Big issues unsettled as lawmakers turn session’s corner

DES MOINES — Much has been accomplished or, depending on one’s political perspective, much damage has been done.

But what’s true regardless of political stripes is that many significant legislative proposals in front of state lawmakers remain unresolved as the 2022 session of the Iowa Legislature begins its turn into the home stretch.

Thursday marked the end of the Legislature’s second “funnel,” a deadline by which most bills must have passed a certain level in the lawmaking approval process to keep being considered.

With just 23 calendar days — which means closer to 18 actual legislative work days, since lawmakers rarely work on Fridays — remaining until lawmakers’ expense reimbursements run out, the push to adjournment begins in earnest next week.


In that time, legislators — particularly Republicans in the majorities in both chambers — must reach agreements on a number of high-interest legislative proposals, including:

Changes to the state’s “bottle bill” recycling program.

Lawmakers also have to craft the state’s $8.2 billion budget for fiscal 2023, which starts July 1.

“We feel like in the Senate, we’re in a really good spot,” said Jack Whitver, the Republican Senate majority leader from Ankeny. “We got a huge priority done early in session with the ($1.9 billion state income tax cuts) bill, which was our No. 1 priority. All the governor’s priorities are still alive. … We felt like we’ve got our business done early, we’re in a good shape, and we’re looking forward to finishing the session stronger.”

Lawmakers moved this week to pass bills that needed to reach a prescribed benchmark to remain eligible for consideration. But even those that did not could later be resurrected in other forms.

Big issues unsettled as lawmakers turn session’s corner

On some of the bills, there is sharp disagreement, even among majority Republicans.

One example became clear to all when a bill that combined the disparate topics of added legal protections for commercial truck drivers with an expansive ban on all vaccine requirements. The legislation was torpedoed in the House when Republicans did not have enough votes to approve a measure to consider the bill.

While that could be a momentary setback for the bill, it illustrates the differences of opinion on some of these unresolved topics.

Another example is school transparency: There are several proposals just from Republicans, varying from requiring more school materials be posted online to requiring teachers to post the entire year’s syllabus online before school starts to jailing teachers who distribute materials that a parent may feel is obscene.

Eventually, majority Republicans will have to land on one.

“Obviously we’ll work with the Senate and the governor, but … as a caucus we’re going to get together and have difficult conversations and share each other’s opinions, see where we can find a level of compromise,” said Pat Grassley, the Republican House speaker from New Hartford. “As we move forward, we’re going to look at some of these, put more attention on some of these issues, put attention on the budget, and see where that compromise can come from within the caucus.”

Leaders for statehouse Democrats, who are in the minority, said they plan to continue their work to oppose some of the proposals, especially the public funding for private school tuition.

Jennifer Konfrst, the Democratic House minority leader from Windsor Heights, said she views the failed vote on the liability changes and ban on vaccine requirements as a signal that there is not sufficient support, even among Republicans, to pass the bills.

“(Republicans) don’t have the votes for these things because they’re bad ideas and they know that Iowans don’t want them,” Konfrst said. “What we know is that these pieces of legislation were divisive. They were targeting special interests and sort of feeding the (Republican voting) base.”

The 100th calendar day of the session is April 19. At that point, legislators stop receiving their stipend for lodging and meals. That structure was meant to encourage legislators to complete their work for the session within that time.

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