# Jason Schultz



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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Iowa lawmakers ban schools, day cares from requiring COVID-19 vaccines

Iowa Republican lawmakers gave anti-vaccine forces a parting gift on what may be the final day of the 2022 legislative session. On a party-line vote of 29 to 16, the Senate approved a ban on COVID-19 vaccination requirements for young children in day care or students at any level of education.

House members approved House File 2298 in February, and the bill made it through the Senate Judiciary Committee in time for the legislature’s second “funnel” deadline. It had languished on the “unfinished business” calendar for two months as House and Senate leaders negotiated behind the scenes on various unresolved issues.

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Iowa legislature finally agrees on new bottle bill

Iowa lawmakers have amended the state’s recycling law for the first time since its passage in 1978. Senate File 2378 changes what is commonly known as the “bottle bill” in ways that will please beverage distributors, retailers, and redemption centers.

In a mostly party-line vote on May 23, the Iowa Senate concurred with the version of the bill House members approved last month. Governor Kim Reynolds has not publicly commented on the proposal but is expected to sign it into law.

Legislators who voted against the bill warned that it would harm consumers and reduce recycling.

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Republicans reach deal on cutting Iowans' unemployment benefits

Iowa House and Senate Republicans have been at an impasse this month, as Senate Republicans refused to advance spending bills in an effort to pressure the House to approve a plan to divert more public education funds to private schools.

But in a sign of progress in backroom negotiations, GOP lawmakers finalized agreements on three bills April 26. The Senate approved the House version of a bill cutting unemployment benefits, while the House passed Senate versions of legislation on child care and an ethanol mandate for gasoline retailers.

Forthcoming Bleeding Heartland posts will cover the child care and ethanol bills.

Republicans in both chambers had agreed on most of the unemployment benefits package in March. The centerpiece of House File 2355 is a proposal Governor Kim 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. The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) estimated the shortened window would reduce payments to jobless Iowans by nearly $69.2 million during fiscal year 2023 and nearly $70.9 million the following year.

Most states provide up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits, while only a few provide as little as Iowa will after Reynolds signs this bill into law.

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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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GOP lawmakers lack respect for Iowans

Jodie Butler: Iowa GOP lawmakers are listening to no one but their own caucus members and the Republican base, ignoring concerns expressed by many constituents.

I have never been so offended as I have been this year by comments and actions from Iowa Republicans. I was Governor Terry Branstad’s education policy advisor for nearly five years in the 1990s, and I have never seen such cruel partisanship in my entire life. 

During the last decade of GOP rule, programs have been slashed, lawsuits have increased, voting has been restricted, the percentage of the state budget for education decreased, women and LGBTQ people denigrated, educators demoralized, and self-centered egregious politics funded by outsiders.

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