Iowa Has Passed 70 New Laws This Year. Here’s What They Do

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

The Iowa Legislative session has entered overtime as Iowa House Republicans continue a stalemate with Iowa Senate Republicans and Gov. Kim Reynolds on a few key issues including school vouchers and curriculum oversight.

Cut to unemployment benefits, a legislative priority for Reynolds, was another issue that has held up this legislative session. However, the House and Senate came to a compromise and that billHouse File 2355—awaits the governor’s signature.

Meanwhile, 70 bills have been signed into law since the session started on Jan. 10.

If there are bills you do like or bill you don’t like, you can make your opinion count at the ballot box. Check and see if that lawmaker’s seat is up for election during the June 7 primary, which gives you gives you a chance to reaffirm your support or get them out of office.

Anywho, here’s a roundup of what bills have been signed, a brief explainer of what each law does, and why it matters [current as of May 19]:

 

Bill: House File 2316 

Date signed: Feb. 17

What it does: Increases the state’s public education budget for fiscal year 2023 by 2.5% per student.

Why it matters: This provides more money for Iowa public schools, which impacts all of us directly or indirectly; however, critics argue 2.5% wasn’t adequate enough to keep up with inflation and that schools have been underfunded for years.

 

Bill: House File 2317

Date signed: March 1

What it does: It reforms Iowa’s tax code, fully eliminating the progressive tax system and pivots us to a regressive system with a flat tax rate of 3.9% by 2026

Why it matters: The wealthiest Iowans will see by far the biggest tax cut and will account for a lower percentage of the state’s overall tax income. However, the trade-off is the state will see about $1.9 billion dollars less in tax revenue annually, which will eventually result in cuts to vital state-funded services such as public education, public safety, health care, and more.

 

Bill: House File 2416

Date signed: March 3

What it does: Prohibits transgender girls and women from playing on female teams for K-12 and college-sanctioned sports. 

Why it matters: While there are very few trans girls and women competing in Iowa sports, it is devastating for those athletes targeted by the legislation and who previously were able to play sports without issue.

 

Bill: House File 2373

Date signed: March 23

What it does: It prevents the state of Iowa from investing in companies boycotting Israel.

Why it matters:  The biggest impact is the Iowa Public Employees’ Retirement System (IPERS)—which has more than 380,000 members—will have to divest $2.7 million of its $45 billion trust from a company boycotting Israel. 

    

Bill: House File 2220

Date signed: March 23

What it does: It codifies what Iowa classifies as anti-semitism 

Why it matters: Hopefully you’re not anti-Semitic, but if you are, this law provides a legal definition to determine if you displayed anti-Semitic behavior or used anti-Semitic language and how the courts should handle it. 

 

Bill: Senate File 2119

Date signed: March 23

What it does: It removes the licensing requirement for people who practice cosmetic threading.

Why it matters: Threading is a specific technique for removing body hair that is more precise than waxing or shaving. Theoretically, not having license requirements could inspire more threading shops to open and reduce the need to enforce penalties on people who practiced threading without a license. 

 

Bill: Senate File 2266

Date signed: March 23

What it does: It allows retired IPERS members under age 65 to earn more money and increases the amount of money school board members can collect from a school district for non-board related services.

Why it matters: If you receive IPERS benefits, you can make up to $50,000 a year and still collect those benefits without penalty. If you serve on a school board and have a community business that could provide services to a school, the district can contract with you for up to $20,000 in services whereas the previous limit was $6,000.

 

Bill: House File 2466

Date signed: March 22

What it does: It changes signature requirements for county supervisor elections.

Why it matters: If you live in an Iowa county with a population of fewer than 15,000 people and you want to run for supervisor, you need at least 21 signatures. If you live in a county with a population greater than 15,000 people but fewer than 50,000 people, you need 50 signatures to run.

 

Bill: Senate File 2325

Date signed: March 23

What it does: Tweaks a few initiatives overseen by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. 

Why it matters: Does not have an immediate direct impact on the average Iowan.

 

Bill: House File 2380

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Increases the number of hemp acres a person can grow from 40 to 320.

Why it matters: If you are an Iowa hemp farmer, you can increase production.

 

Bill: Senate File 2285

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It requires cities to increase city planning boards and boards of adjustments when a city extends its zoning jurisdiction. One of the appointees has to be a county supervisor or someone selected by the board while the other has to be a farmland owner.

Why it matters: If you live in the country but want a bigger say in city zoning issues, this law gives you the opportunity.

 

Bill: Senate File 2197

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Creates a task force to study how to better serve special education students not enrolled in public schools and provide a report on its findings to the Iowa Legisature by Dec. 1.

