2018 Legislative Session

Count on Iowa Public Radio to keep you up to date on the state. Follow our coverage of the legislative session on-air, online or from your mobile device.

IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell will present the latest news from the state capitol on Morning Edition (5:00 a.m. - 9:00 a.m.), All Things Considered (4:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.) and throughout the day.

Ben Kieffer and the IPR talk show team will unpack conversations with lawmakers, interest groups and those impacted by legislation while also inviting listener questions on River to River each Monday at Noon.

Subscribe to our weekly podcast Under the Golden Dome. John Pemble gives listeners a front row seat for the most contentious debates and helps you understand not just what is happening, but why.  

Joyce Russell/IPR

Gov. Reynolds Monday clarified that more than one employee came forward with allegations of sexual harassment before she fired the director of a state housing agency on Saturday.  

Reynolds said credible allegations against Iowa Finance Authority Director David Jamison were enough to dismiss him without further investigation.   

Speaking at her weekly news conference, Reynolds described the quick action that was taken after agency employees reported the harassment to Reynolds’ chief of staff Friday night.   

John Pemble/IPR

Gov. Kim Reynolds has bill on her desk that approves mid-year cuts of more than $35 million to the state’s $7.2 billion budget. IPR’s Joyce Russell previews the week ahead at the legislature including what to expect from what the legislature has handed the governor.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Last year Rep. Matt Windschitl authored a bill greatly expanding gun rights in Iowa.  It includes making it legal to carry a concealed pistol in the Capitol with a permit, and a stand your ground provision allowing people to use deadly force if they feel threatened.

Iowa General Assembly Website

Advocates for public schools tried to stop a bill in the Iowa House today that may expand for-profit online education in the state.  

The bill lifts the cap on the number of school districts that can open-enroll students from all over the state, and then turn over the state per-pupil funding to for-profit companies for full-time online instruction.  

Currently, two Iowa school districts, CAM in southwest Iowa and Clayton Ridge in northeast Iowa, contract with for-profit companies for full-time online classes.      

chelgren
John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Iowa Senate Republicans have reignited the “school choice” debate with a new proposal to use some public money for private school education.

The bill would give about $4,000 of state money for each student enrolling in a private school, which is 60 percent of the per-pupil funding for public school students. Current private and homeschool students would not be eligible for the “education savings grants."

Republicans on a Senate panel advanced the bill Thursday to the full Appropriations Committee.

IPR Images

An effort to repeal Iowa’s nearly 40-year old bottle deposit law this year has apparently come to an end after action in the Iowa Senate.    

A bill backed by the Iowa Grocery Industry Association and the Iowa Beverage Association to replace the bottle law with a statewide recycling program did not clear a three-member panel.

The bill’s manager, Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), announced an alternative effort to modernize the law instead.  

“We are not repealing the bottle bill,” Feenstra said.     

Joyce Russell/IPR

A school safety bill requiring all districts to be prepared for active shooters and other emergencies is making its way through the Iowa legislature, as lawmakers grapple with the tragedy of school shootings across the country.  

An eastern Iowa lawmaker was overcome with emotion during debate in the Iowa House. 

Nick Glenn / Flickr

bill making its way through the Iowa legislature directs local governments and police departments to comply with federal immigration authorities or risk losing state funding.

On this edition of River to River, legislative day co-hosts Ben Kieffer and Joyce Russell talk with lawmakers, law enforcement, an immigration advocate, and the mayor of Iowa City about their views on the proposal and how it may impact Iowa communities.

university of iowa
Vladimir Kulikov / Wikimedia Commons

The Iowa House today approved cuts to the Regents universities that go beyond what the chamber had proposed earlier this year to address a state revenue shortfall in the fiscal year that ends June 30th.   To reach agreement with the Iowa Senate, the House voted to cut Regents funding by nearly $11 million, split between the University of Iowa and Iowa State University.   The universities will have to absorb that in the three months left in the fiscal year.  Democrats resisted but were unable to stop the cuts from being approved.  Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, questioned Pat Grassley, R-Cedar Fa

Wikimedia Commons

A bill to repeal Iowa’s bottle deposit law and replace it with a statewide recycling program failed to clear a Republican-dominated three member panel in the Iowa House today.  

