Sine Die: ABI Session Wrap-Up

April 22, 2017

ABI's historic session is in the books

The Iowa Legislature  adjourned the 2017 session sine die at 7:16 a.m. on Saturday, April 22 after a nearly 24-hour push to wrap things up (the Iowa House convened at 8:37 on Friday morning).

The Legislature, controlled by Republicans in the Iowa House and Senate, passed several landmark pieces of legislation. From the beginning, the Iowa Association of Business and Industry worked closely with lawmakers to promote policies important to our members, and this legislative session will go down as one of the most pro-business, pro-jobs years in recent history. ABI registered on more than 300 bills during the legislative session.

Here is a snapshot of ABI's legislative priorities from 2017 and how they turned out:

ABI's top priority this year was to reform Iowa's workers' compensation law and bring balance back to the system, which benefits employees and employers. ABI continues to support and lead the way on public/private partnerships to educate students and parents about post-high school careers.

HF 518: Reforms workers' compensation laws, passed the legislature and signed by Gov. Terry Branstad late last month. For a summary of ABI's top legislative priority  click here.

HF 572:  Conforms the Iowa Workforce Development Board with the federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), requiring more business representation and ensuring Iowa doesn't lose out on more than $40 million in federal money. The bill was signed by the governor on April 11.

SF 32:  Allows for use of hair for drug testing prospective employees. The bill passed the House 75-20 and Senate 35-15.

HF 524: Provides for employer protections in expanded medical cannabis legislation that was passed on the last night of session. It has been sent to Gov. Branstad for review.

SF 274: Computer science bill that encourages schools at all levels to offer computer science classes. The legislation passed the House 95-3 and Senate 49-0. It has been sent to Gov. Branstad for review.

Competitive Business Climate
A key component of low unemployment and a qualified workforce is a competitive business climate that will retain Iowa companies and attract new businesses and talent to the state. To that end, ABI membership sought ways to simplify, streamline and modernize Iowa's laws and regulations during the legislative session.

HF 295: Preempts county and local government ordinances on employment policies, like minimum wage, to prevent a patchwork of local ordinances on these topics. The bill passed the House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Branstad on March 30. 

HF 533: Clarifies an Iowa Supreme Court case that would change how unemployment filings work at Iowa Workforce Development. The bill passed the Iowa House and Senate and was signed by the governor on April 13. For a full summary of the bill, click here .

HF 542:Increases the amount needed to re-qualify for a second benefit year of unemployment benefits from $250 to eight times the individual's weekly amount. Iowa had the lowest qualifying amount for benefits in the country. The bill was signed on April 13.

HF 652 : ABI was also successful at preventing changes to business tax credits without comprehensive tax reform. This legislation, which would cap economic development tax credits and eliminate refundability for most Research Activities Credit recipients, was tabled until a broader discussion of comprehensive tax reform can take place.

HF 478 : Eliminates the sunset on the property assessment appeals board (PAAB) and changes how protests are treated at the local level was passed by the House and amended by the Senate. The House accepted the Senate amendment and the bill will now go to the governor.
ABI also advocated for tort reform measures in the legislature and you can see a list of those bills here.

Environmental Investment & Accountability
A quality environment not only enhances the attractiveness of Iowa as a location for business and industry, but it also adds to the quality of life and enjoyment of all who live and work here. This legislative session, ABI was able to hold the line on DNR air quality fees and work to reduce the cost of the monitoring network.

From a legislative perspective, two versions of water quality legislation aimed at helping reduce nutrients in Iowa's water passed their respective chambers. In the end, the House and Senate could not agree and water quality legislation did not advance. Appropriations for air and water quality initiatives were included in budget bills that passed this session.

By the Numbers: ABI's 2017 Legislative Session

ABI lobbyists: 3
Number of bills tracked: 301
Number of bills supported: 70
Number of bills opposed: 47
Number of bills passed by both chambers: 20
Hours of debate watched: More than 350
Number of hours spent lobbying on behalf of ABI members: more than 2,700

End of session remarks

The Iowa House and Senate leaders provided end of session remarks as they closed out the first session of the 87th General Assembly. To read their remarks as printed in the journal, click below.

Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer
House Majority Leader Chris Hagenow
House Minority Leader Mark Smith
Senate President Jack Whitver
Senate Majority Leader Bill Dix
Senate Minority Leader Rob Hogg

30-day veto window

Now that session is over, Gov. Branstad has 30 days to veto or approve bills received in the last three days of session. He can veto a whole bill or item veto specific appropriations or policy language in an appropriations bill. During this time, the governor and his staff will carefully review the language to ensure it fits within the state's budget targets. Groups who want items signed or vetoed typically use that time to send letters of support or opposition to the governor. If he vetoes or item vetoes a bill, he provides an explanation of the reason for the veto. Bills have enactment dates of July 1, unless otherwise specified. Here is an overview of budget bills from the business perspective.

Standings Appropriations (SF 516): The catch-all budget and policy bill is typically the last train out of the legislative station before adjournment. This year's standings bill had a few policy provisions including vapor products and an alcohol beverage study. The legislation also addresses eminent domain for merchant lines and makes several corrective provisions.

Economic Development Appropriations (SF 513): The more than $38 million economic development budget bill contains appropriations for several departments, including the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa Workforce Development, the Department of Cultural Affairs and the Iowa Finance Authority.  SF 513 appropriates $1,000,000 for STEM internships, which maintains the current level of funding.The legislation contains several provisions pertaining to Iowa Workforce Development including an appropriation authorizing the use of  $9.6 million in federal Reed Act dollars from the Unemployment Trust Fund for use to improve the Workforce Development IT system, and an authorization to use $1,060,000 in interest from the Unemployment Trust Reserve Fund to cover administrative expenses for field offices. The bill also authorizes the use of an additional $597,000 in Reed Act dollars for use for administration of the unemployment offices. 

Health and Human Services Appropriations (HF 653): Contains an interim study committee on the opioid abuse epidemic in Iowa, including prescribing. A report is due to the Legislature in November 2017.

Education Appropriations (SF 511): Appropriates more than $1 billion from the general fund to Department of Education, Board of Regents, College Student Aid Commission, Department for the Blind, and the Skilled Worker and Job Creation Fund. The legislation contains more than $2.5 million in funding for Career and Technical Education support to secondary schools. It also includes funding of approximately $650,000 for Jobs for America's Graduates. That is a slight decrease from last fiscal year. The community colleges received an increase of $1.7 million from last fiscal year and their funding is $200 million dollars for FY 2018.The University of Northern Iowa will receive more than $5 million to implement STEM initiatives.

Two ways to learn about the outcome of the 2017 session

Final Legislative Update Teleconference
Get the latest information on this year's legislative session and what it means for Iowa businesses during ABI's final legislative teleconference on April 28 a 8 a.m. If you've registered for a past teleconference this year, you're already signed up to receive call-in information. If you haven't participated, but want to join us Friday, RSVP to Michelle Vollstedt,

Regional public policy meetings begin May 2
So far, ABI has scheduled four meetings throughout the state. The ABI public policy team will provide analysis on the session and listen to member feedback for the 2017 session. Each meeting includes a meal. These events are free for members and $20 for non-members. You can register here.

May 2 | Muscatine 
May 2 | Fairfield
May 9 | Des Moines
May 9 | Atlantic