New Laws Take Effect July 1
11 New Laws Iowans Should Know About
Dozens of new laws will take effect on July 1, the start of the state’s new fiscal year.
A number of bi-partisan bills were passed during the 2021 Legislative Session that directly benefit or help Iowans.
Expanded Access to Child Care
- Increases rates for child care facilities that support parents working, looking for work, or getting new job skills through child care assistance (HF 891)
- Expands CCA to working families so they can earn more money without losing all child care benefits, reducing the cliff effect (HF 302)
Opportunities for Firefighter and Fire Departments
- Increased the volunteer Firefighter/EMT/Reserve Peace Officer Tax Credit from $100 to $250 (SF 619)
- New grants become available for local fire departments for new safety equipment (HF 761)
Lifetime Trout Fishing Stamp
- Established a lifetime trout fishing stamp for Iowans over the age of 65 (HF 234)
Original Birth Certificates Now Accessible
- Provides a process for certain adoptees to receive a copy of an original birth certificate (HF 855)
Mental Health Availability Increase
- Requires mental health services provided by telehealth to be covered at the same rate as services taking place in-person at a health care facility (SF 619)
New Business Opportunities
- Expands the number of retail locations for beer manufacturers, distillers, and wineries which is a boom for rural Iowa (HF 768)
Unfortunately, there are a few bills going into effect July 1 that were pushed by the special interests and many Iowans oppose. Those include:
- A new plan that funnels money from public schools to privately run charter schools (HF 813)
- Eliminates the requirement for a state permit to buy handguns or carry firearms in most public places (HF 756)
- Allows any parent to teach their kid driver’s education instead of a certified instructor (SF 546).
For more information and a full list of bills, log on to iowahouse.org.
Needed Help for Child Care Providers on the Way
More federal money has been released to help child care providers across the state. This additional assistance includes:
- Increased Child Care Assistance (CCA) rates
- Stipends to help with COVID-19 recovery
- More education opportunities for child care providers
Beginning July 1, 2021, CCA providers across the state will receive an extra $12.4 million in rate increases. They will also receive unlimited absent days for CCA children until August 31, 2021. Providers will continue to receive monthly stipends until August 31, 2021 to help with recovery efforts from the pandemic.
Finally, the T.E.A.C.H and Child Care WAGE$ program will expand statewide. This program provides educational opportunities and education-based salary supplements to the early childcare workforce.
Tuition Hike Proposed at U of I, ISU, and UNI
After the Governor and Republican-led Legislature froze state funding increases for next year, the Iowa Board of Regents announced a big tuition hike for students at Iowa’s three public universities. Last year, the Regents were forced to absorb an $8 million cut and this year they received no increase in state funding. The Regents had requested lawmakers restore the $8 million cut last year and add $18 million to keep tuition low for students.
During the pandemic, the University of Iowa (U of I), Iowa State University (ISU) and the University of Northern Iowa (UNI), froze tuition, but can no longer afford to do so. For in-state residents, the initial proposal calls for a 3.5% increase ($283 per student) at the U of I and ISU, and an $1.5% increase ($115 per student) at UNI. Tuition will also be higher for out of state students.
It remains to be determined, despite the tuition increase placed on students and their families, if additional cuts to programs or services will be needed. The Regents will decide their final action of the proposed tuition increases on July 28.
U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act
For the third time since 2010, the United States Supreme Court voted to uphold the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and protect health care for millions of Americans. In a 7-2 ruling, the Court reversed a lower court ruling that had struck down the law’s individual mandate provision, citing that none of the state plaintiffs showed injury from the law.
The court ruling comes as a major victory for millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions who were at risk of losing their health care, especially as COVID recovery continues. The ruling affirms that the ACA is stronger than ever and here to stay.
Despite Governor Reynolds calling the ACA unsustainable, unworkable, and unaffordable, Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia in filing a brief requesting the Supreme Court uphold the ACA.
Currently, 1.3 million Iowans have a pre-existing condition and nearly 227,000 Iowans could have lost their health coverage if the ACA was overturned. During special enrollment periods, Iowa’s enrollment numbers have doubled from 2018 to 2020.