A separate House bill to expand the law by adding more containers is also dead for the year. But the Senate is still considering a total repeal.    

Rep. Guy Vander Linden (R-Oskaloosa) called today’s hearing even though he knew the bill to repeal the bottle deposit law did not have the support to advance.      

iowa capitol
John Pemble/IPR file photo

The Iowa Senate elected a new majority leader last week. Sen. Jack Whitver (R – Ankeny) took Bill Dix’s place after he abruptly resigned last week, following video of him appearing to kiss a female lobbyist in a bar surfaced online. While all this drama was going on, there was plenty of legislation moving forward as lawmakers worked to meet a self-imposed deadline for many priority bills. Here’s what IPR Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell says to watch.

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Typically, Monday mornings at the Capitol aren't the most active day, but nothing was typical about last Monday morning.  Around 10 a.m. a post from a Democratic-leaning blog, Iowa Starting Line, contained pictures and a video of Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix in a Des Moines bar.  He is sitting close to a woman lobbyist and at one point it looks like they briefly kiss.  Hours later, Sen. Dix resigned from the senate.  Jack Whitver was elected as the new minority leader and Charles Schneider as the Senate president.

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John Pemble / IPR

An Iowa House committee Thursday advanced what could become the strictest abortion law in the nation ahead of a legislative deadline.

It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That provision is attached to a bill that puts limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue.

Democratic lawmakers accused Republicans of being willing to risk women’s lives to make an ideological point.

Antonio Montoto/Pexels

Iowa’s nearly 30-year old energy efficiency program would continue, but would be scaled back significantly, under a compromise energy bill that advanced at the statehouse today.  

Since 1990, Iowans have paid into the program through a percentage of their monthly electricity or natural gas bills.   In turn, they have been eligible for millions of dollars in rebates, retrofits and other energy efficiency initiatives.

subcommittee
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Iowa House Republicans are reviving a proposed ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, by adding it as an amendment to another bill that would put limits on the donation and use of fetal tissue in Iowa.

At a subcommittee meeting convened Wednesday to consider the fetal tissue bill, conversation turned mostly to the amendment. It would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks gestation.

Joyce Russell/IPR

A bill favored by power companies and sharply opposed by consumer advocates and environmentalists advanced today in the Republican-controlled Iowa House.  

Critics warn of higher utility bills while backers say the bill is needed to modernize Iowa energy policy.

The bill scales back energy efficiency programs and changes the rules utilities follow before they build new plants and raise rates.     

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa Senate Wednesday chose Sen. Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) as their new Majority Leader, the most powerful position in the Senate.  

Whitver succeeds Sen. Bill Dix, who resigned abruptly this week after compromising photos of him with a statehouse lobbyist appeared on the internet.   

The 28-member GOP caucus chose Whitver, an eight-year veteran of the Iowa Senate, by secret ballot in a closed door meeting two days after Dix resigned.

Joyce Russell/IPR

The Republican Chair of the Ethics Committee in the Iowa Senate says he is willing to look at new ethics rules after the departure of the top Senate Republican.  

But Sen. Jerry Behn (R-Boone) questioned whether lawmakers can dictate what kind of relationships legislators can have with lobbyists.

Majority Leader Bill Dix, who is married and the father of three children, resigned his leadership post and his Senate seat after photos surfaced of him appearing to kiss a lobbyist at a Des Moines bar.  

John Pemble

Iowans say mental health services are among their top concerns when it comes to state-supported issues, and lawmakers’ comments on mental health make the issue appear bipartisan.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer and IPR reporter Joyce Russell talk with lawmakers about how they are working to address concerns regarding mental health care in Iowa, as well as fielding calls from Iowans who have tried to get themselves or their loved ones care.

John Pemble/IPR file photo

UPDATE: 4:00 p.m.

