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How Legislative Funnel Deadlines Keep Key Policies Alive During the Legislative Session

Legislative Deadlines

March 9, 2021

At the start of each General Assembly, the Iowa Legislature passes a resolution approving self-imposed deadlines to ensure each legislative session ends in approximately 110 or 100 days, depending on if it is the first or second year of the General Assembly. The first session of the 89th General Assembly is 2021, and as such, one of the first bills introduced, House Concurrent Resolution 10 outlines the timeline, rules and procedures for the General Assembly.

Legislative Procedures Prior to the Governor Receiving a Bill

Before the governor can sign a bill into law, it must complete various legislative procedures. When a bill is filed in either chamber, it must first be assigned to a specific committee. The committee chair then appoints a subcommittee made up of at least three members. The subcommittee members are the first to consider the legislation and hear public input. If a majority of the subcommittee agrees, the bill can then be considered by the full committee. Only after a bill passes committee may it be considered on the floor of the respective chamber in which it was introduced. If the bill passes with majority support in the originating chamber, it is sent to the opposite chamber, where it must complete the same process before the governor can sign the bill into law or veto the bill. Both chambers must pass identical versions of the bill in order for the governor to receive it.

Self-Imposed Deadlines for the Iowa Legislature

Since Iowa has a citizen legislature, both chambers agree upon several self-imposed deadlines to ensure the process moves efficiently. Adjourning on time allows legislators to return to their home districts, families and full-time jobs for the remainder of the year before returning to the Capitol once again the following January.

Legislative Funnel Deadlines

One of the most essential agreed-upon deadlines for the legislature is the legislative funnel. For each General Assembly, both chambers are required to meet two funnel deadlines. This year, the first funnel fell on the eighth week of session, ending Friday, March 5, 2021. The second funnel deadline will be during the twelfth week, ending Friday, April 2, 2021.

During the first funnel, bills in either chamber must pass out of their originating committee in the originating chamber. Any bills that fail to reach this milestone before the March 5 deadline are no longer eligible to be considered at any level during the remainder of the session. There are exceptions to the funnel deadlines. Any legislation assigned to either chamber's Ways and Means, Appropriations or Government Oversight Committees and a few other less common exceptions are funnel proof, meaning they are not subject to either the March 5 or April 2 deadlines.

After the first funnel deadline, each chamber will see much more floor debate and pass bills off the floor to the opposite chamber. Subcommittee and committee meetings will primarily consider legislation sent from the opposite chamber from this point forward.

The second funnel deadline this year will fall on April 2. Like the first funnel deadline, bills must pass out of the subcommittee and committee by the second funnel deadline to remain eligible. However, the significance of the second funnel is to ensure bills are passed out of committee in the opposite chamber they were introduced in. For example, a senate file passed by the Senate and sent to the House must pass out of the House committee by the second funnel deadline to be eligible for any further debate. The same exceptions exist for the second funnel as for the first.

Each year, legislators file hundreds of bills during the first two months of the session; these legislative funnel deadlines ensure that only bills receiving significant interest and movement continue to be considered. The funnel deadlines help leadership in both chambers identify caucus members' priorities and ensure leadership priorities are being given adequate attention.

Additionally, the legislative funnels help give the public an idea of what is likely to be passed in the session's final weeks. Lobbyists at the statehouse work diligently to ensure client priorities survive the first and second funnels. With hundreds of bills filed, the majority will die during the funnel process, allowing legislators to pass key legislation before heading home.

With the completion of the first funnel last week, many of the Governor's priorities identified during the Condition of the State Address remain alive in one or both chambers. Some key policies surviving include broadband internet expansion, workforce affordable housing, childcare availability reform and COVID-19 relief for Iowans. Many bills receiving media attention at the local and national level did not survive the funnel, such as the bathroom restrictions bill and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Casey Nickel

Casey Nickel is the legislative coordinator at the Nyemaster Goode law firm. Before joining Nyemaster Goode, Casey worked for Iowa State Senator Amy Sinclair, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst and the Ames Chamber of Commerce.