To date, 59,228 Iowans have enrolled in private individual market plans through the state’s exchange during 2021’s open enrollment period. This sets a record high for Iowa’s exchange, surpassing 2016’s peak enrollment.
Earlier this year, Congress passed and President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan, which expands ACA subsidies to cover more middle-class families during 2021 and 2022. During this time, Iowans will not have to pay more than 8.5% of their income for an ACA marketplace silver plan and individuals below 150% of the poverty level will pay no premium cost.
President Biden also signed an Executive Order re-opening the ACA’s special enrollment period until August 15th so individuals experiencing hardship during the pandemic have access to affordable comprehensive health coverage. Iowans can enroll in ACA plans due to the COVID-19 emergency at healthcare.gov.
The ACA is here to stay, and Iowa House Democrats look forward to helping expand affordable healthcare access to every Iowan.
Beginning Farmer Tax Credits Expanded
To lure more young Iowans to farm in Iowa, lawmakers expanded the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program this session. The program incentivizes Iowa landowners to rent agricultural land to introductory farmers by issuing tax credits to the landowner to offset their individual or corporate tax liability.
The expanded program allows tax credits to be given to landowners for lease agreements regardless if it is agricultural land, pastures, buildings, or other structures used in farming. Currently, the lease must include agricultural land.
Landowners can receive a tax credit for up to 15 years, an increase from 10 years, and they can receive up to $50,000 per lease agreement per year. Currently, landowners can only receive $50,000 in credits per year. These changes will go into effect on January 1, 2022.
More information on the program can be found on the Iowa Finance Authority’s website, iowafinance.com/beginning-farming-programs/beginning-farmer-tax-credit-program/.
Voter Suppression Surge Starts in Iowa, Moves Across the Country
All across the country, GOP-run state legislatures have curbed or shortened early voting windows for millions of Americans, and Iowa was no different. In fact, Iowa was the first state in the nation to pass a wide-ranging voter suppression effort, just months after the highest turnout election in Iowa history.
It was recently announced that the U.S. Department of Justice is suing the state of Georgia for their newly enacted voter suppression laws, aimed at making it harder to vote. While Georgia has garnered the most attention nationally for voter suppression, Iowa’s law is equally egregious and perhaps worse. It’s unclear if the US DOJ will file suit in Iowa as well.
The chart below highlights the similarities and differences in the law.
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GET VACCINATED TO GET LIFE BACK TO NORMAL: President Biden challenged our country to get as many eligible people vaccinated against COVID-19 by the 4th of July. About 54.1% of American adults have been fully vaccinated according to the CDC. Our state is keeping pace with the national trend, with 54.2% of Iowa adults now fully vaccinated. Find a vaccine provider close to home at vaccinate.iowa.gov.
STREAMFLOW AND SOIL MOISTURE DOWN, RECENT RAINFALL HELPS: Recent rainfalls in the second half of June have helped improve drought conditions around the state, but there is still concern with the lack of water. As of the last week of June, precipitation totals still remained about 2 inches below normal. Unusually dry weather through the first half of the month led to over 40% of the state being in severe drought, up from 8% at the beginning of the month. Streamflow conditions around the state continued to decline throughout the month. Approximately a quarter of the state has streams that are “much below normal,” including the Skunk, Des Moines, Raccoon, and Little Sioux watersheds. As of June 21st, only one-third of the state has adequate or surplus soil moisture. Several water utilities around the state have implemented voluntary or mandatory water use restrictions. The next Water Summary Update will be released on July 10th and should reflect better conditions around the state with recent rainfalls, but a return to hot and dry weather could reverse these gains. The full Water Summary Update can be found at iowadnr.gov/WaterSummaryUpdate.
TEST IOWA SITES TO CLOSE IN JULY: Test Iowa, the free COVID-19 testing program launched in April of last year, will end operations on July 16, 2021. The staggered close dates of its drive-thru test sites and clinic locations statewide will occur over the next five weeks. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and State Hygienic Lab (SHL) are finalizing plans to provide at-home COVID-19 test kits free of charge to Iowa residents following the closure of the Test Iowa sites. For more information about Test Iowa locations, hours or scheduling a test, visit coronavirus.iowa.gov or testiowa.com.