Trend continues of bills being fast tracked under GOP supermajority

In the 2023 legislative session, the GOP-dominated Iowa Senate and House have passed a combined 20 bills in the first 4 weeks.
Published: Feb. 5, 2023 at 6:44 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - This legislative session, the GOP-dominated Iowa House and Senate have passed a combined 20 bills in the first four weeks. It’s a new trend of early-session bill passage that KCRG-TV9 found started over the last two general assemblies.

In the first year of the 2021 assembly, 27 bills were passed out of the House or Senate in the first four weeks. In the previous three assembles, only nine bills were signed: 0 in the first four weeks of 2019, 5 bills in the first four weeks of 2017, and 4 in the first four weeks of 2015.

“Voters are desperate for political leadership, and Republicans are providing that political leadership,” Republican Rep. Jeff Shipley, representing parts of southeast Iowa in District 90, said.

Shipley was first elected in 2019. That year, the legislature didn’t pass a single bill in the first four weeks of the session. 47 bills passed during the beginning of the last two general assemblies combined under a Republican supermajority.

“I think things are moving pretty quickly, but a lot of these discussions are the culmination of a lot of months or years of discussion with Iowans,” Shipley said.

Shipley pointed to the Governor’s “Students First Act” already signed into law. It created a voucher system for public funds to help students go to private schools instead of public ones. That bill was the center of discussion at the end of the last session.

“The Governor’s ‘Students First Act,’ the educational savings account, is something that we have been talking about for several years,” Shipley said. “It’s been a conversation since I got into office in 2019.”

Democratic leaders said that was still too fast, cutting out public conversation and debate.

“This legislature has dozens of new lawmakers who deserved the opportunity to go through a more thorough conversation about a law that was going to fundamentally transform Iowa’s public education system for the worse,” Iowa Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls said.

Wahls said the whole process had changed since Republicans no longer needed to work across the aisle to get things done.

“We’re not supposed to start floor debate, according to, basically, how things were done in the past, until the Spring,” Wahls said. “This was a very very different way of governing, and I would say they don’t want to govern. They want to rule. We need to end one-party rule in Iowa.”

What Democrats like Wahls called frustrating, Republicans called it getting things done with the endorsement of Iowa voters.

“I think you’re going to see a lot more legislation on a lot of different topics,” Shipley said. “I think Republicans are just getting started, but that’s because of voters who sent us to do a job.”