by Charlotte Eby - Managing Director of Government Affairs, LS2group
View the Iowa Legislative Bill Tracker
Chambers have busy week of floor debate
The Iowa House and Senate passed a flurry of bills this week, working to advance legislation before a second funnel deadline will winnow the number of bills under consideration. Legislative leaders lined up their top priorities for debate this week.
Among the issues advancing included a Senate bill that funds efforts to help teachers and schools address violent student behavior in the classroom. Gun advocates flooded the Capitol on Thursday, anticipating debate on a bill that would limit cities or counties from enacting restrictive gun measures.
To remain alive, bills that have passed in one chamber will have to gain approval in a committee in the opposite chamber before a March 19 funnel deadline. The Legislature’s tentative adjournment date for the year is April 19.
Governor signs school funding equity bill to cover busing costs
Gov. Kim Reynolds this week signed a bill that will provide funding to rural schools for their transportation and busing needs. SF2164 will funnel $7.2 million to schools that spend more on annual transportation costs than the statewide average of $347 per pupil. A total of 204 Iowa schools will receive additional dollars.
“This legislation will help Iowa’s many rural school districts absorb transportation costs and put more money into the classroom,” Reynolds said. “Education is always a top priority, and we will continue to look for ways to provide every school, educator, and student with the tools for success.”
Senate votes to limit medical awards in lawsuits
Non-economic damages in personal injury or death claims against a health care provider would be limited to $750,000 under a bill passed Tuesday in the Iowa Senate. The bill was approved 30-20 after a contentious debate, with Republicans Zach Nunn and Jim Carlin crossing party lines to vote against it.
SF2338 would raise the $250,000 limit in current law, but specify that evidence of medical expenses be limited to amounts actually paid to medical providers. Supporters said it would help reduce sky-high medical malpractice insurance costs for doctors. Opponents argued it should be left to a jury to decide how to compensate patients and their families in the cases of death and injury, citing cases of extreme negligence. The noneconomic damages addressed in the bill include pain, suffering, inconvenience, physical impairment, mental anguish, and loss of consortium, among others.
With Senate passage, the bill moves to the House for consideration and must gain approval by a House committee by March 19 to remain alive for the session.
Iowa Supreme Court selects new chief justice
The seven members of the Iowa Supreme Court have chosen Susan Christensen to serve as the court’s chief justice. Christensen, of Harlan, becomes the second woman to serve as Iowa’s top court official. Christensen assumes the role after the sudden death of former chief justice Mark Cady this fall.
“I am honored to be selected by my colleagues as chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court,” Christensen said in a statement. “Three months ago, our court faced a sudden crisis with the unexpected death of Chief Justice Cady. I am deeply appreciative of the immediate leadership by acting Chief Justice David Wiggins. He provided the stability to push forward with the court’s work while the judicial branch and entire state grieved for the Cady family. As chief justice, I will maintain my passion for child welfare and juvenile justice and do my best to lead Iowa’s judiciary in a manner which provides all 99 counties with fair and impartial justice.”
Christensen earned her law degree at Creighton University and her bachelor’s degree at Judson College.