Greetings to you all,

It’s great to see that the weather is warming up and that spring is right around the corner!

On Monday, the House debated and passed 8 bills. You can see all of the bills here, and below are some highlights:

  • HF 2081: An act which eliminates the Praxis exam as a requirement for Iowa teachers
  • HF 2298: An act which prohibits schools from requiring the COVID-19 vaccine as a precondition for enrollment

On Tuesday, the Commerce committee met to review the following bills:

  • SF 2232: A bill which allows the sale, lease, rental, or advertisement of a water treatment system if claims related to removing health-related contaminants are certified by an accredited agency
  • SF 2233: A bill which requires distance for land survey to be shown in decimal feet and strikes the requirement that distance measurements must refer to horizontal planes

On Tuesday evening I appeared on the House Democrats’ Blue Alert Zoom to discuss legislation that I recently introduced into the House, the Medical Cannabis Act. You can see my comments here.

On Wednesday, the House debated and passed 29 bills. You can view the full list of bills here, and review some of the highlights below:

  • HF 2493: An act which allows para-educators to continue serving as substitutes for the school year beginning July 1, 2021
  • HF 2462: An act which increases penalties related to the manufacture, delivery, or possession with the intent to manufacture or deliver heroin
  • HF 2127: An act which allows a child care provider to collect the difference between a child care assistance program reimbursement rate and the rate a provider would typically charge a private-pay family for child care from a family participating in a child care assistance program
  • HF 2198: An act which allows 16- and 17-year-olds to provide child care to school age children without supervision

In the Statehouse Newsletter, you will find information about

  • Biden’s State of the Union address
  • Child care bills that have passed the House
  • The housing crisis in Iowa
  • Eliminating the Praxis exam for Iowa teachers
  • Democrats’ support for cybersecurity
  • New tax breaks for corporations and millionaires

Please share your comments with me.

Going forward, I will be listening and working closely with local leaders and community members, to make sure the state is partnering with those in our community who need help and assistance. I’m available by email, phone, and social media, to answer questions and listen to your concerns. You can always reach me by email or call me at home at 319-266-9021. We can also stay connected through social media, including FacebookTwitter, and YouTube. I appreciate hearing from you and I thank you for your continued support.

Thank you for taking the time to read the Statehouse News. Please keep in touch! I hope everyone stays safe.

Upcoming Events

Mar 3-6 The Rocky Horror Show Hope Martin Theatre, Thu-Sat 7pm; Sun 2pm, 319-235-0367

Mar 5 Local Food & Film Festival Hearst Center for the Arts, 10am-3pm, 319-273-8641

Mar 6 Jay Leno Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, 7pm, 319-273-4849

Mar 9 Volunteers on Tap SingleSpeed Brewing Co., Waterloo, 4pm, 319-883-3015

Mar 9-13 IOMA Iowa State Pool Championships Waterloo Convention Center, 8am-5pm, 319-291-0155

Mar 11-13 Eastern Iowa Sportshow UNI-Dome, Fri 3-7pm; Sat & Sun 10am-7pm, 319-290-1996

Mar 11-13 Maple Syrup Festival Hartman Reserve Nature Center, Fri 5pm; Sat & Sun 7am, 319-277-2187

Mar 12 Waterloo Black Hawks vs. Omaha Young Arena, 6pm, 319-232-3444

Mar 12-20 World’s Greatest Spring Break Phelps Youth Pavilion, 319-291-4490


Biden Delivers Message of Unity in State of the Union

President Joe Biden delivered a message of unity and American optimism in the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

Recognizing the hardships so many have faced during COVID and the deep partisan divisions today, Biden asked Americans to come together to support the people of Ukraine, beat the opioid crisis, improve mental health care, support veterans, and end cancer as we know it.

President Biden pointed to the unity it took to vaccinate over 250 million Americans that saved lives, prevented illness, and got life back to normal for more Americans.

