Day One of the New Republican Majority Iowa Legislature

Jan 9, 2017

The Iowa legislature starts its new session on Monday. It’s the first time Republicans have controlled both chambers and the governor’s office since 1997. IPR’s Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell lays out some of the big issues at the capitol this year.

A GOP battle over Tax Cuts. It’s not surprising Republican leaders in the legislature wants to cut taxes. The GOP has controlled the Iowa House since 2011 and passed numerous tax cuts which didn’t make it through the Senate. Governor Terry Branstad says he will not suggest tax cuts in the budget he’ll put forward this week because the state can’t afford it right now.

Republicans are targeting Planned Parenthood. The Republican-controlled House has approved defunding Planned Parenthood in the past and other abortions restrictions repeatedly. Governor Branstad backs defunding Planned Parenthood. The Governor last week stopped short of saying voters gave Republicans a mandate to restrict abortion but he did say the new Republican majority will better represent the people of Iowa on the abortion issue. Planned Parenthood has scheduled weekly media calls throughout the session to keep reporters advised on abortion-related bills.

Lots of comparisons to Kansas and Wisconsin. “There is a lot of conservative legislation that’s been passed by Republican-dominated legislatures in other states in recent years,” IPR’s Joyce Russell says. “There’s interest in many of them here.” Republicans in Kansas enacted huge income tax cuts and eliminating some business taxes altogether, promising economic growth. “Now they’ve got big budget shortfalls, schools are in  trouble, they had to raise the sales tax to make ends meet, and a voter backlash threw some Republican officeholders out,”  Russell reports.

Governor Branstad says Iowa’s collective bargaining law is outdated and expensive.  In 2015, Wisconsin eliminated bargaining rights for most state workers. “That has become part of the Republican playbook,” Russell says. “Iowa will likely not go as far as Wisconsin, but the governor has expressed interest in requiring certification votes every year for public employee unions and he wants to have a master contract for all state employees' health insurance.”

Governor Branstad might be gone before adjournment.  Governor Branstad awaits confirmation as the next US Ambassador to China. It remains to be seen how much of this year’s legislative session will see Branstad in charge, and how much will see Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds in charge. House Republican Majority Rep Chris Hagenow expects “for the coming session we’ll have Governor Branstad.”