DES MOINES — As the rush from Iowa lawmakers to advance their priority bills before a key deadline stretched into the early hours Friday morning, some eye-catching bills did not make it out of committees and cannot be considered for the rest of the session.
After this week’s legislative “funnel,” only bills that have passed out of at least one committee can be considered for the rest of the session. But there are exceptions: Budget and tax bills are not subject to the funnel, and leaders have ways to revive bills later in the session if they want to bring them back.
A proposal from a group of House Republicans to remove protections for same-sex marriage from the Iowa constitution — House Joint Resolution 8 — was introduced earlier this week, but it did not get scheduled for a subcommittee hearing.
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As a proposed constitutional amendment, the measure would have needed to be passed by two separate general assemblies and then pass a popular vote in an election before becoming law.
On the same day, House Democrats proposed House File 509, which would have codified the right to same-sex marriage in Iowa law, which also did not gain traction.
“Those are not moving through the process, any of them, from both sides,” Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley said on Thursday.
In an email to House lawmakers, Republican Rep. Brad Sherman of Williamsburg, the chief sponsor of the bill to ban same-sex marriage, said the bill recognizes “what has been established by nature for all of history” and referenced Bible passages.
“The definition of marriage was defined as being between male and female for 5,000 years,” he wrote.
Medical cannabis expansion
A proposal to expand the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in Iowa and add vaporizable raw cannabis to the list of products failed to advance out of committee.
The sticking point in the bill, Senate Study Bill 1113, was the provision allowing raw cannabis flower, intended to be vaporized rather than smoked, to be sold at Iowa’s medical dispensaries, Zaun said. The Medical Cannabidiol Board on Monday denied a petition to allow the product, and Zaun said that created opposition to including it in the bill.
Vapes, capsules, and other treatments can be bought at Iowa’s medical dispensaries, but Bud & Mary’s, Iowa’s only operating cannabis manufacturer, argues vaporizable raw cannabis is the cheapest to produce and would bring costs down for patients.
Zaun said there isn’t much opposition among lawmakers to expanding the number of dispensaries in the state, a move the board supports. The bill would have increased the limit of licensed dispensaries in the state from five to 10.
While Zaun said the prospects of any changes to the program aren’t likely this year, he’s hopeful the measures can be revived through an amendment or other means.
Social media age requirements
Two bills that would have put an age requirement on social media accounts failed to pass a committee.
House Study Bill 223 would have required social media and gaming websites to verify that a child has parental consent before they make an account or access the site. The bill passed a subcommittee on Wednesday but did not get a vote in the House Judiciary Committee.
Another bill, House File 526, would have barred Iowans under 18 from having an account on a social media site, but that bill did not get a subcommittee hearing.
Republicans’ overnight push
When Republicans did manage to advance their priorities, in some cases it took a little more time than usual.
The final day of funnel week, Thursday, actually lasted two calendar days as the legislative work seeped into the early morning hours of Friday.
Throughout that final funnel-week push, Republican lawmakers advanced Gov. Kim Reynolds’ sweeping state government reorganization bill, legislation impacting LGBTQ students and youth, and gun regulations, among others.
House Democrats huddled for roughly nine hours to discuss the nearly 1,600-page government reorganization bill. And when their committee meeting finally resumed, they introduced more than 40 amendments in what they viewed as attempts to improve the bill.
Democrats expressed myriad concerns with some narrow proposals within the bill, but their overarching criticism was that it yields too much authority to the governor.
Reynolds’ proposal, which was designed with the help of a Virginia-based consulting firm paid nearly $1 million by the state, would reduce the number of state agencies with directors that answer directly to the governor from 37 to 16, in the process folding other state agencies under those fewer directors.
Transgender health care
Bucking impassioned pleas from doctors and transgender youth over the last week, House lawmakers after midnight on Friday advanced a bill that would ban transgender youth from receiving gender-affirming health care.
The move runs contrary to the guidance of major American medical associations and state experts, who say the interventions used to treat transgender youth improve well-being and are often lifesaving.
The bill, House Study Bill 214, would ban the use of puberty blockers, hormones and surgeries as a treatment for gender dysphoria for people under 18.
Iowa schools would be allowed to bar transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity under a bill the House Judiciary Committee advanced in the early hours on Friday.
House Study Bill 208 states that schools cannot be punished for restricting bathrooms and locker rooms to members of the same biological sex. A Senate committee advanced a bill this week that would enforce that requirement statewide, requiring students to use the school bathroom that aligns with their sex assigned at birth.
While the House bill makes the designation optional, it also allows a person to bring a civil lawsuit against a school if they encounter someone in a bathroom of the opposite sex who the school allowed to access the bathroom, and if they are required to share lodging with a person of the opposite sex.
Studies have shown transgender students who are denied access to a bathroom that aligns with their gender identity to be at a higher risk for sexual assault, and transgender people in general are far more likely than cisgender people to be victims of sexual assault.