From school choice to addressing mental health care availability, property tax reform and child care, a number of bills have been introduced early on in the 2023 Legislature. Here is just some of what you need to know from the first two weeks of the session.

  • School choice: Lawmakers quickly took up one of Gov. Kim Reynolds' priorities for this session and subcommittees in both chambers approved the measure that would create education savings accounts for families who want to send their child to a private school. The state would contribute nearly $7,600 to the account, equal to the amount of funding the state provides for each child who attends a public school. If signed into law, the program would be phased in over three years with the cost of the program in the third year estimated at $341 million. The House Education Reform Committee passed the measure, which will go to the House floor as House File 68 for debate next week. The Senate Education subcommittee approved the Senate version of the bill on Jan. 12, and on Thursday the Senate Appropriations Committee recommended passage of the Senate version of the plan.

  • Mental Health: House Study Bill 1012 was introduced, which would allow Iowa to join a national compact that would increase the number of mental health providers in the state. Increasing mental health availability was listed as a top priority by some of the state’s business groups before the start of the session.

  • Food Insecurity:House File 3 was introduced. It would limit SNAP recipients to buying only those products allowed under the Women, Infants and Children program. WIC doesn’t allow recipients to buy packaged meat or frozen or processed foods. The program covers staples such as milk, cereal, bread, baby formula and food, and juice. It also allows recipients to purchase block cheese, string cheese and shredded cheese, but not sliced cheese. It does not cover cooking staples like flour, butter, salt, herbs and spices. It also also does not covered bottled water. While it does not allow meat, it does include canned tuna and salmon and baby food that contains meat. Recipients would only be allowed to purchase bulk rolled oats but not instant oatmeal. The bill would provide $1 million to the Double Up Food Bucks program, which allows Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit recipients to match purchases of fresh produce, up to $10 a day. The measure also contains a provision for asset verification of SNAP recipients and for recipients to cooperate with the Child Support Recovery unit to be eligible for benefits. If approved, the bill would make participation in the SNAP employment and retraining program mandatory instead of voluntary. If approved by the Legislature, the bill would still need approval from the USDA before it could be enacted.

  • Regulatory reform: In her Condition of the State address, Reynolds called for streamlining of state agencies and administrative code. On Jan. 11, she signed an executive order placing a moratorium on the writing of additional state code, and for a review of existing rules. This week she announced the merger of the Iowa Veterans Home and the Department of Veteran Affairs.

  • Property Tax Reform:House File 1 was introduced on Jan. 11. Property tax reform was among the top priorities of business groups, hoping to build off individual and corporate income tax reform that was passed during the 2022 session. The groups said reforming property taxes would be the next step needed to make the state more competitive.

  • Workforce reentry:House File 15 would create "pathways to education and employment reentry program" that would be administered by community colleges, which would work with the state corrections department to provide educational and employment opportunities in the community to people leaving the corrections system. The goal is to reduce recidivism and develop the state’s workforce.

  • Child care: House File 47 would exempt income tax from wages earned by people providing child care services. The House Ways and Means subcommittee is scheduled to consider the bill on Jan. 25.

  • Transgender issues:House File 8 prohibits teaching of gender identity and sexual orientation through third grade. House File 9 requires schools to have parental consent before accommodating a student who is considering transitioning genders or who has done so.