2023 Iowa Legislative Session - Week 11 Summary
On Wednesday, the Senate approved a bill to limit the use of mobile devices while driving. Senate File 547 makes the use of mobile devices while driving a car illegal unless used in a hands-free or voice-activated mode. The bill passed the Senate by a 47-3 vote. The bill’s floor manager, Senator Mark Lofgren (R-Muscatine), said the bill will “improve safety on our roads.” Law enforcement officials have asked lawmakers to pass the bill for numerous years. According to state transportation data, the average number of distracted driving-related crashes increased by 64.9 percent from 2015 to 2021. Distracted driving-related crashes involving fatalities spiked by 237 percent.
Texting while driving is already illegal in Iowa, but that does not include other cell phone use while driving. Law enforcement officials say they cannot adequately enforce Iowa’s current distracted-driving laws. The bill would increase fines from $45 to $100 for distracted-driving offenses, increase the violation to $500 if the incident results in a serious injury, and $1,000 if the incident was fatal, with the possibility of the driver’s license being suspended. The bill now makes its way to the House for consideration.
While the Senate passed hands-free legislation, the House debated and passed legislation concerning carbon dioxide pipelines. House File 565 requires carbon dioxide pipeline companies looking to build in Iowa to gain voluntary easements from 90 percent of the pipeline’s route prior to using eminent domain. The bill’s floor manager, Rep. Steven Holt (R-Denison), said that the bill seeks to protect the fundamental rights of landowners. During debate, Holt said “If these pipeline projects are essential to ethanol and agriculture, let them be built through voluntary easement and not by allowing the blunt force of government to be used to shatter this fundamental birthright.” The bill passed with a vote of 73-20. Nine Republicans and eleven Democrats voted against the bill. The bill now moves on to the Senate.
Another bill approved by the Senate was Senate File 506 which updates the Certificate of Need process in an effort to ease the shortage of birthing centers in rural Iowa. The bill’s floor manager, Senator Edler (R-Marshall), stated that the Certificate of Need process has been federally-mandated with the intent to keep hospital costs down, however, this process is no longer working as it was intended to. The bill was passed by the Senate with a vote of 29-21, with five Republicans joining the Democrats in opposition to the bill.
In the Know
House Republicans have released their budget proposal for FY2024 which includes spending $8.58 billion in FY 2024. This is an overall increase of 4.5 percent over the FY2023’s budget. The proposal from House Republicans is about $90 million more than what has been proposed by Gov. Reynolds and the Senate Republicans. “We have other priorities that we would like to have conversations about within the caucus, like mental health rebasing (reimbursement) or rebasing for nursing home mental health issues,” said House Speaker Pat Grassley. “We have workforce issues…we wanted to make sure that those are all reflected, some of the priorities that are still out there, within our budget.”
The state’s Revenue Estimate Conference held its quarterly meeting two weeks ago and projected the state will have around $9.6 billion in revenue for the upcoming budget year. State legislators are allowed by law to appropriate 99 percent of that projected amount; around $9.5 billion.
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.