Which prominent bills survived the first legislative funnel?

Lawmakers worked last week to advance important legislation ahead of the funnel deadline, which cut bills that had not reported out of a committee by Feb. 21.

The+Capitol+building+in+Des+Moines+is+pictured+on+April+29%2C+2019.+

Ben Allan Smith

The Capitol building in Des Moines is pictured on April 29, 2019.

Caleb McCullough, Politics Reporter


The first “funnel” deadline in the Iowa Legislature passed Feb. 21, winnowing the number of bills lawmakers in Des Moines can consider.

Bills had to be reported out of a committee by Feb. 21 in order to survive the legislative funnel, and committees hurried to pass key legislation ahead of the deadline. Lawmakers will continue to consider bills ranging from measures to expand Iowa’s cannabis program to adding requirements for public assistance programs. Protections for mobile-homeowners and a 72-hour wait for women seeking abortion did not make it past the funnel.

Social programs

SSB 3158:

One bill continuing through the sausage-making process to become law would implement work requirements for public assistance programs. The proposal would require Iowans receiving public assistance such as SNAP and Medicare to work or volunteer at least 20 hours a week.

Iowa Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said the bill aimed to strengthen Iowa’s job market and fill high-demand jobs in the state. Whitver said employers across industries are facing a shortage of available workers.

“We are looking far and wide to try to get as many people into our workforce as possible,” Whitver said. “Whether that’s creating an environment where people want to move here or finding people that are on our public assistance programs, who are not working that are able-bodied, capable of work.”

SSB3176:

Cities would be prohibited from requiring landlords to accept federal housing vouchers under this proposed law. Cities such as Des Moines and Iowa City have implemented ordinances to stop landlords from turning away renters based on the use of federal assistance, but Republican lawmakers say it’s a violation of property owners’ rights.

HF2203:

In a bipartisan measure championed by Gov. Kim Reynolds in her January Condition of the State address, lawmakers advanced a bill that creates a graduated eligibility system for state child-care assistance. The bill seeks to address the “cliff effect,” which describes the threshold of income where families lose benefits.

Under the bill, families would not immediately lose eligibility for state child-care assistance if the family’s income reached a certain level. It instead would establish a system where families pay a higher percentage of child-care costs as income increases, but still maintain some financial assistance.

“Right now, our welfare programs in America, unfortunately are set up to get people to the upper echelons of poverty, but never truly out of poverty and successful,” Whitver said. “And that child-care cliff is one perfect example.”

SF2238:

A bipartisan bill aimed at protecting the rights of mobile homeowners didn’t clear the legislative hurdle. The proposal would’ve restricted mobile home park owners from raising rent without warning, capped how much could be charged for utilities, and put restrictions on owners evicting and retaliating against tenants. Sen. Zach Wahls, D-Coralville, a sponsor of the bill, said it was disappointing to see it fail to advance.

“Residents are really scared and really worried, because they ultimately are the ones who need this protection,” he said. “And if the Legislature doesn’t act, this is a problem that will continue to get worse and not better.”

Wahls said he’s looking for other avenues to add those protections. HF638, a bill that passed the Senate last legislative session, includes amendments with some of the same protections in the failed Senate proposal. Wahls said that bill can be called up at any time, but it will still face some of the same roadblocks.

Felon-voting rights

Restoring felon-voting rights has been one of Reynolds’ goals since her 2019 Condition of the State address. Lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment that would restore rights to felons after they’ve completed their sentences, which would take multiple years to take effect.

In the meantime, the House added an amendment to a broader elections bill, HSB 545, which passed the deadline, bringing Iowa lawmakers closer to coming to a solution on the issue.

Iowa Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, chair of the State Government Committee, said the measure would make exceptions for certain crimes such as murder and rape.

“When you’re talking about low-level multi-drug offenses, someone that gets caught with marijuana for the third time and is now a felon, it gives them a pathway and an opportunity to get some of their voting rights back,” Kaufmann said.

Abortion

Several bills addressing abortion rights passed through the funnel, the most prominent of which being a constitutional amendment declaring the state does not grant the right to an abortion. A bill reinstating a 72-hour waiting period for women who are seeking an abortion did not make it out of committee.

Cannabis

Two measures to expand Iowa’s medical cannabis program made it through the funnel. In the House, a bill would exchange the current 3 percent cap on THC — the main chemical in cannabis that makes users “high” — in medical marijuana products with 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days. A similar bill in the Senate would raise the purchasing limit to 25 grams over 90 days.

The conflict between the two bills could hamper lawmakers’ ability to come to a consensus. The House bill falls in line with the state’s Medical Cannabidiol Board’s recommendation, but some members of the Senate think the proposed cap isn’t high enough.

“I will work against that bill, because it makes the worst program worse,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said of the House bill. Bolkcom sponsored a bill in the Senate to set the purchasing limit at 25 grams. ”…We have the worst program in the country and this just makes it more bad.”

Some bills that didn’t make it through the funnel:

  • Senate File 2057: requiring K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to have a process to appeal grades that students think were affected by political bias
  • Senate Study Bill 3052: Adding vaping to the Smoke Free Air Act, prohibiting vaping in public places
  • House Study Bill 698: Banning conversion therapy seeking to change sexual orientation or gender identity of minors
  • House File 2201: Requiring school districts to notify parents of instruction relating to sexual orientation and gender identity and allow them to exempt their children from classes.
  • House File 2202: Requiring student athletes to play in sports based on their biological sex rather than gender identity
  • House File 2164: Removing gender identity from the Iowa Civil Rights Act
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