Lawmakers raced to advance dozens of bills in an effort to beat last Friday’s “first funnel” procedural deadline. Most bills that didn’t pass both subcommittee and full committee in either the House or Senate by March 5 are now “dead” for the remainder of this legislative session. The main exceptions are bills dealing with taxes, spending, and government oversight. Now, legislators will largely turn their attention to floor debate and hammering out appropriations bills. However, since this is the first session of the two-year General Assembly, lawmakers will be able to pick up where they left off with many “dead” bills next year.
Last Wednesday the House amended and unanimously passed a Senate measure exempting various COVID-19 relief payments from state taxes. SF 364 would allow all businesses that received federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) COVID-19 relief funds to deduct expenses. It would also make COVID-19 grants exempt from state income tax if they were issued by the Iowa Economic Development Authority, the Iowa Finance Authority, or the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The measure would further exempt unemployment payments issued as pandemic relief retroactive to January 1.
The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates that as amended SF 364 would result in a $115 million income tax loss for the state. The bill would use the entire Taxpayer Relief Fund, more than $90 million, to offset the cost. The remainder would come from the general fund’s ending balance. The REC will meet on March 19 to release their final, binding budget estimates for the next fiscal year. After passing the House 94-0, SF 364 now returns to the Senate for further consideration. Senators passed the original version unanimously last month, 49-0.
Also on Wednesday, Governor Kim Reynolds received the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine at her weekly news conference. While the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses spaced weeks apart, patients only need one shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Early studies have shown that while the Pfizer and Moderna versions are about 95% effective, the Johnson & Johnson shot is 66% effective, leaving some patients hesitant to take the new vaccine. However, many medical experts push back on that perception, noting there has been less time to study the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. They also point out that the earlier Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were developed before the new COVID-19 variants emerged.
At her news conference, Reynolds urged Iowans to get vaccinated with whichever vaccine was readily available. “When you get the opportunity, please take advantage of it,” she said.
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