President Biden also spoke on reducing the cost of everyday expenses working families face and reducing the deficit. He talked about making more things in America, strengthening our supply chains, and moving goods faster and cheaper.

Biden said that promoting fair competition to lower prices would help small businesses thrive, and protect consumers. He also advocated for eliminating barriers to good-paying jobs for workers all across America.


Child Care Bills Lead to Safety Issues and Workforce Concern

Iowa is currently facing a child care crisis in both urban and rural areas. While it most directly impacts families with small children, it also hinders Iowa’s economy and acts as a huge barrier in recruiting and building a skilled workforce. This was especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iowa lawmakers are considering several bills this session related to child care. While some of the bills proposed by Republican lawmakers are advertised to fix Iowa’s child care crisis, Iowa child care providers have expressed concern that those ideas will only exacerbate the lack of accessibility of child care in the state. This legislation largely ignores the current workforce shortage and further risks the safety of Iowa’s children.

One bill, HF 2198, lowers the age that a child care worker must be to work unsupervised around children. The age limit was previously 18 – this bill would move the age to 16. This means that a 16-year-old could have up to 15 children between the ages of 5-10 in their care, unsupervised. There are myriad safety concerns with these scenarios.

Another bill, HF 2131, would increase the child to staff ratio for classrooms with children ages 2 and 3. This means the same number of staff will be required to take care of more toddlers without an increase in pay. Providers and parents are concerned this change will lead to greater burnout among Iowa’s already exasperated childcare workers.

In an effort to address Iowa’s child care crisis, Democratic lawmakers are proposing several ideas to not only address safety concerns, but also increase the wages of the child care workers. Another proposal will increase the rates child care providers receive so they will not be forced to make changes that make kids less safe.


Housing Crisis in Iowa

Iowa is experiencing a large deficit in affordable and accessible housing as Iowa wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of the market. The Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) has estimated that Iowa will need an additional 61,000 housing units by 2030 to keep up with demand.

Thanks to President Biden and the American Rescue Plan, Iowa has received funds for a Minority Down Payment Assistance Program.  The new program offers eligible Iowans a $5,000 down payment and closing costs assistance grant when paired with the FirstHome program mortgage.  Both programs can be accessed through the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA). 

Iowans wanting to take advantage of this program can do so by applying for a mortgage through an IFA approved lender.  More information about the program and eligibility requirements can be found on IFA’s website.

For Iowans financially impacted during COVID, there is still rental assistance available as well. Polk County residents can apply for assistance through the county, and all other Iowans can apply here.


House Eliminates the Requirement for Teacher Exit Exams

This week the House has passed HF 2081, which eliminates all entrance and exit exams to increase Iowa’s pool of qualified teachers. With Iowa facing a teacher shortage, the bill is supported by teacher preparation institutions and education organizations.

Even with the extra time given, there are still many students that cannot pass their exit exam.  There is also the cost involved which can range as high as $300. The Department of Education (DE) estimates that 95% of the 1,800 graduates per year pass the exit exams, which means approximately 90 per year do not pass.


Democrats Support Strengthening Cybersecurity

Due to recent global events, the risk of cybersecurity attacks by Russia has increased. Federal agencies like the National Security Agency, FBI, and Homeland Security are well-equipped to deal with Russian cyberwarfare. However, cities and states are more at risk. Hackers tend to attack vital infrastructure that suffers from downtime, such as transportation, hospitals, and the gas or oil industry.

This session, Iowa lawmakers are working across party lines to pass legislation focusing on strengthening the state’s cybersecurity.
House File 2461, which was approved by the Iowa House this week, penalizes ransomware attackers and prohibits anyone from causing malfunction or intercepting state and local government data in exchange while making a financial demand. Anyone injured by a ransomware attack may bring a civil action in court for any money lost.