The top Republican in the Iowa Senate, Bill Dix, has resigned his positions as Majority Leader and state Senator, hours after compromising photos of him appeared on the political website Iowa Starting Line.  

The photos showed Dix having drinks with and apparently kissing a female lobbyist at a Des Moines bar one evening earlier this month.  

Some were calling for Dix’s resignation last year after a court approved a $1.75 million sexual harassment settlement against Senate Republicans.  

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

As President Trump imposes larger tariffs for metal, he reaffirms his opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement.  Many agricultural products from Iowa go to Canada and Mexico.  As Trump repeatedly says he's willing to start a "trade war", Gov. Reynolds is worried about a backlash.

The governor says the president's actions will have unintended consequences for Iowa farmers and manufacturers.  However, she does support making some changes to NAFTA.

Seabamirum via flickr creative commons / https://www.flickr.com/photos/seabamirum/

Iowa schools with disproportionately high transportation costs are getting a funding boost from the state. But the one-time increase won’t get them very far.

John Pemble/IPR

Iowans who are getting health insurance through the individual marketplace under the Affordable Care Act would have a new option under a bill that passed  by a large margin  in  the Iowa Senate last night.   

Under the bill, the Iowa Farm Bureau would offer what are being called barebones health plans not subject to the rules of the ACA,  including covering pre-existing conditions and other  mandates.

That would be allowed because the plans are not insurance policies. 

credit union rally
Katarina Sostaric / IPR

Hundreds of credit union supporters rallied at the Iowa Capitol Wednesday to protest a proposed tax increase.

Senate Republicans passed a tax plan last week that would raise taxes on credit unions and lower taxes on banks, which is escalating the rivalry between the two types of financial institutions.

Joyce Russell/IPR

Religious groups on Iowa’s university campuses would have more freedom to choose their leaders, under a GOP-sponsored bill that advanced in the Iowa House today.

Backers say the bill will address a conflict at the University of Iowa, where a student group lost its certification after denying a leadership post to a gay student.    

Rep. Sandy Salmon (R-Janesville) calls the university’s action outrageous. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Democrats  in  the Iowa House today  tried  to stop a bill they say will lower standards for Iowa teachers.  

Under the GOP-backed bill, graduates of Iowa teacher preparation programs would no longer be required to pass a standardized subject matter test to get a teaching license.   

Backers say the change is needed to address a teacher shortage.   

John Pemble / IPR file

IPR's Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checks in with Statehouse Correspondent Joyce Russell to talk about what's happened in the legislature and what to expect in the week ahead. 

John Pemble / Iowa Public Radio

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Jerry Foxhoven as the director of the Department of Human Resources in June.  All of the governor's appointments must be confirmed by the Senate.  These appointments first must pass a Senate committee, and when Foxhoven's appointment came up for a vote all Democrats voted against.  It passed the committee, but to be confirmed Foxhoven must be voted by two-thirds of the full Senate body.  They'll probably vote sometime in April. 

Joyce Russell/lPR

Round Two for Republican-sponsored tax cuts got underway at the statehouse today.   

Gov. Reynolds’ proposal to cut taxes by $1.7 billion over the next six years got its first airing in the Iowa House, one day after the Senate approved a bigger, faster plan.   

Senate Republicans call their bill “bold” to cut taxes by a billion dollars a year.  

The GOP is characterizing the governor’s plan as sustainable, practical, and pragmatic.    

The bill cuts personal income taxes by up to 23 percent. 

Joyce Russell/IPR

Republicans in the Iowa Senate Wednesday night approved the largest tax cut package in Iowa history, approving a bill to reduce corporate and individual income taxes by as much as 30 percent. 

"Today is a monumental day for Iowa families and Iowa workers," said the bill’s sponsor Sen. Randy Feenstra (R-Hull). “Today, we are taking a bold step in making Iowa’s economy more competitive."

Iowa’s top corporate tax rate of 12 percent, currently the highest in the country, would be reduced to 7 percent under the bill.

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