Hello District 75 from the State Capitol!
The 2021 session of the 89th General Assembly ended just before midnight on May 19th. Last year, the legislature heard the voices of you, the citizens of Iowa, which set the agenda for hundreds of bills that were considered.
One of the first bills we passed this session was HF229/SF160, which gave parents the option of having their children attend 100% in-class learning, which was a huge improvement for learning. In February Governor Kim Reynolds signed House File 813 – Charter schools bill was signed into law in May by Governor Kim Reynolds, which creates an opportunity and a better fit for some students. On May 1st, 2019, the Los Angeles Daily News reported 86% of L.A. charter school graduates are eligible for state universities – two dozen points higher than L.A. union-run school districts. SF269 funded our schools with a 2.4% increase in SSA to $7,227 per pupil.
Among the details of the Education budget, HF 868 budgeted a $1.1 million increase to AEA’s for children’s mental health training for teachers and school personnel, $6 million increase to Community Colleges, $2.6 million to implement last year’s student behavior bill, and a $2 million increase for iJAG (Jobs for America’s Grads).
HF 802 – Prohibiting Gender and Race-based Stereotyping in Training and Curriculum bill, passed both legislative chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. This bill prohibits training or curriculum that present certain divisive concepts that rely on race or gender-based stereotypes as fact. It does not ban or limit diversity training or limit the teaching of African American history, as falsely claimed.
HF 744, which protects free speech in schools has been signed by the governor. Many students have been silenced and even punished for stating their thoughts. This bill provides additional free speech protections for students and staff, from K-12 to college campuses and requires free speech training at all Regent universities for students and faculty.
Other priorities that legislators heard from constituents were childcare issues. The House and Senate passed HF302, which addresses the “cliff effect” working parents’ experience. Sometimes a parent too often turns down a pay raise because it’s financially better when they receive government assistance also. SF619 passed both chambers which doubles the income eligibility for family income from $45,000 to $90,000 for childcare tax credits.
For Agriculture, we passed the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program updates as part of SF 619. It accomplishes several things, for example, increasing the cumulative lengths of renewed agreements from no more than 10 years to no more than 15 years. It also allows a taxpayer to receive a tax credit certificate for up to 15 years and with multiple agreements with different parties. Among other bills signed into law are IDALS private pesticide applicator updates, SF 482.
The major focus of SF 619 is reducing the tax burden on ALL Iowans, which both chambers sent to the governor’s desk. This bill removes the triggers from the 2018 tax reform bill which ensures income tax cuts for all Iowans and goes into effect on January 1, 2023. It phases out the very unfair and immoral inheritance tax over five years. I’ve submitted bills every year I’ve been in the legislature to get rid of this bad tax, and it’s finally happening!!! Legislators have heard many complaints about mental health tax included on property tax levies, and now it will be moved to the General Fund expenditures over the next two years.
The legislature kept its promise by passing SF 342 – Back the Blue – and sent it to the governor’s desk. This bill includes providing additional privacy protections for law enforcement officers (LEOs), criminalizes shining a laser into a police officer’s eyes, and increased penalties for violent rioting, blocking a roadway, destroying public property, harassing people in a place of public accommodation, and ensures LEOs cannot be prevented from carrying their firearm while on duty, and gives qualified immunity to officers who are operating within the law.
HF 861 is the Justice Systems Appropriations budget and was passed and sent to the governor’s desk. We increased funding the most in 10 years, such as $20.5 million increase for the Dept. of Corrections, $10.4 million increase for the Dept. of Public Safety, and allocates $2.5 million for the new Public Safety Equipment fund along with $2.5 million from the RIIF budget. All Senate Democrats voted for this budget, while all but one House Democrat voted no.
SF 413, Election Integrity bill, was passed and signed into law, which makes it easier to vote and harder to cheat. The early voting time is now 20 days, mandates registration maintenance, and prohibits ballot harvesting. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website (www.ncsl.org), the average time for states that have early voting is 22 days before the election, which puts Iowa’s early voting at almost the same.
In late January, we passed the Freedom Amendment, SJR 7, which protects our fundamental right to keep and bear arms. Iowa is one of only six states that does not have this in it’s Constitution. The voters of Iowa will now have the final say and will vote on this issue on the ballot in 2022.
The Firearms Omnibus Bill, HF 756, is now signed into law, and will almost guarantee an increase the number of background checks on gun purchases. Another highlight is Law enforcement officers cannot be prohibited from carrying on school grounds, on or off duty. This sends a message to potential criminals who want to commit heinous crimes.
The Mental Health Telehealth Parity bill was included in SF 619. This will make a big improvement in helping people who have physical or mental difficulties in getting to a healthcare provider.
I’m sure I’ve missed many important details, but these are just a few of the many bills passed to improve the lives of all Iowans.
On May 20th, Senator Dawn Driscoll and I was able to show 2021 Iowa Miss Agriculture Advocacy Ambassador Katelyn Folkmann of Newhall, a small tour of the State Capitol and also had a nice chat with Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. Katelyn is a wonderful spokesperson for Iowa agriculture and will be competing for National Miss United States Agriculture and National Miss Agriculture Ambassador in Orlando, FL later this month.
The State Legislature is now finished till we return to vote on the redistricting due to the U.S. Census conducted last year. We will vote on this in either August or September. Thank you to all of the citizens of District 75, it’s truly an honor to represent you, and I look forward to serving you in 2022!