Typically in election years, there is a rush to finish the legislative session quickly so that legislators can start campaigning against their challengers. This year appears to be no exception. The legislative session will start in January, and while the session is officially supposed to end on April 22, legislative leaders have already moved up deadlines for bills to be passed out of committee. While Speaker Paulsen won’t predict when adjournment will happen, he has said that it may well fall before the April 22 deadline.
Despite there being two special elections this year due to resignations in the House and Senate, the control of both chambers will remain the same as they have several years now. Democrats will continue to control the Iowa Senate, and Republicans will continue to control the Iowa House. We also must remember that the Governorship is being held by Terry Branstad as well. What this means is that we will likely be able to stop anti-worker legislation introduced in the Iowa House, but conversely issues such as an increase to the minimum wage, attempts to stop abuse of temp and contract workers, or passing legislation to promote jobs bills of different kinds will likely fail.
Last year the legislature approved the largest tax cut in the state’s history in the form of property tax cuts that mainly benefit large businesses. This has left local governments to find a way to try and plan a way to make up for the shortfall in revenue. Unfortunately this could mean that cities and counties are wanting to shift the burden to workers’ pension programs. That dynamic, combined with the nationwide attack on pensions means that there is a distinct possibility that the retirement systems for police and firefighters, as well other pension systems may come under attack.
Iowa still badly needs to improve our roads and infrastructure – our bridges, buildings, and highways. The Governor has said that an increase in the gas tax, or perhaps an alternate form of funding could finally be put towards fixing our roads and bridges. While the best and most traditional option for funding these improvements is through the gas tax, the Governor finally signaling that this is an important issue for him is significant.
Now it is entirely possible that the legislature will go longer this year than anyone anticipates. After all, the dysfunction at other levels of government show that anything can happen on the way to passing a budget, the final step before adjournment.
There are plenty of other issues that may come up this year in the legislature. Please be sure to sign up for our action alerts on our website iowaaflcio.org as well as follow us on Facebook and other social media to know how the latest news from the Iowa Statehouse.