# Herman Quirmbach



Six terrible bills Iowa Republicans didn't pass in 2022

After a hectic two days at the capitol, the Iowa House and Senate finished their work for the year shortly after midnight on May 25.

In the coming days, Bleeding Heartland will cover some of the final bills in detail. As usual, there were a few surprises in the “standings” bill, such as a provision expanding open enrollment from public schools. While Democrats opposed many bills sent to Governor Kim Reynolds this week, including a ban on COVID-19 vaccine requirements for schools or child care centers, they welcomed one of the last-minute proposals, which exempts diapers and period products from Iowa’s sales tax.

This piece will focus on bills that didn’t make it through, despite a push from Reynolds or top Republican lawmakers.

I anticipate future legislative battles over most if not all of these proposals. Earlier this year, the governor signed into law two priority items that failed to advance in 2021: a measure banning transgender Iowans from girls’ and women’s sports, and deep cuts to unemployment benefits.

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Mobile home bill less than nothing for homeowners

Matt Chapman is a resident of Midwest Country Estates park in Dallas County and co-chair of the Iowa Manufactured Home Residents’ Network.

On a party-line vote this week, the Iowa Senate approved House file 2562, a bill on manufactured housing parks that the Iowa House passed earlier this month. The bill is headed to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk, and she is expected to sign it. UPDATE: The governor signed the bill on May 17.

At iowafairhousing.com you will see the “residents’ bill of rights” we wrote in 2019. The site has more details, but the bullet points are as follows –

  1. Rent protection from gouging
  2. Good cause eviction standards
  3. Fair fees
  4. Fair legal leases
  5. Resident rights if park is for sale

Unfortunately, House File 2562 would enforce none of those rights.

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Iowa Republicans close to deal on cutting unemployment benefits

The Iowa House and Senate approved similar bills on March 23 that would substantially cut unemployment benefits for jobless Iowans. The legislation, a priority for Governor Kim Reynolds, had been stalled for weeks, raising questions about whether Republican leaders could find the votes to pass it in the House.

Both versions of the legislation include the centerpiece of the proposal Reynolds highlighted during her Condition of the State address in January: reduce the maximum unemployment benefits in one year from 26 weeks to sixteen weeks. Currently, most states provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits per year, while only a handful of states provide a maximum of sixteen weeks or fewer.

The revised bill, House File 2355, also includes provisions that would force Iowans to accept new jobs for lower pay sooner, and would make it easier for Iowans to be denied benefits entirely.

A House amendment offered by State Representative Mike Bousselot removed language that would have denied Iowans benefits the first week they were unemployed. Senate Republicans put the one-week waiting period back in the bill before approving it.

All House and Senate Democrats voted against the bills, as did two Republicans in each chamber: State Representatives Martin Graber and Charlie McClintock, and State Senators Zach Nunn and Jeff Reichman.

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Republicans value "fairness" only for Iowans like themselves

Iowa Republicans have sought to undermine LGBTQ equality for more than a decade, but in recent years, their myriad attempts to discriminate didn’t make it past the legislature’s first “funnel” deadline.

However, this year Republicans moved bills out of Iowa House and Senate committees that would prohibit transgender girls and women from participating in school sports. The bills are eligible for debate in both chambers.

The legislation is a priority for Governor Kim Reynolds, who declared during a Fox News town hall last spring that she was committed to acting on the issue. She has repeatedly claimed preventing trans girls from competing is a matter of “fairness,” a talking point echoed by Republican lawmakers who defended the bills last week.

Their stated concerns don’t extend to Iowa’s transgender girls and women, who would find yet another door slammed in their face.

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Iowa Republicans continue to underfund public schools

Iowa House and Senate Republicans have yet again approved school funding at a level that will fail to meet the needs of K-12 school districts.

House File 2316 increases Supplemental State Aid by 2.5 percent (or $181 per pupil) for the coming academic year, the level Governor Kim Reynolds requested. Total state funding for public school districts and Area Education Agencies will increase by $172 million to about $3.58 billion, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency.

GOP lawmakers bristle at accusations that they have underfunded K-12 schools, when state aid has increased nearly every year. Republicans “have never once” cut funding to education, Iowa Senate Education Committee chair Amy Sinclair said during the February 14 floor debate.

But a 2.5 percent increase is tantamount to a funding cut in real terms, because it will not keep pace with rising costs for school districts.

Moreover, a review of school funding over nearly 50 years shows that this Republican trifecta has been far less willing to support public schools than past Iowa legislatures.

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Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2022

The Iowa Senate convened for its 2022 session on January 10 with 32 Republicans and eighteen Democrats. Twelve senators are women (seven Democrats and five Republicans), up from eleven women in the chamber prior to the 2020 election and double the six women senators who served prior to the 2018 election.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve mentioned changes since last year’s legislative session. The biggest change: Republican Dave Rowley was elected in December to succeed Republican Zach Whiting, who resigned to take a job in Texas.

All current state senators are white. The only African American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the chamber, and Iowa’s only Asian-American senator was Swati Dandekar, who resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two Smiths, a Democrat and a Republican, and two Taylors, a Democrat and a Republican. As for first names, there are three Jeffs and two men each named Zach, Craig, Mark, Dan, Jim, and Tim.

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