2023 Iowa Legislative Session - Week 5 Summary

State funding for Iowa’s K-12 public schools was increased by 3 percent on Tuesday when Governor Kim Reynolds signed Senate File 192 into law.  The Senate passed the bill last week with a 34-15 vote, and the House passed the bill on Tuesday morning with a 59-40 vote. 

With the new law, the state will see an increase of $222 per student, resulting in per-pupil funding of $7,635. The increase will also provide funding for the Education Savings Account program. The Education Savings Account program provides funds equal to the amount of the State Supplemental Aid to be used by students on private school tuition and other education costs.

Another priority of the Governor and Leadership cleared the Legislature Wednesday when both chambers passed a bill that caps noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits at $1 million for clinics and doctors and $2 million for hospitals.  After a contentious debate, House File 161 passed the House with a vote of 54-46.  The bill then passed the Senate with a vote of 29-20 and is headed to Governor Reynolds to be signed into law. 

With medical malpractice tort reform through the Legislature, lawmakers now turn their attention to commercial vehicles and House File 201 and Senate File 228.  These bills place a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages in lawsuits against the owner or operator of a commercial vehicle for incidents resulting in personal injury or death. In addition to setting a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages, the bills also address negligence claims against employer trucking companies for their employees’ harmful conduct when alternative claims for relief have been pled.  Both bills have passed through their respective Committees and are now eligible for floor debate.  

Senate File 181, which seeks to correct a state error related to residential property tax calculations continues to advance through the legislative process. On Monday, a subcommittee advanced the bill, with the House Ways and Means Committee approving the bill on Wednesday by a 19-6 vote. The bill seeks to fix a rollback rate error that would result in residential property owners paying more property tax than what was intended by a 2021 tax law change. To rectify the situation, Senate File 181 removes multi-residential properties from the calculation of the assessment limitation for 2022 residential property tax assessments which will result in less revenue at the local level. 

Another property tax related bill, House File 1, advanced out of a House subcommittee meeting on Monday.  The bill seeks to reduce the school foundation property tax levy to $4.90 per $1,000, limit the value of an assessment for property to 103% of the previous year, and make new bond requirements for schools, cities, and counties.  Although the subcommittee moved the bill forward, it was made clear that further discussions will take place. 

In the Know

Action took place this week on the Governor’s 1,568 page proposed state reorganization bills, House Study Bill 126 and Senate Study Bill 1123.  The Governor's plan reduces the number of executive branch cabinet agencies from 37 to 16, eliminates up to 515 vacant positions, and is estimated to save around $214 million over the next four years. 

As part of the Governor’s reasoning behind the realignment, the Governor cites statistics from states such as Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma, which all have a population and budget similar to Iowa’s, but only have 15 cabinet members.  In addition, Iowa’s per capita expenditures exceed the expenditures of similar size and larger bordering states.  For example, Iowa’s cost per capita is about $2,000 more than that of Illinois, which has nearly four times Iowa’s population. 

Highlights of the Proposal include:

  • The Department of Inspections and Appeals is renamed the Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing and licensing functions will be moved to the new Department.
  • Community Based Corrections is moved under the Department of Corrections.
  • The Departments of Public Health, Aging, and Human Rights are folded into the Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Iowa Lottery and the Alcoholic Beverages Division are moved to the Department of Revenue.
  • A new Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services will add the Iowa Insurance Division, Iowa Division of Banking, and the Iowa Division of Credit Unions.
  • Iowa Utilities Board would be removed as a division of the Department of Commerce and function as a separate entity. 
  • The Board of Education Examiners and other education-related services are aligned within the Department of Education.

BrownWinick Government Relations

To view additional summaries from the 2023 Iowa Legislative Session or to learn more about BrownWinick’s Government Relations Team, visit our Lobbying and Public Policy team page.