measure not stung by the funnel came buzzing out of the Senate State Government Committee to designate the honeybee as the official state insect.

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Legislation seeking to raise the speed limit to 75 mph on interstate highways in Iowa and add 5 mph to the limits on expressways and primary roads stalled for the year, while Republicans snuffed a measure seeking to increase by $1 in tax — to $2.36 — to a package of cigarettes sold in Iowa.

They also sidelined a bill championed by religious conservative that would have given individuals and businesses broader legal protection to take actions guided by their religious beliefs — a measure opponents worried would hurt Iowa’s ability to attract a diverse and inclusive workforce.

Another late scratch was a proposal for a state law requiring parental consent for any immunizations administered at a public school.

Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau reporter Erin Murphy contributed to this article.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@thegazette.com

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