How to Make Your Voice Heard in the Iowa Senate
Bills are moving quickly through the legislature (too quickly, in many cases!), which means we need to hear from Iowans like you now more than ever.
When a bill is being considered in the Senate, it typically passes through three key stages of review and discussion. Below is a quick guide to understanding that process and making your voice heard.
Step 1: Subcommittee
Subcommittees are where we hear from you.
- The first step for most bills under consideration in the Senate is a subcommittee. This is where a small panel of lawmakers review the bill and take public comment. If you want to make your voice heard on the pros or cons of a bill, this is the place to do it!
- Subcommittees take place in person at the Capitol, but are usually streamed online as well, with time set aside for public comment.
- What do to: If you want to speak on a bill in subcommittee, you can attend in person or participate online. You can also leave written comments for lawmakers to read and consider.
- Find scheduled subcommittees here. Click “Agenda” for meeting details and the Zoom link. Click “Comments” to leave a comment.
Step 2: Committee
Committees are where we iron out the details.
- If a bill passes out of subcommittee (many don’t!) it’s heard by a full committee of senators. In the Senate, we have 17 standing committees focusing on various policy areas. Each committee has between 6 and 20 members, often with specific expertise in that issue area.
- In committee, senators discuss a bill and ask questions of the bill manager.
- Senators can also amend the bill in committee — that is, offer changes and additions to it based on what they’ve heard from constituents and experts.
- Committees take place in person at the Capitol but are also streamed online.
- What to do: Attend in person to show public interest on the issue. Contact senators on the committee to let them know what you think and how you want them to vote. Find committee schedules here. Click here to find senators’ contact information.
Step 3: The Floor
Floor debate is where we make our stand.
- A bill that passes committee is eligible for floor debate (although the floor leader decides when and if a bill actually comes up).
- If a bill is brought up for debate, the sponsor introduces it and then all 50 senators have a chance to speak and offer amendments to change it. At the end of debate, senators vote on whether or not to pass it.
- Floor debate is held in the Senate chamber and streamed online. Watch live here. Click here for archived floor debates.
- What to do: The Senate chamber galleries are open to the public. Attend in person or watch online. Contact your senator to make your voice heard.
Step 4: What Happens Next
- What happens after the Senate passes a bill depends on whether the bill has also been considered by the House.
- If the bill started in the Senate, it moves over to the House for further consideration.
- If it’s already passed the House, it moves on to the governor. The governor gets the final say on all legislation, choosing whether to sign it into law or veto it.
● Listening in Council Bluffs. This past weekend, Senate Democratic Leaders held our very first listening tour of 2023, traveling to Council Bluffs for a series of meetings with community leaders and everyday Iowans.
More than 40 people turned out for our listening session, where we had a great conversation on the hot buttons in the legislature and how we can push back against the most dangerous parts of Gov. Reynolds’ agenda.
We’ll be holding more events like these in communities across Iowa. Drop by when we’re in your town and, in the meantime, fill out our survey to let us know what’s most important to you!
● Expanding access to medical cannabis. A Senate subcommittee advanced a bill on Tuesday to expand access to medical marijuana in Iowa. SSB 1113 would add additional vaporizable options for patients, while also doubling the amount of licensed dispensaries in the State. This bipartisan bill is a crucial step to ensuring that Iowans have access to effective treatment for a variety of conditions, including epilepsy and PTSD.
● Maternal health bill falls short. Also on Tuesday, a Senate subcommittee considered parts of Gov. Reynolds’ maternal health package, including increased taxpayer support for controversial anti-abortion centers. While there are positive elements in the bill, many attendees expressed disappointment that a proposal from Senate Democrats to expand post-partum health coverage was not included. Read more about the bill here.
● Tax season is here. The Iowa Department of Revenue began processing tax returns on January 23, and Iowa income tax returns are due on May 1. The Department website is a good starting point to find tax forms and answers to all kinds of tax questions. The Tax Guidance section has been improved to allow taxpayers and tax professionals the ability to easily search for tax guidance. The Expanded Instructions section provides line by line details to help complete the IA 1040. And for tax year 2022, the What’s New? page addresses some of the most common filing questions about individual income tax changes.
● Safe at Home keeps survivors safe. Did you know Iowa provides address confidentiality for survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, assault, trafficking, and stalking? The Safe at Home program provides participants with a legal substitute address, mail-forwarding, and confidential voter registration and absentee voting. Visit SafeatHome.Iowa.gov to learn more.