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Iowa Legislative Report: Through the First Funnel after Week 6 - February 21, 2020

In 1979, after a legislative session that didn’t end until July, the Iowa General Assembly decided it needed a way to better organize the work it was doing. What resulted was a legislative process now referred to as “The Funnel.” All policy bills must be acted upon by committees or those bills die and do not advance.

The first deadline for legislators was January 24, the final day individually sponsored bills had to be filed by legislators. This week was the “first funnel” and the second big deadline.

In order to clear this deadline, a House file must advance out of a House committee or a Senate file must advance out of a Senate committee.

After a funnel week that saw hundreds of subcommittees and hundreds of bills, the picture is a little clearer as to the priorities of committee chairs. So, what made it and what didn’t? The Cedar Rapids Gazette compiled the list of bills that didn’t make it.

Legislators and lobbyists won’t have long to congratulate themselves on clearing this hurdle because when week 7 begins next week, and for the following 4 weeks, the race will be on to get legislation through the next legislative deadline (the second funnel) on March 20.

In order to make it through the next funnel, a Senate file must advance out of a House committee or a House file must advance out of a Senate committee. The exception to this rule is when an identical House File and Senate File have made it through a committee in their respective chambers. This is known as “double-barreling a bill.” If this can be done, that legislation automatically clears the first and second funnels. 

Governor’s Priorities

One list that is important to keep an eye on is the list of the Governor’s priorities. So far, all of the Governor’s priorities that needed to clear the first funnel have done so:

Future Ready Iowa - build a highly-skilled workforce and a K-12 curriculum focused on current future workforce needs.

  • SF 2313 passed the Senate Commerce Committee and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee
  • HF 2384 passed out of the House Commerce Committee and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Empower Rural Iowa - expand and improve broadband access to all parts of the state with a focus on rural expansion.

  • SF 2262 passed the Senate Commerce Committee and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.
  • HF 2459 passed out of the House Commerce Committee and has been referred to the House Appropriations Committee.

Professional Licensing Qualifications - attract a skilled workforce to Iowa by allowing those workers with licenses from other states to work in Iowa without being required to go through Iowa’s licensing process.

  • HF 2470 passed out of the House State Government Committee
  • SSB 3122 passed out of a Senate State Government Subcommittee

New Department of Transportation Director

Earlier this year, Mark Lowe announced he would resign at DOT director. This week the Governor announced he would be replaced by longtime and senior DOT employee Scott Marler. Since her election in 2018, Governor Reynolds has replaced most of the senior staff in the executive branch, this is not uncommon. Marler’s appointment will be subject to Senate confirmation.

Iowa Caucuses Update

The Democratic Party has yet to officially call the Iowa Caucus results as two campaigns (Buttigieg and Sanders) are requesting a recanvass. Buttigieg currently holds a very narrow lead.

New Iowa Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party

Rep. Mark Smith was elected as the new chair of the Iowa Democratic Party after Troy Price stepped down. Rep. Smith is the former Iowa House Minority Leader and plans to retire from the Statehouse at the end of this term. 

What’s next?

We are heading into the appropriations season. This is the time of year when the policy funnel process is operating in parallel with the beginning of the formal appropriations process.

In early March, the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) will meet to announce its projection on what revenue will be available for the 2021 state budget. 

If the REC lowers its estimate from December ($8.014 billion, a 2% increase from 2019), the legislature must use the lower number and the Governor must submit a revised budget proposal reflecting this reduction within 14 days of the new REC estimate.  If the REC raises its estimate, then the Governor and legislature must use the lower number (December estimate).

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