From Bad To Worse, What Survived Iowa’s Legislative Funnel

The good, the bad, and the much worse would be an apt description of this year’s legislative session, and many of those bad or worse bills survived last week’s legislative funnel, a deadline requiring proposals to have passed through at least a subcommittee and committee hearing.

Earlier today advocates and activists joined Moral Mondays Iowa on Facebook Live to highlight which bills have continued, and what that will mean for those issues going forward.

The Facebook Live was hosted by Connie Ryan, the executive director at the Interfaith Alliance Action Fund, and the coalition that supports Moral Mondays Iowa.

Reproductive rights:

The bill amending Iowa’s Constitution to say the state doesn’t support abortion passed the funnel in both chambers.

Another bill, HF 383, concerns informed consent for medication abortions. That means pregnant women have to give written certification that they were told about the risks of a medication abortion and that it can be reversed.

The bill also requires that all of that information be readily available for women, and for signs to inform pregnant women that abortion can be avoided.

This one is eligible for debate in the House.

On a positive note for this issue, HF 434, would let pharmacists give birth control to adults over 18 without a doctor’s prescription. This bill is also eligible for debate in the House.

LGBTQ rights:

None of the negative proposed bills passed through the legislature. 

Each would have negatively impacted transgender Iowans, whether it affected their ability to use their bathroom of choice at school or to participate in school sports. 

In fact, a piece of legislation that passed through the funnel would be good for LGBTQ Iowans.

HF 310 would remove the “gay/trans panic defense,” meaning that a person can’t use someone’s sex, sexual orientation or gender identity as a defense for committing assault or another violent crime.


On this issue, a lot of legislation passed through the legislature. Most related to expanding charter schools in Iowa, eliminating diversity programs and establishing a scholarship program for non-public schools.

Again, a positive thing passed the funnel, too. This one relates to English Language Learners (ELL) and it increased the amount of funding the students get. The idea passed both the House (HF 605) and the Senate (SF 544)

Civil rights:

As activists and legislators have noted, civil rights saw the most backslide during this legislative session.

The big election bill, policing bills and a first amendment bill fall under this umbrella.

The election bill, decreasing the window for applying for and submitting absentee ballots, decreasing the number of drop-off boxes, decreasing the time polls are open on Election Day and increasing penalties on auditors and people helping others vote, passed both chambers and is on its way to Gov. Kim Reynolds today.

When it comes to the First Amendment, one of those bills in the House (HF 802) would limit what organizations can teach in diversity training programs about implicit bias and privilege.

Another (HF 744) simply states a commitment to respecting the First Amendment for students, faculty and educators. It also provides that some groups get specific training on the First Amendment.

The Senate combines those two House bills in one, SF 478.

Policing and protestors have also been hot topics. SF 497 (now SF 534) was explicitly called out in the Facebook Live for its increased liability protections for police and increased penalties on protestors, including raising more behavior, like property damage, to potential felony charges.

The bill also provides immunity for drivers who injure a person “who is participating in a protest, demonstration, riot, or unlawful assembly or who is engaging in disorderly conduct and is blocking traffic in a public street or highway.”

The bill includes many aspects of Reynolds’ “Back the Blue” plan, but without the provisions banning racial profiling.

There are bills in the House with similar effects, including one that increases the criminal penalties for blocking roads and sidewalks without lawful authority.

A common refrain from the issue advocates was to remember that any legislation that didn’t pass the funnel could come back in the form of amendments or add-ons.  

The advocates also urged people to contact their legislators and the governor to share what they think about the bills.

“There are a lot of really bad bills that didn’t survive, but this is what we’re left with. All in all, pretty good but as my colleagues have said there are ways to bring bills back from the dead,” said Jamie Burch Elliott, the director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood North Central States. “So keep your eyes peeled. Just because it’s dead doesn’t mean it’s gone forever.”  

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