Expansion of the Newborn Safe Haven Act to allow a person to relinquish custody of a newborn infant to an adoption service provider. Current law allows a newborn to be relinquished to a healthcare facility or first responder. (HF 474)
Strengthened approach to cracking down on Fentanyl by creating new penalties and increasing criminal penalties for possession of fentanyl. (HF 595)
Increased penalties for human trafficking crimes and sexual exploitation of a minor by requiring Continuous Sexual Abuse of a Child offenders to serve at least 70% of the maximum sentence, meaning anyone convicted of the crime must be imprisoned for 35 years before being considered for release. (HF 176)
Allowing a person with a disability to use a crossbow by now being able to obtain a statement from a physical therapist. (SF 528)
Expanding maternal health care options by creating midwife licensure and expanding health care options for expectant mothers. (HF 265)
Unfortunately, a few bills going into effect July 1 were pushed by the Majority Party and special interests that many Iowans oppose. Those include:
Banning books in public schools by requiring the removal of certain books that may contain content regarding sexual orientation, certain sexual acts, and gender identity. (SF 496)
Taking away food from kids and seniors by creating a new asset test, including cash, college savings accounts, or a car. (SF 494)
Rolling back child labor laws by allowing employers to recruit 14-to-18-year-olds through a “work-based learning” program for hazardous jobs with relaxed supervision. (SF 542)
Eliminate the required school instruction on AIDS/HIV and HPV vaccine. (SF 496)
Dictate a government-capped price on human life for Iowans injured or killed in trucking accidents. (SF 228)
Stripping power from the state auditor to allow waste, fraud, and abuse of state taxpayer dollars by preventing the state auditor from accessing necessary information to compile audits. (SF 478)
Writing LGBTQ+ Iowans and families out of history and public schools and forcibly “outing” students even if they might be put in danger at home. (SF 496)
Other new laws going into effect July 1 include: allowing a licensed dealer to sell cars completely online (HF 592); requiring regent institutions to provide annual information on student debt (HF 135); allowing Iowans to renew the registration of their off-road utility vehicles electronically (SF 519); increasing penalties for human trafficking minors (HF 630); and removing licensure renewal requirements for teachers with a master’s or doctoral degree with 10-years’ experience (HF 672).
For more information and a full list of bills going into effect July 1st, log on to iowahouse.org.
One Year Later: Abortion Still Legal in Iowa
It’s now been one year since the U.S. Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the case in 1973 that established a constitutional right for an individual to get an abortion.
After Roe v. Wade was overturned, the question of abortion rights became up to each state. Since then, 15 states have made abortion illegal in all circumstances.
Last week, the Iowa Supreme Court decided access to abortion should remain legal in Iowa. The Iowa Supreme Court split 3-3 on Governor Kim Reynolds’ efforts to reinstate the 2018 six-week abortion ban.
However, based on previous legislation, the Governor and Republican lawmakers could soon pass a bill that would ban all abortion with no exceptions for rape, incest, or the life of the mother. Any new law would require a special legislative session that could be called as soon as this summer, or lawmakers could wait until the next legislative session in January 2024.
While the Governor and Republican leaders are still deciding what comes next, Democratic lawmakers in the Statehouse have pledged to fight for the reproductive freedom of all Iowans.
Details of the New Voucher Law Have Iowans Concerned
Despite strong bipartisan opposition from many Iowans and lawmakers, the Governor’s voucher program started taking applications on May 31.
House File 68, which passed despite overwhelming opposition from Iowans, takes dollars away from public schools and gives them to nonpublic schools instead. According to nonpartisan fiscal estimates, it will cost the state $108 million in the first year and almost $1 billion over the next four years.
Now, the Iowa Department of Education has testified before the Iowa Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee providing greater details on how the program will be administered.
With still many unknowns, Democratic lawmakers are keeping a close watch on Iowa tax dollars being spent on nonpublic schools and, as more details are released, are working to keep Iowans informed.
Here’s what lawmakers learned this week:
Over 17,000 applicants have been received so far with the application deadline coming up on June 30th. While estimates are high, not all applicants will qualify or be accepted. Private schools still get to pick and choose which kids they want to take.
The Governor chose an out-of-state for-profit company out of New York as a vendor to manage the nonpublic school account. The money flows from the Department of Education to the vendor and then directly to the nonpublic school. Tuition and fees would be paid first. If there is voucher money left over, it could be applied toward an eligible expense, such as software or a tutor, only approved as an eligible service provider through “Odyssey’s Marketplace.”
If the student drops out from a nonpublic school, the funds stay in the student’s account and do not go back to the state until they graduate regardless if they re-enroll in a nonpublic school. Education groups, including the Iowa State Education Association, asked for the rules to specify that a public school be notified if a student is enrolled in a nonpublic school, or drops out. The department agreed to clarify that in the final rules along with that nonpublic schools are required to implement state and federal assessments.
Iowa Democrats continue to support an Iowa where every kid gets a world-class education regardless of their zip code. Like most Iowans, we believe public money belongs in public schools where all kids are accepted.
Iowa School Districts Repeal Firearm Policies Due to Insurance
This week, both Spirit Lake and Cherokee School Districts have rescinded their policy that would allow arming school staff with firearms while on school grounds in order to retain their insurance policy.
