First Bill Passed in Iowa Legislature, more on the way


The Iowa 2018 legislative session begins Monday, Jan. 8. A main focus for Ames legislators will be funding for state universities as well as K-12 schools.

Thaddeus Mast

The first bill has been passed in this year’s Iowa Legislature with more on the way. The first bill, Senate File 106, is an update to the tax code.

It will make several slight changes, most of them positive, such as permanently extending the deduction of student loan interest rates. Small businesses and farmers will also have cuts to equipment costs, which is estimated to save them $10.2 million in 2013 and $8.5 million in 2014, according to the Globe Gazette.

A bill was introduced by Republicans in the House that would outlaw abortion. The bill would redefine murder to include a fertilized egg, meaning women who receive abortions or use certain types birth control could be imprisoned.

“It’s very unlikely that it’s going to move anywhere. There’s certain people in the Republican Party, conservative Republicans in particular, who are always wanting to try and change the abortion laws, but it’s clearly something that’s not going to pass in the Democratically-held Senate,” said James Strohman, political science professor.

David Peterson, also a political science professor, agrees with Strohman.

“There’s a lot of bills like this, that somebody proposed because it helps them get attention and it helps them take the lead on particular issues. They believe in it, but there are bills that everybody knows aren’t going anywhere, and this is one of them.”

Funding for education is most important to the legislature now. On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill increasing funding by 4 percent. The bill now goes to the House, controlled by Republicans.

“[Republicans] have a lot of constituents that are school districts, so they clearly want to make sure that these districts know what kind of state funding they get. So I think it puts pressure on the House Republicans to come up with some resolution to the education funding situation,” Strohman said.

A Democratic proposal to expand Medicaid will begin a debate Feb. 18. The expansion would broaden eligibility requirements for Medicaid, potentially adding 150,000 Iowans to the program.

The federal government’s new health care system would provide funding to states that decide to expand Medicaid.

“The Legislature sounds like they are interested in expansion, but Governor Branstad has said that he is going to resist it, and this one’s hard to predict how it’s going to come out,” Peterson said. “Governor Branstead’s point is that short-term, there might be more money for Iowa, but there’s no guarantee for long-term funding, and yet Medicaid expansion would tie the hands of the state and sort of force future spending.”

Strohman also discussed changes in health care.

“Obamacare is ready to go into effect. I think a lot of these governors, particularly these Republican governors, are seeing that this is going to be the reality now and they’re trying to figure out what’s the best way to provide services to their constituents. So we’ll see if Iowa and the governor changes his view on this,” Strohman said. “That’s a big topic that’s going to have to be resolved here during the legislative session.”

In a separate bill, the House voted to make $11.6 million available to 26 counties in Eastern Iowa in need of Medicaid help. The money would come from a bonus for having high enrollment in the children’s health program. The bill will now move to the Senate.