Overview / Major Events
March 8th signaled the first legislative funnel date and policy bills that did not clear their committee of origin are no longer eligible for further work. What that means for the General Assembly is a two-week stretch dominated by floor debate in both Chambers as legislation approved at the committee level has stacked up over the last eight weeks.
The next funnel deadline is April 5th. For a policy bill to remain eligible for further work it must have been passed by one Chamber and cleared committee in the other. Regardless, the next three weeks will be a balance of floor work and committee work to keep policy issues moving forward.
State Budget Progress
According to insiders, the House and Senate remain about $50 million dollars apart on total appropriations for the coming fiscal year (FY20)—with the House being about $10 million above the Governor’s recommended budget and the Senate about $40 million under. While $50 million might sound like a large sum, with a total budget over $7.5 billion in expenditures, this is an amount that is clearly manageable and should not prove to be a major impediment to an on-time shut down in late April/early May.
Lastly, the Revenue Estimating Conference met today to set a final revenue estimate for the coming fiscal year. The publication of this number usually signals the start of budget work at the Capitol.
Constitutional Amendment on Gun Rights
Wednesday, both the Senate and House passed a proposed constitutional amendment to create a state constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The Senate voted 33-16 (with all but one Democrat voting NO) and the House voted 53-46 (with all Democrats voting NO) to complete this first step toward putting the proposed amendment on the ballot for a vote of the people.
If not for an error by the Secretary of State and his failure to publish notice prior to the last election, this passage would constitute the required second passage of the proposed amendment and it could have been ready for the ballot in November 2020. However, since that process had to start completely over, this constitutes the first passage and it will have to be reaffirmed in the next General Assembly (which won’t be seated until January 2021).
Rolling Back Federal Court Decision on Agricultural Trespass
The House and Senate took quick action this week to adopt new criminal penalties for those who use deception to gain access to an agricultural production facility. SF 519 was written as a response to a recent decision in Federal District Court that ruled Iowa’s previous law on this same subject matter as an unconstitutional violation of free-speech rights (and it passed the House 65-32 and the Senate 41-8 on Tuesday). While the state appeals this ruling to the US Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, legislators decided to take this additional step to more narrowly focus the law to protect it from legal challenges.
The original 2012 law was spurred by incidents wherein animal rights activists posed as workers to deceptively gain access to production facilities to disrupt production. Governor Reynolds signed the bill yesterday, March 14.