DES MOINES (AP) — About two months into the session, Republicans have moved quickly to capitalize on their control of both legislative chambers, but plenty of work remains as they push through a conservative agenda.
Other legislative activity has delayed a longstanding effort to remove state funding for Planned Parenthood, though Republicans say it remains a priority. The Senate passed a bill that would give up millions in federal Medicaid dollars to create a state-run family planning program that excludes abortion providers. The measure is awaiting House activity, though leaders say it could be included in an end-of-session budget bill instead.
A GOP-backed proposal in Congress to replace the Affordable Care Act also includes a provision that would restrict Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood, but it’s unclear if the federal activity will sway state lawmakers to hold off on their plans.
Anti-abortion groups are also supporting a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The ban is based on the disputed idea that a fetus can feel pain at that stage. A Senate committee has approved the legislation.
The House has approved a bill banning local governments from approving a minimum wage that exceeds the state rate, which is currently $7.25, and the measure now shifts to the Senate.
The bill would effectively revoke wage increases already approved in four counties.
The Senate also will take up a House-passed bill that would end workers’ compensation benefits at age 67 for fully disabled people, minimize employer late fees, reduce shoulder injury coverage and decrease coverage for injuries tied to a pre-existing condition.
A bill by Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate that would require people to show identification at voting places passed the House on Thursday and now heads to the Senate.
Pate has said the measure will improve Iowa’s election system and maintain voter integrity. He’s denied opponents’ claims that the effort is designed to reduce voting by minorities, the elderly and the disabled in a state with extremely low levels of voter fraud.
The bill requires a free identification card be sent to people who don’t have other approved forms of ID, such as a state driver’s license. Other provisions would eliminate an option for straight-party voting and allow polling staff to compare a voter’s signature on record with a signature on an ID card.
Voting advocacy groups and county auditors have registered in opposition to the bill, in part because they argue it’s underfunded.
House Republicans approved a bill last week that would make sweeping changes to Iowa’s gun laws, and the measure now heads to the Senate.
The bill has received the most attention for its stand-your-ground provision that would allow people to use deadly force anywhere if they believed such force was necessary to avoid injury or risk to one’s life or safety.
The bill also would let people sue local governments for enacting ordinances that regulate gun-free zones, allow children under age 14 to use handguns with parental supervision and allow concealed weapons on the Capitol grounds.
Amid all the policy talk, lawmakers need to pass a state budget that goes into effect in July.
Revenue projections will be released Tuesday, giving lawmakers the numbers they need to draw up a budget that’s expected to be a little over $7 billion. After that release, Republicans said they will provide more details about their plans.
GOP lawmakers backed a budget bill earlier this session that cut roughly $117 million from the current budget, a move that reduced spending for several state agencies, as well as community colleges and the state’s three public universities.
While Iowa has taken in less revenue than expected due in part to reduced farm commodity prices, data from the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency also show the state has spent the bulk of its surplus dollars in recent years. The situation has left the state with little extra money for revenue shortfalls, though separately its rainy day funds are full.
Republicans have long indicated they’re interested in cutting personal income taxes or corporate taxes, but it’s unclear how that will play out given the budget constraints.