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NEW FACES, NEW PRIORITIES, NEW CHALLENGES

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Iowa’s 150 newly elected state legislators returned to the Iowa Capitol to begin the 110-day legislative session. But not everything is the same; there is a new sheriff in town.  For the first time since 1998, Republicans control the Iowa House of Representatives, Iowa Senate, and the Governor’s office.  So there are new leaders, new committee chairs, and new faces at the Capitol this year.  

  • There will be 24 new legislators this year (this includes the winner of the special election).  
  • There are 59 Republicans and 40 Democrats in the Iowa House (there is one vacancy pending 1/31 special election).
  • There are 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and 1 Independent in the Iowa Senate. 
  • New committee lists can be found here.

The first two weeks were like any other session  – speeches and applause, handshakes and hugs, signing papers and picking seats, and trying to get used to chaotic schedules and the constant sound of voices around them. But as bills started coming out, it was clear that this would not be a quiet session.

Legislators have already introduced some controversial bills – including defunding Planned Parenthood, legalizing machine guns, reforming collective bargaining, ending red light cameras, requiring IDs to vote, and legalizing fireworks.  More are to come, like an expansion of Iowa's medical marijuana laws to allow in-state distribution and production, and fixing the funding for the state's Mental Health and Disability Services (MH/DS) regions.

It's hard to know what all will be introduced this year.  Legislators still have plenty of time to file more bills - the last day they can request bill drafts is February 10.  Only leaders and committee chairs can request bills after that deadline.  Legislators definitely do not want to wait until the last minute to file their bills, because they need to be introduced with enough time to make it through several legislative hurdles before the clock runs out; these deadlines are called "funnels."

We are also just 40 days away from the first legislative "funnel" deadline, when all bills need to be voted out of their committee of origin.  By March 3, all House bills need to be out of House committees, and Senate bills out of Senate committees.  The second funnel deadline comes quickly after, when bills need to be voted out of committee in the opposite chamber.  By March 31, all House bills need to be out of Senate committees, and all Senate bills must be out of House committees.  Bills that fail to make it out of committee by the March 3 and March 31 funnel deadlines are no longer eligible for debate.

The 110th day of session - the last day legislators get their expense checks - is April 28, 2017. That is what most call "the last day of session," but we know that legislators frequentlly go longer.  Leaders have vowed to be out early this year.