Legislative Session Recap
First Step to Racial Justice in Iowa
In the wake of the tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, legislators worked together to take the first step in bringing an end to inequality and racism.
The Plan for a More Perfect Union. HF 2647, introduced by the Legislative Black Caucus and other lawmakers, was signed into law last week. The legislation will ban police chokeholds, make it illegal to rehire police fired for misconduct, allow the Attorney General to investigate police misconduct, and require annual bias and de-escalation training for law enforcement officers.
More Restrictions on Women’s Health
During a debate in the middle of the night, House Republican leaders passed a bill mandating a 24-hour waiting period for women trying to access essential healthcare services.
Forcing women to wait 24-hours to access safe, legal abortion, is demeaning to women and implies that a patient hasn’t thought about their decision carefully. Many Iowans already face far too many barriers getting access to healthcare, especially those who live in rural areas and individuals with low incomes. This bill is another example of the majority party’s assault restricting women’s health care.
Bipartisan Legislation Approved This Session
There were a few pieces of legislation that passed the legislature this year that will benefit the people of Iowa. A few of those pieces include:
- Showing the respect our veterans and service members deserve (SF 388, HF 2312, HF 717, SF 280, HF 2382, HF 2236)
- Banning human traffickers from commercial driving (HF 2235)
- Enhancing safety and justice for crime victims (HF 2445, HF 2554)
- Cracking down on animal cruelty (HF 737)
- Encouraging minors to seek help in alcohol-related emergencies (HF 684)
- Raising minimum age for tobacco and vaping (SF 2268)
- Helping foster kids transition to adulthood (HF 2220)
- Ensuring better health care for Iowa seniors (HF 2269)
- Ensuring safe health care by expanding the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (SF 2120)
- Preventing insurance fraud (HF 426)
- Making EMS an essential service in rural areas (SF 2283)
- Expanding access to health care providers and services throughout the state (SF 2118, SF 2357, HF 2267, HF 310, SF 2261, HF 2197)
- Incentivizing veterinarians to practice in rural Iowa (HF 2643)
- Helping rural schools cover busing costs (SF 2164)
- Improving classrooms so all students can reach their full potential (SF 2360)
- Expanding special education opportunities (HF 2340)
- Expanding reading help for dyslexic students (SF 2356)
- Laying out rigorous return-to-learn criteria and waiving certain requirements to help students get back on track following the COVID-19 pandemic (SF 2310)
- Encouraging a diverse teaching workforce (HF 2359)
- Expanding Career and Technical Education (HF 2454)
- Expanding skilled apprenticeship training (HF 2629)
- Expanding access to child care (HF 2270, HF 2600)
- Expanding business opportunities and neighborhood services (SF 155)
- Expanding farm learning opportunities (HF 2477)
- Establishing a plan for growing solar energy (SF 583)
- Protecting Iowa’s natural resources (SF 583, SF 2250, HF 2475)
- Boosting jobs and economy by promoting Iowa-grown commodities (SF 583, SF 2403, HF 2581)
- Providing tourism opportunities by extending hotel/motel tax (HF 760)
- Expanding broadband throughout the state (SF 2400)
- Helping local governments save money by sharing staff (SF 2025)
- Allowing first responder agencies to donate used vehicles, equipment (SF 2259)
- Providing immediate resources to address the COVID-19 pandemic (SF 2408)
- Providing disaster recovery assistance for homeowners (SF 2406)
GOP Bill Makes it More Difficult to Vote
After the Iowa Secretary of State encouraged more Iowans to vote from home during the pandemic, there was record turnout in Iowa’s primary election in early June.
In response, Republican leaders passed new restrictions at the last minute to make it more difficult for Iowans to vote by mail this fall. If there is a mistake on the mail in ballot request form, it will restrict local officials from using verified information. This piece of legislation will negatively impact Iowans who are poor, elderly, and those with intellectual disabilities.
Now more than ever, every Iowan deserves the right to vote safely. Republican lawmakers need to focus on the things that matter to Iowans – racial justice and relief for those affected by coronavirus – not changing the rules to make it more difficult for Iowans to vote safely.
It’s not too late, tell Governor Kim Reynolds to VETO further barriers to vote by mail during a pandemic. Please sign this petition to the Governor: https://bit.ly/2YowqZk
State Budget & Oversight
Prior to adjournment, lawmakers are required to pass a state budget every year. It’s the job of the Legislature to set the state budget, be transparent with taxpayer dollars, and provide oversight of the executive branch. Unfortunately, the $8 billion state budget approved by the majority party this year turns over nearly all of the spending decisions that should be made by the Legislature to the Governor.
Even as questions still arise about the multi-million dollar no-bid contracts made by the Governor, the majority party also refused to provide any oversight of the $1.25 billion in tax dollars Iowa received to deal with the pandemic.
Update on Felon Voter Rights
Currently, Iowa is the only state in the country where all felons lose their right to vote unless those rights are restored by the Governor.
This session, the majority party lawmakers failed to give felons who have served their time the right to vote back. They did however, pass legislation that insisted restitution be paid before voting rights are restored. Many Iowans have expressed concern that it amounts to a poll tax on Iowans who are unable to afford to repay crime-related debts.
Iowans feel strongly that the Governor Reynolds should use her authority to sign an executive order that would restore voter rights immediately. Previously, an executive order was established by Governor Tom Vilsack in 2005 but then was reversed by Governor Terry Branstad in 2011. There are about 50,000 people in the state of Iowa that have lost the right to vote because of a criminal record.
Other Iowa News
COVID RESTRICTIONS LOOSENED: Governor Reynolds announced last week that all restrictions aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19 have been lifted. As of June 12, all of the establishments, including restaurants and bars, that were limited to 50% capacity will now be allowed to open at full capacity. Please continue to follow CDC social distancing guidelines.
IOWA STATE PARKS PASSPORT: 2020 is the 100th anniversary of Iowa’s state parks. In effort to encourage more people to visit the parks, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Iowa Tourism Office have teamed up to provide a free digital passport for people to use to explore the parks. People can use the passport to learn about the parks, visit new parks, earn prizes, and receive coupons for local restaurants and attractions. To use the passport visit, explore.traveliowa.com/PARKS.
SUPPORT IOWA SMALL BUSINESS: The Iowa Tourism Office also has a new online portal where people can buy gift cards to support their local restaurants and attractions. For more information or to purchase a gift card visit: explore.traveliowa.com/giftcards.
FOOD INSECURITY HELP: As the economy continues to struggle, we know that COVID-19 is a financial strain for many families. Find a food dispensary: https://www.foodbankiowa.org/gethelp. If you are able to donate, please visit: https://www.foodbankiowa.org. Grants are also available to food banks, food pantries and other non-profit organizations receiving donated food for distribution to food insecure Iowans are eligible to apply. The competitive grant opportunity helps efforts to expand storage and cold storage of donated food. Information and application materials can be downloaded under the “food waste” tab at www.iowadnr.gov/FABA.