by Charlotte Eby - Managing Director of Government Affairs, LS2group
View the Iowa Legislative Bill Tracker
First funnel deadline passes
Scores of policy bills pending in the Legislature cleared their first major hurdle this week to remain alive for the rest of the legislative session. Lawmakers scrambled to gain committee passage by Thursday for bills they have prioritized for the year. They included changes to the state’s medical cannabis program. Changes in the state’s sustainable can and bottle deposit law were expected to clear the funnel later Thursday.
Some of the session’s most-watched issues, including proposed tax reform legislation and spending bills will be considered later in the session. Tax and spending bills are not subject to the legislative funnel deadlines.
The next funnel deadline is set for March 20, when bills must gain committee passage in the opposite chamber.
Lawmakers take another swing at medical cannabis
Fixes to Iowa’s medical cannabis program cleared a legislative deadline this week. Legislators passed a bill on the last day of the 2019 legislative session that would have substantially expanded the program, but it met Gov. Kim Reynolds’ veto pen. Reynolds said the issue needed further study, and lawmakers have tried to address those concerns this year.
Critics of Iowa’s current medical cannabis law say limits on psychoactive ingredient THC are far too low to serve as a proper dosage for Iowans, particularly those seeking relief from debilitating diseases. They also expressed concern people might leave Iowa for other states with less restrictive medical cannabis laws.
The House bill, HSB653, expands the list of medical providers who could verify patients for the program. And rather than a 3-gram limit in current law, it would allow 4.5 grams of THC over 90 days. The Senate’ SSB3136 goes further, striking a cap on THC to allow 25 grams over a 90-day period. It’s unclear at this point in session which version will advance.
New Department of Transportation director named
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds this week named a longtime administrator at the Iowa Department of Transportation to lead the agency. Scott Marler, a 22-year veteran at the DOT, previously served as director of the Operations Division. During his time at the agency, he gained experience not only in traffic operations, but in highway project development, regulatory compliance, and the natural environment.
“Scott will do an outstanding job leading the Iowa Department of Transportation because of his depth of experience and effective management style,” Reynolds said in a statement announcing his appointment. “Iowa DOT plays an instrumental role in the safe transportation of goods, services, and people across our state and we know he will do an incredible job.”
Iowa Democrats pick new leader following caucus problems
Iowa Democrats last weekend picked State Rep. Mark Smith of Marshalltown to lead the state party, ushering new leadership in the wake of a disastrous presidential caucus earlier this month. Smith previously served as the Minority Leader in the Iowa House and had announced his intention to step down and retire his seat. He was chosen to lead the party after an election by the Iowa Democrats’ State Central Committee.
Smith replaces previous state Democratic chair Troy Price. Price resigned after delays for several days reporting results of Iowa’s first in the nation presidential caucuses. State Democratic officials were unable to declare an official winner for more than a week.