Iowa lawmakers struggle to find common ground during funnel week

Published: Mar. 4, 2021 at 10:36 PM CST
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DES MOINES, Iowa (KCRG) - As funnel week comes to a close, Iowa house and senate leaders highlighted their biggest successes.

According to state Democrats, the caucus introduced more than 24 bills, but only one made significant progress: an exemption on COVID-19 unemployment benefits from state income tax.

Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley said the piece had tremendous bi-partisan support.

“Our caucus thought that it was a priority that we should make sure that Iowans that have already had to withstand what we have gone through the last year with COVID, we did not want to add that burden to them, so we passed that off the floor yesterday unanimously,” Grassley explained.

But that was about the only part both parties seemed to find common ground in during funnel week.

Democratic state senator Zach Wahls said his party is focused on COVID-19 relief, while the Republicans are more interested in social issues.

One of those bills is the “Back the Blue” bill, a bill that, as of now, does not include any provisions to address racial profiling despite Governor Kim Reynolds saying she would ban it during her Condition of the State address in January.

“The bills that they are putting forward are a broken promise, they are mean spirited, and they are making an issue that should not be partisan extraordinarily partisan,” senator Wahls said. “These are bills that are going to make it more difficult for law enforcement officers to keep the people of our state safe.”

House Speaker Grassley, though, said he has heard otherwise.

“In my conversations with members of the committee there were some concerns with what the impacts may be and how that would impact law enforcement and the ability to do their job,” he mentioned.

Another example senator Wahls put forward is a bill that would get rid of gun permit requirements in Iowa.

”I know this is funnel week but maybe we should call it “jump the shark week” because I think that is what is happening right now,” Wahls said. “The idea that you are going to run a bill through a committee, called the public safety committee, to get rid of the permitting process for requiring hand guns, if that is not jumping the shark I do not know what is.”

On the other hand, Grassley said his party has focused on meeting the promises from the 2020 campaign, which includes school choice, though the Students First Scholarship bill did not receive enough support this time around.

“Obviously we want to continue to engage in conversations that increase parental choice in education,” he said. “But as we sit here right now we did not have the support on the education committee to move that piece out.”

Friday marks the first funnel deadline of the 2021 legislative session.

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