Why it matters: This could potentially benefit special education students and their families.

 

Bill: Senate File 2279

Date signed: April 22

What it does: Modernizes Iowa’s government contract bidding process.

Why it matters: Providing an electronic option to compete for government bids makes things a little easier for potential bidders.

 

Bill: Senate File 2288

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It lowers the amount a life insurance company can invest in foreign investors—with the exception of Canada—from 25% to 20%.    

Why it matters: Frankly, we’re not sure. There wasn’t much discussion on the floor in either chamber and no life insurance companies or insurance lobbying firms registered against it.

 

Bill: Senate File 2345

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Increases the conditions Iowa newborns are screened for and codifies a committee created to make sure the state keeps up with the latest federal recommendations for newborn screening.

Why it matters: Preventive medicine is often most effective, so finding health issues in babies before they surface could help a lot of families.

 

Bill: House File 2540

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Codified travel insurance in Iowa.

Why it matters: It lays out a clear legal definition for travel insurance policies and practices for Iowa.

 

Bill: House File 2167

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It updates legal language on autism spectrum disorder.

Why it matters: Iowa’s previous definition did not align with current mental health language criteria surrounding autism.

 

Bill: Senate File 2295

Date signed: April 21

What it does: An annual bill to update language in Iowa’s codebook.

Why it matters: It’s like installing updates on your phone, but for the law. 

 

Bill: House File 2463

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Another update to Iowa’s codebook.

Why it matters: See above.

 

Bill: Senate File 384

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Allows counties to share an assessor.

Why it matters: It’s sometimes difficult to find and recruit specialty positions such as assessor in rural Iowa, so this allows counties to team up to fill a need.

 

Bill: Senate File 2130

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It cleans up language about institutions registering with the Iowa College Student Aid Commission and updates refund policy language.

Why it matters: For-profit colleges have to fall in line with the refund policies other schools do as stipulated by Iowa Code.

 

Bill: House File 2124

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Removes out-of-date code language that gives the Iowa Department of Transportation authority to monitor air traffic control and airport site selection.

Why it matters: The law served no purpose since the Federal Aviation Administration has those responsibilities.

 

Bill: House File 2341

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It exempts insurance carriers and licensed vehicle dealers from needing an Iowa certificate of tile for vehicles purchased out of state.

Why it matters: If you bought a vehicle out of state, this makes it easier to transfer the vehicle titles to either a dealership or insurance provider.

 

Bill: Senate File 2176

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It cleans up Iowa Department of Natural Resource (DNR) code language around landfills and repeals two state programs that no longer insist. 

Why it matters: Instead of referring to dumps as “sanitary disposal project sites,” you now have to refer to them as “sanitary landfills.”

 

Bill: Senate File 2232

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It removes state requirements for the sale, lease, or rental of water treatment systems in Iowa, and requires vendors to adhere to the American National Standards Institute instead.

Why it matters: According to Sen. Mike Klimesh (R-Spillville) Iowa was the only state that required additional clarification and certification for water treatment systems to be sold.

 

Bill: Senate File 2245

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Updates the Meat/Poultry Inspection Act

Why it matters: It makes sure livestock producers are legally able to process animals for personal use without state oversight.

 

Bill: House File 2343

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It exempts property owners from providing a groundwater hazard statement to buyers if no such hazard exists.

Why it matters: It helps streamline the property transferring process. 

 

Bill: House File 728

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It prevents counties from enforcing penalties or fining residents who don’t comply with local laws about septic tank dumping.

Why it matters: The law was in response to an ordinance passed locally in Story County to try and regulate septic tank dumping and maintenance.  Supporters say Story County’s bill was an attack on rural areas while opponents say this bill erases local control and does not help with Iowa’s water quality issues.

 

Bill: Senate File 2296 

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Allows law enforcement agencies to search and seize garbage placed outside your home without a warrant.

Why it matters: This goes against an Iowa Supreme Court ruling that said this practice constituted unreasonable search and seizure and violated the Iowa Constitution.

 

Bill: House File 2367

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Updates the language used in the Iowa Drug Policy Coordinator job description and used by the Iowa Drug Policy Advisory Council.

Why it matters: It keeps the language in tone with current definitions and descriptions for substance abuse, and adds two new members to the advisory council.

 

Bill: Senate File 2128

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Updates language used to describe English-language learning students. 

Why it matters: It puts the code in compliance with the terminology used in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.

 

Bill: House File 2481

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Changes a number of judicial selection processes.

Why it matters: It changes a few ways for qualified candidates to apply to become judges and allows the governor to appoint six people—it was previously five—to district judicial nominating commissions, giving her bigger influence on the makeup of Iowa courts.

