DES MOINES — Iowa legislative leaders believe they see the light at the end of the tunnel and are eyeing a Saturday adjournment — five days ahead of schedule.
“The work is essentially done. We had some priority things we wanted to do this year, and we’ve completed those,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer, R-Clear Lake, said Thursday, the 105th day of a scheduled 110-day session.
That doesn’t mean everybody got everything they wanted.
“There’s things that people would like to do that they still need to get some questions answered to understand why their colleagues aren’t supporting them and how to turn it into something that gets passed,” the nine-term lawmaker said.
Upmeyer and Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, both expressed reluctance to load up the standings bill, a catchall piece of legislation that often is the last piece of legislation approved before adjournment.
“If they didn’t get through the normal process, there better be a very good reason to put it in standings,” Whitver said about policy bills.
Upmeyer doesn’t expect the standings bill to have “all kinds of surprises and Christmas tree things in it.”
But neither are the leaders closing the door on the possibility that policy measures, such as a GOP plan to change the judicial nominating process or a bill to create what supporters call a “grid equity fee” and opponents label a “sunshine tax,” find their way into standings.
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Several bills bounced between the House and Senate Thursday, winning final passage and a ticket to Gov. Kim Reynolds’ desk. Among them:
The House gave its approval to House File 780 to extend SAVE — Secure an Advanced Vision for Education — until 2051.
Representatives, some reluctantly, accepted the Senate’s increase of how much of the 1 percent sales tax will go to property tax relief. The bill now specifies 70 percent will go to school infrastructure and 30 percent to property tax relief, up from the House’s 15 percent.
Despite the change, Rep. Jacob Bossman, Sioux City, called the bill a “win-win” because — with the addition of new revenues from digital media and internet taxes — SAVE revenue is increasing faster than projected. It is projected to raise almost $5.8 billion over 30 years.
Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, wasn’t as enthused because of the doubling of the property tax relief, “but I’ll hold my nose and vote for it.”
House File 546 was approved, 95-4, with two Democrats and two Republicans voting “no.” It passed the Senate, 48-2.
Lawmakers reached unanimous agreement — 50-0 in the Senate and 99-0 in the House — on a package of elections laws.
House File 692 required that absentee ballots include a bar code that contains shipping information and clarified that Iowans may participate in only one presidential caucus per cycle.
The absentee ballot provision settled a debate over whether the state should require the intelligent mail bar code or require that mailed ballots be received by Election Day. Lawmakers settled on the intelligent mail bar code that gives auditors a tool to determine whether ballots received after Election Day were placed in the mail before the deadline.
The issue arose in a 2018 northeast Iowa legislative race that ended when the House voted not to count 29 absentee ballots received after Election Day because although the ballot had a bar code, it was not the one prescribed under current law. The ballots could have changed the outcome of the election, which was decided by nine votes.
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The bill also keeps statewide election polls open until 9 p.m. Some legislators in the Senate and local election officials had pushed for an 8 p.m. closing time.
And it includes new language to say Iowans may participate in only one presidential caucus. Iowa Democrats, in order to be more inclusive, will have online caucuses that will not require Iowans to physically participate on caucus night. That has created concerns about Iowans attempting to caucus multiple times within the Democratic caucuses, or once in the Democratic and once in the Republican caucuses.
The language was agreed to by both state parties, said Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, whose father, Jeff, is chairman of the state GOP.
The House also approved House File 771 97-1 to double the annual income eligibility threshold for families to claim a child care tax credit from $45,000 to $90,000.
Employers and families need the state’s help in removing the barrier caused by the lack of and cost of child care in Iowa, Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City, said. The credit is something legislators can do to help middle-class working families, he said.
Rep. Monica Kurth, D-Davenport, called it a good tax credit for middle-income Iowans burdened by the cost of child care.
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