The first week of the 2020 Iowa legislative sessionstarted Monday with the swearing-in of a new House Republican leadership team. Rep. Pat Grassley (R-New Hartford) was officially named Speaker of the House, while Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) was sworn in as Majority Leader.
Grassley listed workforce-related issues as his top concerns, including access to affordable childcare and addressing the “cliff effect” in which low-income workers can lose access to childcare subsidies when they earn slight pay increases.
House Minority Leader Todd Prichard (D-Charles City) announced that his caucus would introduce legislation prioritizing education, expanding pre-school, investing in job training programs, and increasing access to affordable health care statewide.
On the Senate side, Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R-Ankeny) said GOP priorities would include cutting taxes, addressing the workforce skills gap, and passing work requirements for Iowans on public assistance. Among other things, Minority Leader Janet Petersen (D-Des Moines) called on lawmakers to consider workforce issues like raising the minimum wage and increasing access to affordable childcare.
On Tuesday, Governor Kim Reynolds gave her Condition of the State address, announcing a series of major policy initiatives. To increase access to affordable child care, she called on lawmakers to double the threshold for families to qualify for Early Childhood tax credits.
Reynolds said a key policy item for her administration will be the Invest in Iowa Act, which is based on the implementation of a one-cent sales tax increase. The initial three-eighths of those proceeds would go into the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust—the first infusion of money since voters approved creation of the fund in 2010.
To offset the sales tax increase, Reynolds said the legislation would cut income taxes for most Iowans by 10 percent, with low-income residents receiving a 25 percent cut. The bill would also shift part of the mental health tax burden from county-level property taxpayers to the state’s general fund, which would make mental health funding more “predictable”.
The governor also announced policies to expand access to telemedicine and maternity care and continued work on felon voting and criminal justice reform. And, she requested further funding for Future Ready Iowa, her signature initiative focused on expanding workforce education opportunities statewide.
On Wednesday, Acting Chief Justice David Wiggins delivered the Condition of the Judiciary address. He accepted the acting post after the sudden death of Chief Justice Mark Cady last fall. Lauding Cady’s work to make Iowa’s court system “one of the best in the nation,” he noted that “it has been a year of passage and transition,” with the deaths of three retired justices and the addition of Justice Christopher McDonald to the court. Wiggins said he plans to retire this spring. His seat will be the fourth Iowa Supreme Court appointment for Governor Reynolds.