Spirit Lake’s armed-staff policy was approved for the 2023-24 school year and allows 10 non-teacher, non-bus drivers appointed by the superintendent to carry a district-issued gun on school property. Armed individuals would undergo professional training, a background check, a mental health screening, a drug screening, and obtain a permit to carry.
The Cherokee Community School Board approved arming additional staff last fall, which required any staff member interested in being armed to complete professional development and weapons training.
This summer, both school districts were notified by EMC insurance that their policy would expire on July 1st without renewal. On June 12th, Spirit Lake School District informed parents the contract would be terminated because of the school’s safety plan that involved arming some staff members. The District looked at 26 alternative insurance providers but was unable to find another insurance provider. Cherokee amended their policy allowing only law enforcement to carry firearms on school property.
A bill associated with arming school staff, House File 654, was considered by the Iowa House earlier this year but failed due to bipartisan opposition. The bill’s original version, HSB 173, would have prohibited insurance companies from denying school districts property and casualty insurance based solely on the presence of authorized personnel carrying a firearm on the school premises.
Although the State is not expected to incur a fiscal impact from allowing schools to arm their staff, local schools, and school districts could be subject to increased insurance costs after initial policy implementation. Any insurance rate increases for local schools and school districts would be funded by local property taxes.
Iowa House Democrats will continue to propose common-sense gun laws to protect Iowa kids and families. No matter which part of Iowa we come from, the majority of us, including gun owners, support responsible gun safety laws.
Reynolds Breaks Law; Iowans Forced to Pay the Bill
Iowa taxpayers are on the hook for another $100,000 after the Iowa Supreme Court refused to dismiss a case against Governor Reynolds for ignoring Iowa’s open records law.
Iowa’s open records law provides every person the right to examine, copy and disseminate a public record. Records custodians are required to respond to requests made in person, in writing, by telephone, or electronically.
In this case, the Governor’s Administration ignored requests for public information. Instead of taking fault, the Governor sought dismissal from the District Court and the Iowa Supreme Court who both refused to dismiss the case leading to the Governor settling the case. This means Iowans will have to pay for the $100,000 settlement plus the ongoing legal expenses because the Governor broke the law.
The Governor also has failed to take responsibility for the actions and blamed her staff who she claimed were busy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
More Iowa News
MOLINA HEALTHCARE JOINS IOWA’S MEDICAID NETWORK: On July 1, 2023, Molina Healthcare, Iowa’s new Managed Care Organization (MCO), will begin providing services to Medicaid members. Most members will be receiving letters assigning them to one of the three MCOs (Amerigroup, Iowa Total Care, and Molina Healthcare). Members may be assigned to a different MCO from their current one. However, if they choose, the member may stay with their current MCO. Members will have from July 1 to September 30, 2023, to contact Medicaid Member Services (1-800-338-8366) to change their assigned MCO for any reason. After that time, members may change their MCO only for good cause or during their annual choice period. Members with questions regarding this reassignment period can contact the MCOs at Molina Healthcare at 1-844-236-0894, Iowa Total Care at 1-833-404-1061, or Amerigroup Iowa: at 1-800-600-4441. Members can reach Medicaid Member Services at 1-800-338-8366. For more information about the Iowa Medicaid program, please visit IAHealthLink.gov.
NEW ELECTRIC VEHICLE CHARGING TAX GOING INTO EFFECT: Commercial electric vehicle (EV) charging stations will now be required to start paying a new charging tax starting July 1st. The tax does not apply to EV chargers at residences. The new tax is two and six-tenths cents for each kilowatt hour ($0.026 per kWh) of so-called “electric fuel” that is dispensed. The tax must be paid to the Department of Revenue. Two types of businesses will have to obtain an EV charging station license: electric fuel dealers and electric fuel users. Electric fuel dealers are businesses that own an EV charging station that let other EV owners charge their vehicles as part of the dealer’s business. Electric fuel users are businesses that own an EV charging station to charge their own fleet of electric vehicles that are used as part of the business. Electric vehicle owners do not need to obtain a license to charge their EV, and no license is needed for EV chargers installed at a home or an apartment. The new Electric Fuel Excise Tax revenues will go to the Road Use Tax Fund. The Road Use Tax Fund is the main source of state funding for roads in the state. The Iowa Constitution protects funding in the Road Use Tax Fund to solely be used for the construction, maintenance, and supervision of the public highways in Iowa. Additional information on the Electric Fuel Excise Tax can be found at tax.iowa.gov/electric-fuel-excise-tax.
IOWA NATIONAL RECOGNITION FOR BOOSTING FASFA COMPLETION: Iowa has been nationally recognized in a report on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion rates. The Institute for College Access and Success report recognized Iowa and Louisiana for their efforts in completing the FAFSA to access the majority of financial aid available to students. FAFSA completers are 84% more likely to enroll in postsecondary education compared to their counterparts. Iowa has employed a strategy to provide accurate student-level data directly to all high school counselors and administrators. Weekly reports include whether each student has completed the FAFSA or even missing a signature. This student-specific FAFSA completion data has boosted FAFSA applications and made Iowa one of the leaders in completions. To date this year, Iowa’s FAFSA completion rate is 51% of Iowa’s high school seniors from the class of 2023 according to the Iowa College Student Aid Commission. More info at: ticas.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/06/How-Iowa-and-Louisiana-use-state-data-to-help-boost-FAFSA-completion-rates.pdf.