Iowa Legislature Speeds Toward Adjournment

(Radio Iowa) Legislative leaders expect the 2023 session of the Iowa General Assembly to conclude today (Thursday). Lawmakers took final votes yesterday (Wednesday) on more than a dozen bills, including a plan to let older teens work later hours and apply for state waivers for jobs 16- and 17-year-olds cannot take today. Senator Adrian Dickey, a Republican from Packwood, urged senators to agree to House changes and send the bill to the governor.

“I’m glad because they had some ideas that improved the bill,” Dickey says. Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls say the bill, while improved, still allows kids to work in questionable settings.

“Senate Democrats do not oppose giving teens safe and age-appropriate work experiences that allow them to learn important skills and earn money to help themselves and their families,” Wahls says, “but they must be safe.” Governor Reynolds is scheduled to sign the legislature’s property tax reduction plan this (Thursday) afternoon. Another bill headed to the governor’s desk is designed to close loopholes so school districts can find out if an applicant has been accused of acting inappropriately with students in another district. Republican Representative Brooke Boden of Indianola says lawmakers from both parties put a lot of work into the bill over the past three years.

“This bill will hold these bad actors accountable,” Boden says, “something that I think is a priority for all of us, something that I know our schools have asked us for.” Legislators have approved nearly all of the bills that outline next year’s state budget. Representative Brian Lohse of Bondurant says during budget negotiations, Governor Kim Reynolds rejected the legislature’s plan to provide three percent pay raises to judges.

“It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is,” Lohse says, “We won what we could win.” Year three of a five-year plan to hire more district court judges has been put on hold, too. Lohse calls the backlog of cases in the state court system a crisis.

“We will continue to work and fight for the resources that the judicial branch needs in order to provide justice to Iowans,” Lohse says. Representative Ken Croken, a Democrat from Davenport, says the situation is frustrating.

“Everyone in this room knows what the right thing to do is,” Croken says, “and yet we don’t seem to be able to do it.” Democrats say Republicans have not set aside enough money for the state’s Area Education Agencies that provide a variety of services to Iowa schools. Senator Jeff Taylor, a Republican from Sioux Center, says the AEAs will get a small budget increase.

“I do want to reassure everyone…that this budget is not starving anyone or anything,” Taylor said. “It’s not defunding education.” The legislature has also voted to have Iowa join 36 other states and set up a state licensing process for midwives.