There will be no debate in the Iowa House this week due to the impasse over a plan to create state scholarships to cover private school expenses for 10,000 students.
The proposal is Governor Kim Reynolds’ top priority. Republicans in the Senate have endorsed it, but there aren’t enough Republicans in the House who will vote for the bill. The speaker of the House says discussions about the budget and other policy decisions are on hold as a result.
Democrats, who occupy about 39 percent of the 150 seats in the legislature, aren’t part of the negotiations, if any are happening. “We’re at ‘Let’s Make A Backroom Deal’ time,” says Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City.
Senator Bill Dotzler, a Democrat from Waterloo, suggests the negotiating strategy the governor and Senate Republicans are using will backfire.
“The House isn’t here. They aren’t here. They don’t want to get beat up on,” Dotzler says. “They don’t want to change their votes on some of these bills, so playing chicken with them isn’t the right way to do stuff.”
The governor and Senate Republicans have agreed on a one-week delay in sending out a person’s first unemployment check along with reducing the maximum duration of benefits from 26 to 16 weeks. House Republicans passed a bill that would cut 10 weeks off unemployment benefits, but omitted the one-week delay. Senator Jesse Green, a Republican from Boone, says it’s a rarity for a Republican governor to have Republicans occupying more than 60% of the seats in the legislature.
“This is a very unique moment in Iowa political history,” Green says. “The last time we had a trifecta this large was in 1972. It was exactly 52 years ago this year, so Iowans are expecting something different out of Republicans this year, something pretty special.”
Green says GOP leaders should take as much time as they need to reach an agreement on the governor’s top priority. House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights says the longer the stalemate lasts, the worse it will be for Iowans.
“It is silly and irresponsible to keep this legislative session open just because the governor has a wish that she’s not going to get this legislative session,” Konfrst says. “It is disrespectful and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.”
Konfrst says it would make more sense to focus attention on affordable housing and child care issues. “I don’t see that happening,” Konfrst says. “I know Iowans are frustrated. They see this as politics as usual.”
Today is the 100th day of the 2022 legislative session.