This was the eleventh week of the legislative session. Last Friday, the Revenue Estimating Conference met. It is a panel that gives us the budget overlook as we start preparing our budgets for the next fiscal year. Because of the pro-growth policies passed throughout the last several years, Iowa has seen growth even through these last several months, and is predicted to see growth in the coming year. This is great news as we work towards tax relief for Iowans and their families.
Over the last several years responsible, conservative budgets have passed while continuing to fund priority areas, like education, health care, and public safety. This conservative budgeting has earned Iowa the ranking of the most fiscally sound, most resilient state in the nation in a July 2020 study by the Council of State Governments. This budget continues that trend and continues dedicating funding to the areas most important to Iowans.
For a little look into what my week was like, Monday afternoon was spent in floor debate. The bill I ran in floor debate on Monday was HF 559. There was also other important pieces of legislation that were debated that afternoon which I will talk about later.
Wednesday, my son, Andy, came to see me working as a state senator. It was a great day for him to come as I had a Natural Resources and Environment Committee meeting and I am the vice chair of this committee. Andy was able to watch me run a bill in the committee meeting and I think it was a great learning experience for him as he got to see some of the steps a bill takes as it goes through the Senate. We spent the rest of the day giving him a tour and showing him what an average day at the Capitol is like. I think he enjoyed seeing me in action as well as getting to know the other legislators!
Cutting Property Taxes and Funding Mental Health
Another important piece of legislation that the Senate advanced was Senate Study Bill 1253, which cuts property taxes for Iowans and allocates additional funding for mental health in Iowa. Providing property tax relief for Iowans along with finding sustainable and affordable solutions for mental health have been priorities for legislators for several years. This last year has shown us just how important is to bring real relief and changes to both these systems. Homeowners have watched their valuations rise over the years, and more and more Iowans struggled with their mental health while dealing with challenges during the pandemic.
Senate Study Bill 1253 provides more state funding for mental health, simplifies the tax code and cuts property taxes for Iowans by over $100 million. In the first year, the bill provides $60 million in state funding for mental health and $125 million in the second year, while ensuring additional funding moving forward. Additionally, this bill eliminates property tax levies to ensure real property tax relief for Iowans, removes triggers from the 2018 tax bill, provides tax relief for middle-income Iowans, and puts more money back in the pockets of Iowans.
Improving Gun Policy for Law-Abiding Iowans
This week the Senate also advanced a bill aimed at protecting an important constitutional right. House File 756 eases restrictions for law-abiding gun owners in Iowa. This bill makes a number of changes to firearms laws in the state and, as with many issues, also comes with much misinformation about what the bill does.
The most common misrepresentation implies this bill eliminates or reduces the amount of background checks for Iowans. This claim is the direct opposite of the reality of the bill. HF 756 increases the amount of possible background checks because it permits Iowans to acquire a gun with either a permit to acquire, a permit to carry, or a national instant background check. Current law only uses either a permit to acquire or a permit to carry and those cards are valid for five years. An Iowan can purchase a weapon any time during that period without an update. The national instant background check process quickly identifies any change to the eligibility of someone to purchase a firearm, for example, criminal activity or a determination by a court of mental illness. The permits to carry and acquire are not updated with the same frequency.
This bill also puts more guardrails around private sales of guns by stating sellers break the law if they knowingly or should have known if the person to whom they sold the gun was ineligible to purchase a firearm. It also created a crime of having a firearm on school grounds unless the person is a member of law enforcement or the firearm is unloaded or inaccessible. Ultimately, the purpose of this bill was to reduce barriers for law-abiding gun owners to exercise their Constitutional rights and implemented other common-sense provisions to ensure the rights of law-abiding Iowans.
As always, please feel free to contact me with comments or questions about the issues important to you or the legislation we are talking about here at the Capitol.