 

Bill: House File 2436

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Changes two words in an existing law related to emergency dispatchers.

Why it matters: It makes it easier for dispatch services to fill out certain state-required reports.

 

Bill: House File 2501

Date signed: April 21

What it does: It would allow the state to invest money in the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund.

Why it matters: Investing the $36-million fund could provide more money to support veterans and their families. 

 

Bill: Senate File 2267

Date signed: April 21

What it does: Repeals a pilot program for emergency response districts and allows governmental entities to create emergency response districts.

Why it matters: This bill allows townships, cities, and counties to be able to create emergency response districts to provide fire or emergency medical services to member entities. Joining forces can help lower costs and ensure enough service providers are available, especially in rural communities.

 

Bill: House File 2300

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It protects insurance benefits for dependents of members of the civil air patrol when members are deployed.

Why it matters: The civil air patrol was inadvertently left out of a previous version of this bill.

 

Bill: House File 2155

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It adds additional consumer protections for pre-need funeral services and streamlines some processes for funeral-related businesses.

Why it matters: If you pay for your or a loved one’s afterlife services in advance, this gives you another layer of legal protection especially if the funeral-service provider you are contracted with changes ownership.

 

Bill: House File 2330

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It gives employers the option to deliver health insurance documents to employees digitally.

Why it matters: The previous law required employers to deliver those documents in a physical format. This bill allows employers to deliver them virtually, but allows employees who prefer physical copies to opt for that option.  

 

Bill: House File 2172

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It allows health care facilities that self-identify and correct deficient practices before an on-site visit—and as long as no previous complaint related to the deficient practice has been filed with the state—to avoid certain citations and fines.   

Why it matters: This bill gives health care facilities a chance to fix issues before the state gets involved without giving them complete self-regulation.

 

Bill: House File 2399

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It limits organizations that cover health care costs from reneging on previously approved reimbursements after services have been provided, although there are exceptions.

Why it matters: According to Rep. Chris Hall (D-Sioux City), it makes improvements to prior authorizations—the management process used by insurance companies to determine if a prescribed product or service will be covered—and helps the average Iowan with healthcare reimbursements.    

 

Bill: House File 2217

Date signed: May 2 

What it does: It creates a methodology for the Iowa Insurance Division to oversee insurance companies in the state.

Why it matters: According to the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa is home to 181 insurance companies and those businesses are regulated by the Iowa Insurance Division. 

 

Bill: House File 2552

Date signed: May 2 

What it does: Modifies some Iowa Department of Revenue procedures.

Why it matters: This is an annual update from the Department of Revenue, which is basically Iowa’s version of the IRS. 

 

Bill: House File 2515 

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It allows the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to use the interest from its flood recovery budget to reimburse expenses for Iowa Flood Mitigation Board members.

Why it matters: Board members come from all over the state for meetings and can recoup certain expenses from interest rather than directly from flood recovery funds.

 

Bill: House File 2462

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It makes the penalties for manufacturing, possessing, or delivering heroin the same as methamphetamine. 

Why it matters: While heroin use in Iowa is relatively low—especially compared to meth—some lawmakers think this step would serve as a deterrent for heroin dealers while others argue this would exacerbate Iowa’s already racially disproportionate incarceration rates. The minority impact statement connected to the bill said it will have a “negative impact” on Black Iowans.

 

Bill: House File 2126

Date signed: May 2

What it does: This changes the name of Iowa’s annual financial report from the “state’s comprehensive annual financial report” to the “state’s annual comprehensive financial report.” 

Why it matters: Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) put it best during his floor remarks on this bill: “Ladies and gentlemen of the House, this could be the bill that we are remembered for this year.”

 

Bill: House File 364

Date signed: May 2

What it does: The NCAA approved name-image likeness (NIL) last summer which allows college athletes to make money on their image. This bill is designed to protect Iowa student-athletes as they navigate the process of working with an agent.

Why it matters: NIL is a new frontier for college sports and this bill and associated penalties—the civil penalty fine is up to $50,000—are designed to hopefully deter an agent from taking advantage of a student-athlete. 

 

Bill: House File 2079 

Date signed: May 2 

What it does: A person arrested for a sexual abuse charge can’t be released from custody until they appear before a magistrate judge. 

Why it matters: This change allows a magistrate judge to issue a temporary no-contact order between the alleged abuser and victim before the victim is released.  

 

Bill: Senate File 2322

Date signed: May 2

What it does: While it doesn’t specify an amount, this bill says public entities have to provide public records for a “reasonable cost” and free for requests that take less than 30 minutes to procure. 

