The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa lawmakers gaveled out the session Saturday, here’s how leaders’ priorities fared

With the session adjourned, here’s how legislative leaders’ priorities fared this session.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Speaker of the House, Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, looks over documents during the first day of the 2024 Iowa legislative session at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. Grassley has been in the house since 2007.

With Iowa lawmakers gaveling out the legislative session into the early hours of Saturday, Iowa’s legislative leaders reflected on this tumultuous session. 

Lawmakers started the session with a bold directive from Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, lawmakers accomplished the majority of the policy proposals laid out in her Condition of the State Address earlier this year. 

Legislative leaders set their priorities for the session on day one: Republicans outlined tax cuts and a flat tax rate as their main goal, while Democrats vowed to protect abortion rights. 

Republicans set out a bold agenda for school security improvements and Democrats set out to improve gun safety laws and mental health as the state reels from a school shooting at a Perry, Iowa, high school days before the session gaveled in. 

Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Grimes, said that Republicans have set out to accomplish much of what they wanted to this session. 

“Big and bold ideas have always been our focus, and our caucus has never shied away from difficult or complex issues,” Whitver said. “This year was no different. This session was another tremendous success for Senate Republicans as we kept our promises to Iowans and focused on big reforms, bold changes, and major tax relief.” 

Democrats proposed dozens of bills, that were limited by Democrats’ super minority in the Senate and marginal minority in the House, that they say were best for everyday Iowans while seeking to dilute Republicans’ majority and challenge them on controversial proposals. 

“Everything House Democrats proposed is for everyday Iowans. I’m darn proud of that,” said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights. “I’m really proud of what we did this year. And we think it draws a very sharp contrast about who in this Legislature is fighting for Iowans and who’s fighting for special interests.”

Democrats vowed to take the message to Iowans this November, seeking to whittle down Republicans’ majority. 

“Iowans will remember how Republicans chose to serve their governor rather than their constituents. They’ll remember how they slashed Area Education Agencies and put special interests before Iowa children,” Senate Democrats Leader Pam Jochum said. “They’ll remember in November.”

Republicans finalize a 3.8 percent cut to the state’s income tax 

Iowa lawmakers finalized negotiations on cuts to the state income tax in the final hours of the legislative session on Friday. 

Lawmakers approved a 3.8 percent cut to the state’s income tax on Friday and sent the bill to the governor’s desk. 

The state’s tax rate is already set to decrease to 3.9 percent by 2026, due to a 2022 Iowa law signed by Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, but after better-than-expected revenues in fiscal 2023, lawmakers moved to expedite cuts.

The 3.8 percent tax rate falls short of the governor’s original proposal of 3.65 percent for 2024 and 3.5 percent for 2025.

The bill would use Taxpayer Relief Funds and the state’s year-end surplus to cover state shortfalls in revenue. That part of the bill would be repealed on July 1, 2029. The state ended fiscal 2023 with $2.74 billion in the Taxpayer Relief Fund, and the amount is expected to rise to $3.6 billion in July when the fiscal year ends.

The bill also makes changes to a property tax law, House File 718, passed in 2023 that limits how much city and county property tax revenue can grow.

Under the current law if a city or county’s total assessed property level grows more than 3 percent it must reduce the overall property tax levy, with a tiered required reduction in levy or rollback based on the percent of overall growth. The bill changes the tiers reducing the amount of rollback for the different tiers of growth leaving cities with greater property tax revenue.

Whitver said tax reform was his biggest priority this session and with an income tax overhaul headed to the governor in the final hours of the session it was accomplished. He said this year is just a start.  

“At the beginning of [the] session, I talked about making sure Iowans kept more of what they earn,” Whitver said. “Easing the tax burden for working Iowans is, has been, and always will be my biggest priority. I’m proud of our work to ease that burden this year.” 

Perry results in calls for gun safety, school security 

Following a fatal school shooting at a Perry, Iowa, high school days before the session gaveled in, state legislators made violence in schools a priority for the 2024 legislative session. 

On Jan. 4, a 17 year-old-student killed 11-year-old Ahmir Jolliff and Perry High School Principal Dan Marburger, and injured five others. 

During opening remarks of the session, days after the shooting, lawmakers expressed plans to enact change. Republicans planned to increase school security and Democrats aimed to prioritize changes to mental health and gun safety. 

Minority leaders in the House and Senate called for gun safety legislation, investing in youth mental health services, increased support for public schools, and bipartisan action on gun safety and school safety. 

Months later, House and Senate Republicans approved a bill to create a training program to permit armed teachers and school staff. 

House File 2586 would allow teachers to carry guns on school grounds, create a permitting process, and give armed school staff qualified immunity, a standard typically reserved for law enforcement.

The bill also requires Iowa’s largest school districts to employ school resource officers, unless their school board votes to opt out.

House File 2586 was signed into law by the governor on Friday. 

Lawmakers also approved a grant to pay for the training and arming of teachers and staff. 

Grants for school safety are headed to the governor’s desk and awaiting her signature. 

Democrats, reproductive freedom 

Across the aisle, Democrats vowed to protect reproductive freedom and fought against their Republican counterparts to no avail. 

In January, Iowa Senate Democrats introduced a legislative package to amend the Iowa Constitution guaranteeing reproductive freedom and access to abortion care. Under the amendment, restrictions on reproductive freedom imposed by the state would be subject to strict scrutiny by the courts. 

The legislative package intended to protect, expand, and codify legal protections and reproductive health care options in Iowa. 

Also within the package was legislation for over-the-counter birth control, reinstatement of family planning services for low-income families, expansion of postpartum Medicaid coverage, and the right to access and obtain contraception. 

The administrative rules review committee moved the framework for Iowa’s abortion law — which bans the procedure when cardiac activity can be detected — forward unchanged. After lawmaker approval, the rules for the six-week ban are set to go into effect on April 24. 

The Iowa Supreme Court heard arguments on a state-wide abortion ban on April 11 after a Polk County judge temporarily blocked the six-week abortion ban from being enacted. 

The court heard oral arguments on the constitutionality of an abortion ban in Iowa. A decision is expected to be made by the end of June. 

While the heartbeat bill remains tied up in legality issues, abortion remains legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Liam Halawith contributed to this report. 

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About the Contributors
Roxy Ekberg
Roxy Ekberg, Politics Reporter
Roxy Ekberg is a first year at the University of Iowa. In the Honors Program, she is double majoring in journalism and political science with a minor in Spanish. Prior to her role as a politics reporter, she worked news reporter at the Daily Iowan and worked at her local newspaper The Wakefield Republican.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.