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'Funnel week' recap: Reynolds' agenda largely advances

While Republicans found success ahead of the Friday deadline, Democrats say they're not optimistic moving into the rest of the session.

DES MOINES, Iowa — "Funnel week" proved to be a busy one for Iowa legislators. Feb. 18 serves as a deadline for legislation to pass through committees. The bills that don't make it out before the week ends are not eligible for debate moving forward, with some limited exceptions.

Reaction from leadership

Republican leaders said they went into the deadline feeling optimistic about what they put on the table. 

"Excited today that we're finishing up a very successful final week of the 2022 session," said Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny. "The governor laid out a very bold and ambitious agenda at the beginning of session. I'm very happy and proud that the Senate has advanced almost that entire agenda."

House Speaker Pat Grassley, R-New Hartford, said Republicans in his chamber also felt good about the progress made.

"As you're seeing right now, moving forward budget discussions and continued tax conversations will obviously be happening," Grassley said. "And then we'll take some time to regroup here after the funnel."

Democratic leadership, however, did not share the same optimism.

"There are some good bipartisan bills that are still alive that that I think could be amazing for Iowans and I hope those move forward," said House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights. "The ones that are going to get all the attention and all the oxygen are the ones that are particularly really bad for teachers and working families, and we're going to be fighting those."

"Republican politicians have broken their promise to address their own workforce crisis and have actually made it worse," said Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls, D-Coralville. "Whether it's pouring gasoline on the flames of the culture war, the endless attacks on public education or undermining the earned benefits of hardworking Iowans."

RELATED: Iowa House passes GOP-drafted 4% flat tax plan

Legislative outcomes

One of the first Republican successes was passing a school funding bill proposing a 2.5% increase from the current year. Democrats tried to amend the bill to increase the state aid by 5%, but all those attempts were voted down. 

Lawmakers will continue to consider a number of other education-related proposals. Both the House and Senate are considering bills that would bar transgender women and girls from playing women's and girls' sports in schools. 

A proposal from Senate President Jake Chapman, R-Adel, would fine or jail educators who allow materials in the classroom that the legislation deems obscene. Another bill aims to provide more transparency in the classroom by requiring schools to publish their materials and curriculum online.

"I think there's going to be at least three or maybe four bills related to this issue coming through funnel," Whitver said. "So clearly, there's interest in trying to address what we consider a concern, and a concern that parents have brought to us over and over again. Which bill survives, it's really hard to say, but I would expect one of those bills to ultimately pass."

Democrats say these proposals go to far.

"The problem in Iowa is not access to our educators and access to the classroom, it's vilifying teachers," Konfrst said. "It's saying that what is happening in classrooms is something that isn't actually happening in classrooms. So if we want to talk about transparency, let's figure out why it is that Republicans seem to be so intent on vilifying teachers, when teachers are just doing the best they can to teach kids in the best way they can."

A bill that would create vouchers allowing some families to use state education funds to pay private school tuition also passed the Senate Education Committee. It initially failed on the House side, until a last minute change moved it to the Appropriations Committee, keeping the chance for debate alive.

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