Why it matters: Sometimes, local governments try to deter people from getting records by charging outlandish fees and this law can help circumvent that.

 

Bill: Senate File 2310

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It allows for the reorganizing of housing cooperatives.

Why it matters: According to State Rep. Eddie Andrews (R-Johnston) this simply rectifies an Iowa Code oversight.

 

Bill: Senate File 2233

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It changes the definitions of terms used for land surveyors in Iowa.

Why it matters: It puts Iowa in compliance with federal regulations.

 

Bill: House File 2469

Date signed: May 2

What it does: Corporations can now email notices to shareholders.

Why it matters: These notices were previously available via physical mail delivery. 

 

Bill: House File 2080

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It prevents K-12 public or charter schools from performing health screenings on students without written permission from their parents or guardian.

Why it matters: While on the surface this bill seems innocuous, it’s also part of Gov. Reynolds’ Parents’ Rights Movement and purposefully excludes private schools. 

 

Bill: House File 2516 

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It allows indigent people to have two court-appointed attorneys in certain cases as long as the second attorney comes from the wrongful convictions division. 

Why it matters: It helps Iowans of low means gain a better chance at due process in the courts.

 

Bill: House File 2258 

Date signed: May 2

What it does: Shrinks the size of the Iowa Council on Homelessness and updates the group’s functions.

Why it matters: At its previous size, the council had trouble having enough members show up to meetings to form a quorum which is required for it to approve any action item.

 

Bill: House File 2097

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It increases the number of days a person out on bail has to appear before they forfeit that money.

Why it matters: The previous law only gave defendants 10 days to appear and now they have 30.

 

Bill: House File 825 

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It makes it easier for judges to implement protective orders in domestic and sexual abuse cases.

Why it matters: According to State. Rep. Mary Wolfe (D-Clinton), this helps make it less traumatic for a person seeking a protective order. 

 

Bill: House File 2154

Date signed: May 2

What it does: Strengthen privacy provisions for members of Iowa’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) system for police and firefighters.

Why it matters: It keeps personal information—Social Security numbers, for example—of DROP members from being accessible via a public records request.    

 

Bill: House File 2390

Date signed: May 2 

What it does: Updating legal code for the Iowa Child Advocacy Board.

Why it matters: Another update to keep Iowa in line with federal regulations.

 

Bill: House File 2378

Date signed: May 2

What it does: It increases the purse money from horse races designated to the Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association from 2% to 4%. It also creates a fund for racehorses who retire.

Why it matters: Who doesn’t want to see former racehorses peacefully live out the rest of their lives at a nice stable?

 

Bill: House File 2201

Date signed: May 2

What it does: An annual update by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy on controlled substances.

Why it matters: Another update to keep up with federal regulations.  The bill is as dry as sandpaper but it does share the unpronounceable chemical names for a number of pharmaceutical drugs.

 

Bill: Senate File 2324

Date signed: May 2

What it does: Adds a legal definition of a real estate team—two or more licensed real estate agents—and requires those teams to display the name of the office or agency on any public marketing materials. 

Why it matters: There was no preexisting legal definition of a real estate team.

 

Bill: House File 2200

Date signed: May 12

What it does: Updates and expands a 2018 law that allows patients to contract directly with health care providers for certain services.  

Why it matters: This bill is NOT comparable to having health insurance. Think of regular health insurance as a buffet restaurant and think of this law as a reservation-only hipster dumpling joint with extremely limited seating. Keep both analogies in mind but replace food with health care coverage. 

 

Bill: Senate File 2369

Date signed: May 12

What it does: It increases the amount of time registered sex offenders, who go through the proper channels and procedures, must wait to apply for an opportunity to have their name removed from the registry.

Why it matters: It provides people who are considered low-risk for reoffending and who have done everything they were supposed to do legally a chance for a somewhat clean slate. 

 

Bill: Senate File 586

Date signed: May 12

What it does: It updates legal codes and regulations for the Iowa Division of Banking—the state’s banking regulator—to follow.    

Why it matters: This bill is 86 pages long and the section of Iowa Code it overhauls saw its last major changes in 1995… 

 

Bill: House File 2128

Date signed: May 17

What it does: By 2026, it will be mandated that all Iowa gas stations sell E15, which is gasoline blended with 15% ethanol, the corn-derived renewable fuel Iowa leads the nation in producing. 

Why it matters: Love it or hate it, ethanol isn’t going anywhere soon in Iowa and retains strong bipartisan support among Iowa’s elected officials. It will also lower the price you pay at the pump.