Another bill approved by the Iowa House this week, House File 2302, provides businesses and entities with a cybersecurity program an affirmative defense against a data breach. Overall, this bill helps provide small businesses and local entities an incentive to secure consumer data while receiving additional protection from liability.

Lastly, House File 2361 creates a cybersecurity simulation training center (CySim) at Iowa State University. CySim will conduct and sponsor research and activities that enable businesses, state agencies, political subdivisions, students and educators the ability to mitigate cyber threats and attacks. The bill also allows cybersecurity training exercises, developing case studies, and coordinating cybersecurity workforce development. The House is expected to vote on this bill later this session.

As current events continue, Iowa House Democrats urge Iowans to be aware and protect yourself by shielding up with multi factor authentication use on all online accounts; updating antivirus and malware software on all devices; use strong and unique passwords for each account; think before clicking on attachments or files; and be cautious about shared online information.


New Tax Breaks for Corporations & Millionaires 

Governor Reynolds signed a new tax bill into law on Tuesday that gives corporations and those at the top hundreds of millions in new tax breaks.

The bill includes a new $265 million tax cut for the biggest corporations in Iowa, but does little for Iowa’s small businesses. Millionaires who live in Iowa will receive an additional $67,000 every year with lower state income tax rates.

While Reynolds said the bill cuts taxes for every Iowan, the financial memo from the Iowa Dept. of Revenue that she runs shows about 450,000 Iowa families won’t get a single penny under the bill.

Earlier this year, House and Senate Democrats unveiled a plan for fair taxes that benefits working families. This common sense solution would put money in the pockets of hard-working Iowans instantly and help with the rising cost of child care. It would have made Iowa’s tax system more fair and pumped more money into Iowa’s economy.

The fair tax plan offered by the lawmakers was rejected by Republican leaders last week during debate on the final tax bill.


More Iowa News

IOWA NO LONGER ABLE TO PURCHASE RUSSIAN BOOZE: While Governor Reynolds has yet to condemn the words and actions of GOP politicians who have praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Governor has followed the lead of other states that have removed Russian alcohol from the shelves of Iowa grocery stores. The move acts as a symbolic gesture, as Iowans actually consume very little Russian vodka, accounting for only $95,000 of more than $93,000,000 million in sales.  The Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division currently has just three Russian vodkas permanently listed — Russian Standard Original Vodka, Russian Standard Platinum Vodka and Hammer + Sickle Vodka.

TEACHERS TO RECEIVE A BONUS, BUT NOT ALL EDUCATORS: The Iowa Department of Education has rolled out guidance for the teacher bonuses per the Governor’s plan to provide full-time classroom teachers a retention payment for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the plan excludes other education professionals such as nurses, counselors, librarians and other administrators that play a vital role in the education of our kids.  The $1,000 bonus would be covered by federal ESSER funds, and no legislation would be required.  It is estimated that the bonus would total $40 million.  The two links below provide information on the guidance that was released late last week, the other is the webinar recording for the teacher bonuses. Guidance: educateiowa.gov/documents/future-ready-pk-12/2022/02/use-state-and-federal-funds-promote-teacher-retention-guidance. Webinar recording: youtube.com/watch?v=izQmBFB3v40

RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO HELP WITH FILING STATE INCOME TAXES: The Department of Revenue has a number of resources available to help Iowans file their taxes for free.  Options may be available for taxpayers making as much as $72,000 a year and additional options are available for Active Duty Military.  The Department of Revenue has options available from TaxAct, FreeTaxUSA, 1040Now, and OLT.com.  There is also a list of vendors to help taxpayers file their taxes for a fee on the Department of Revenue’s website.  For additional detail on income tax filing resources from the Department of Revenue, go to tax.iowa.gov/individual-income-tax-electronic-filing-options. According to the Department of Revenue, 92% of the individual income tax returns filed in 2020 were filed electronically.

By | 2022-03-03T20:50:42+00:00 March 3rd, 2022|Newsletters|