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Davis Brown Government Relations Report


2019 Legislative Report - Week Four - February 8, 2019

This week, hundreds of bills were introduced and many were acted upon.  There has been an uptick in the pace at which bills are being assigned and advancing through the subcommittee and committee process, which has resulted in a higher volume of bills eligible for floor debate earlier in the process than has been the case in the past.


Of these bills moving through the process, much attention was paid to subcommittee work on a number of high-profile bills:


Sports Betting

Prior to session, this issue was forecasted to be a focus of the legislature.  This week, all of the proposed bills were considered in House and Senate subcommittees but were not acted upon.  Chairs of those subcommittees pledged to have additional meetings to further discuss authorizing sports betting in Iowa and the proper infrastructure.


Judicial Nominating Commission Reform

House and Senate subcommittees discussed reforming the current process for nominating district court and appellate judges.  Bills reforming the existing Nominating Commissions advanced to both the House and Senate full Judiciary Committees.  The proposal under consideration would change the structure of the Judicial Nominating Commission by removing the 50% of commissioners elected by the Iowa Bar and replacing that 50% with individuals appointed by the House and Senate majority and minority leaders.


Constitutional Amendments*

Three proposed amendments to the Iowa Constitution were considered this week:

  1. Mandating that the right to abortion is not constitutionally protected - The advocates of this proposed amendment are reacting to court decisions that have ruled on the legality of recent abortion laws.
  2. Lt. Governor succession in the event a sitting Governor resigns or is incapable of carrying out his or her duties** - This proposed amendment was deemed necessary to address the issue highlighted when then Governor Branstad resigned and then Lt. Governor Reynolds became Governor.  The open question was and is centered around the succession of the Lt. Governor, more specifically, how a new Lt. Governor is appointed and what their status is prior to standing for election.
  3. Applying strict scrutiny to any laws restricting or modifying gun ownership** - The advocates of this amendment are concerned that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not clear on gun ownership rights and that lack of clarity requires this language in the Iowa Constitution.

*To amend the Iowa Constitution, a resolution must pass both chambers in identical forms in two successive General Assemblies then be placed on the ballot in the next general election.  This means that these bills must pass both chambers this year or next year (88th General Assembly) then again in 2020 or 2021 (89th General Assembly) to be placed on the ballot in the 2022 general election.


**In the case of the Lt. Governor succession and gun rights amendments, both were eligible to be voted on this year in the 88th General Assembly for the second time in order to be placed on the ballot in 2020.  However, the Iowa Secretary of State failed to fulfill his duty to publish these amendments prior to this General Assembly which invalidated the action taken on them in the last General Assembly.  This resulted in having to restart the process on both.  Going forward, the legislature is looking to vest the duty to publish with the General Assembly in lieu of the Secretary of State.


Appropriations

Two education-related bills are quickly making their way through the legislative process. Proposals on State School Aid (SSA) and Transportation/Per Pupil Equity have been introduced and advanced through the Education and Appropriations Committees.  The two bills increase SSA by about $90 million, with $78 million in a 2.06% increase in SSA, $19 million for transportation equity, and an increase of $2.9 million for the per-pupil formula.  Both chambers are expected to take up the bills on the floor next week.  The timing of these bills is significant; SSA is typically one of the first appropriation budgets (that is not a supplement to a previous year) to be legislated.  Advancement of these bills in week four not only means that school boards will have certainty putting their numbers together for the upcoming budget year, but it is also a good indication of the pace and productivity of this legislative session.


What’s Next

Next Friday (February 15) is the deadline for individual bills to be filed by legislators.  This is the beginning of the process narrowing down bills for consideration referred to as “the funnel.”  However, this does not mean that individually sponsored bills will not continue to be introduced.  If bills are already requested and in drafting, but are not ready by next Friday, then they can still be introduced after the deadline.


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