 

Bill: House File 2521 

Date signed: May 17

What it does: Creates regulation and transparency guidelines for staffing agencies that provide health care workers.

Why it matters: Lawmakers hope this bill will cut down on agencies overcharging when the state foots the bill for workers. It also requires those staffing agencies to register with the state, and it eliminates staffing agencies’ ability to put non-compete clauses in the contracts for their workers.

 

Bill: House File 736

Date signed: May 2 

What it does: If a person is considered eligible for Medicaid by a provider who has performed services on them but the person was not actually enrolled in the program, this creates a mechanism for the provider to recoup those expenses from the state. 

Why it matters: Iowa privatized its Medicaid system a few years back and it has not been a success, so bills such as this one are like trying to plug the hole on the side of the Titanic with your bare hands. 

 

Bill: House File 803

Date signed: May 17 

What it does: It updates definitions and regulations for physician assistants in Iowa.

Why it matters: It modernizes what a physician assistant is in Iowa and even gives them the right to issue a boxing license in Iowa.

 

Bill: House File 2562

Date signed: May 17 

What it does: It grants Iowans who live in mobile homes more rights.

Why it matters: People who live in mobile homes will have 90 days’ notice rather than 60 days’ notice when their landlord raises their rent, but it does nothing to combat the actual rent increases mobile home tenants have asked lawmakers to legislate.

 

Bill: House File 2475

Date signed: May 17

What it does: It lays out a clear process for a city’s mayor and city council—under unanimous consent—can remove a municipal utility board member. 

Why it matters: This bill was crafted in response to a situation in Indianola where two municipal Board of Trustee members were accused of misconduct. Interestingly enough, this law applies to every Iowa city with the exception of Des Moines.

 

 

by Ty Rushing
Originally published: 04/26/22
Updated: 05/18/22

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4 Comments on "Iowa Has Passed 70 New Laws This Year. Here’s What They Do"

  • I fear that the impacts of the zoning bill SF 2285 may be less benign than indicated by your “why it matters.” When the Iowa Farm Bureau pushes a bill, there are often if not usually good reasons for Iowa Democrats to hope it won’t pass. In this case, I suspect that progressive land-use planning may suffer. I hope I’m wrong.

  • The explanation of the septic tank bill HF 728 should have been better. I am disappointed in IOWA STARTING LINE.

    I am interested in septic issues and have followed the Story County ordinance rather carefully. Story County did what ALL Iowa counties should do, and that is require that septic tanks be adequately serviced at least every five years. It’s not a matter of “dumping,” it’s a matter of pumping. That means that a professional septic-service company needs to pump out the tank and ensure that the system is working, and it needs to be a company that is authorized to dispose of septic tank contents responsibly and legally.

    Septic tank systems, all of them, need regular adequate servicing to function properly. The Story County ordinance does not “try and regulate septic tank dumping and maintenance.” It DOES regulate septic tank pumping, maintenance, and waste disposal. The ordinance was carefully developed and enacted over several months, and it is very reasonable.

    Iowa septic systems that are so old that they no longer function, or don’t function because they are never or inadequately serviced, send untreated human waste and partly-treated human waste into Iowa waterways. I’ve seen gross photographs that showed very recognizable human feces and toilet paper bobbing in an Iowa creek.

    And there are THOUSANDS of rural septic systems in Iowa that fit that description, meaning they are old and/or unserviced. This is not a tiny problem. And the fact is that even well-maintained septic systems are more polluting than city sewage treatment plants. Rural septic system owners, and I’m one of them, have a responsibility to at least make sure our septic systems are working as well as possible. The money I pay to get my system serviced is money that I SHOULD pay.

    It’s true that some owners of old/unserviced septic tanks are lower-income Iowans. But those Iowans are still expected to keep their vehicles adequately maintained to meet road safety standards, for example. Keeping septic tanks maintained well enough that they aren’t sending raw human poop into the nearest creek is no different. It’s a matter of basic civic responsibility and public safety.

    And if the big concern is that some septic-tank owners just can’t afford to keep their poop out of creeks, Iowa needs to find a way to help pay for that. Ignoring the problem should not continue to be our official state policy.

    It’s outrageous that once again, so many members of the Iowa Legislature have demonstrated that to them, Iowa water quality doesn’t matter. All that matters is catering to their rural base. And this bill is a very sorry commentary on rural Iowa, if it really represents what rural Iowa voters want.

  • My long comment on H.F. 728 reflected disgust and anger that should have been aimed entirely at the Iowa Legislature, sorry. Here’s the very short version. If you like filthy surface water contaminated with untreated human feces and very high E.coli counts, this is your law.

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