Unemployment bills survive Iowa Legislature’s second funnel, while education bills don’t


Courtesy of AP News

Iowa Legislature members are coming together for a charity softball game May 1.

Finn Mcnally

The Iowa Legislature passed its second deadline with bills about unemployment cuts surviving, while bills focusing on education did not make the cut.

The deadline for proposed bills in the Iowa House and Senate, referred to as the “second funnel,” narrows down the number of bills the legislature will consider. The first funnel requires that a bill make it out of committee and be introduced to either the House or the Senate. The second requires that the bill be passed by one chamber and be up for consideration in the other.

Kelly Shaw, an associate teaching professor of political science, said that the funnel system acts as a filter for the legislative process.

“The second funnel really is designed to make sure that major pieces of legislation which are important to the caucus, in this case the Republican caucus, are addressed in the waning days of the legislative session,” said Shaw.

A major bill that made it past the second filter would reduce unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks and require unemployed Iowans to begin accepting lower-paying jobs after two weeks of unemployment.

Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, (D-Ames) said the bill is scary for Iowans and does not address the workforce issue.

“For somebody who has a child and is paying childcare, has to pay for transportation to work and has to pay for basic things frequently, when you take that kind of cut, you are making no money, you’re not able to support yourself,” said Wessel-Kroeschell.

Senator Herman Quirmbach (D-Ames) said the bill doesn’t target the correct issue with Iowa’s workforce and is only hurting Iowans.

“The Republican approach to unemployment compensation misses the mark and it’s as stupid as it is heartless,” said Quirmbach.

Education was the topic of multiple bills ahead of the deadline. Bills such as a parent’s bill of rights and one that could make educators face criminal penalties for providing “obscene” materials all failed to make it through the funnel.

The latter bill would have allowed parents to sue teachers and administrators for exposing their children to obscene books or other materials. Across the state and the country, parents have taken issue with books that address issues like race and sexuality.

Senator Jake Chapman (R-Adel) proposed a list of books that should be banned in schools. The list includes “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” by Sherman Alexie, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and others.

Wessel-Kroeschell said the first thing that comes to her mind is thought control.

“We need to allow people to read literature, to freely read,” said Wessel-Kroeschell. “I’ve read most of the books that were on the list of books that Senator Chapman wanted to ban in schools, and I have to tell you, it gave me an opportunity to learn about people and situations that I’ve never had to encounter.”

A bill that would have used public funding to give scholarships to students who wanted to transfer to private schools did not meet the requirements for the second funnel but was kept alive because it was budget-related.

Wessel-Kroeschell said this bill does not have the support in the House, but Gov. Kim Reynolds is still pushing for it.

“It would be devastating for all schools, but more rural schools would close due to losing the revenue they would lose from this,” said Wessel-Kroeschel. “We need more money in our schools. We need more resources. We should have smaller class sizes. We need to make sure every child in this state has access to a good education.”

On the issue of school funding, Quirmbach said that while there have been increases in educational funding, they have not kept up with inflation. He said that if the cost increases more than the budget, schools will have to make cuts.

“That’s what Republicans have forced school districts to do is to cut the resources,” said Quirmbach, “They have additional dollars, but not enough to keep up with the cost.”

Shaw said the remaining bills are being sent to committees and subcommittees. Afterward, they will have to pass through the House if it was introduced in the Senate and vice versa.

The Iowa Legislature’s 100-day session ends April 19.