DES MOINES, Iowa — One of Governor Reynolds’ key legislative priorities was defeated at the State Capitol Thursday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee, lead by Urbandale Republican Brad Zaun, declined to vote on House Joint Resolution 14, effectively killing the bill for the remainder of the year. This is a funnel week at the legislature. Any non-budget bills that don’t make it out of committee by the end of the week are ineligible for debate for the rest of the session.
The bill called for an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to guarantee that felons will have their voting rights restored automatically once they’ve completed their sentence. The state currently operates under an executive order signed by Terry Branstad that requires felons to apply to the governor to have their rights restored. Governors Culver and Vilsack before Branstad operated under a different executive order that automatically restored rights.
Governor Reynolds released this statement after learning of the bill’s fate today:
“I am disappointed in today’s setback, but I will not give up the fight for Iowans who deserve a second chance. It’s encouraging to have a strong coalition of supporters backing our proposed constitutional amendment. There’s more work to do, but I am committed to getting this done.”
Today’s news doesn’t necessarily delay the constitutional amendment from making it to a ballot. To do so, a bill must pass in both the House and Senate in successive Legislatures. Next year’s legislative session will still be part of the current Legislature. The lawmakers elected after the 2020 election will make up a new legislature. If the bill passes next year and again in 2021 it would be eligible to appear on a ballot.
Governor Reynolds has said she will not use her executive power to give voting rights back now because she thinks voters should make the decision.