2019 Legislative Session - Week 7

Posted on Friday, March 1, 2019

Senate Republicans released their budget targets this week for the fiscal year beginning in July.  Their total spending, about $7.62 billion, is roughly $50 million less than that proposed by the House GOP.  The Senate version includes more spending for administration and regulation, and for economic development.  As usual, one of the largest line-items is Health & Human Services appropriations, at nearly $1.93 billion.  That’s $3.8 million less than the House budget allotted.  Although the Senate targets include close to $130 million in new education spending, the appropriation is about $14 million less than the House figure.  The Senate GOP also added $38.8 million to fund tax relief.  Both chambers’ proposals are less than what Governor Kim Reynolds requested.

Another key piece of Reynolds’ 2019 agenda is wending its way through both the House and Senate.  Her proposal would allow adult women to obtain hormonal birth control pills, patches and rings directly from a pharmacy without a doctor’s prescription.  Instead, a “standing order” from the Iowa Department of Public Health would act as a blanket, statewide prescription, allowing specially-trained pharmacists to dispense these medications.  The Senate version, SF 348 is farthest along, having passed subcommittee.  The House is beginning subcommittee work on HSB 214.   Democrats in both chambers support the proposals.

Lawmakers are rushing to advance legislation before the “funnel” on Friday, March 8.  Most bills that haven’t passed both subcommittee and committee by then will be “dead” for the remainder of session.  The main exceptions are bills in the Ways & Means, Appropriations, and Government Oversight Committees. With that in mind, the House State Government Committee passed an amended version of HSB 198, which would legalize sports and fantasy league betting.  It now goes to the Ways & Means Committee for consideration.  A similar Senate bill, SF 366 is also in Ways & Means.  Legislation addressing gun rights and children’s mental health services has cleared the funnel deadline as well.

In other statehouse business, Democrats have selected their nominee to fill the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Danielson.  Cedar Falls school board member and University of Northern Iowa environmental program director Eric Giddens will challenge former GOP state Representative Walt Rogers for the Senate District 30 seat.  The district covers Cedar Falls, Hudson, and part of Waterloo.  The special election will be held Tuesday, March 19.