Greetings to you all,

Hope everyone is getting excited for the start of April. The legislative session is a few weeks away from its official end date, but we still have plenty of bills to debate and pass.

On Monday, I attended a meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure budget subcommittee, where we reviewed the budget proposal for the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF). This proposal increases funding for national parks, adds $1.5 million in appropriations for recreational trails, and allocates funds for the UNI Industrial Technology Center.

Monday was also Public Health Day on the Hill, and I had the pleasure of meeting with Iowa Public Health Association President Dr. Jeremy Whitaker and Wartburg College of Public Health students Rachel Gavin and Jessi Sarcone. We discussed upcoming public health issues in the House and the evolving public health situation in the state.

On Tuesday, the House debated and passed six bills. Two of these bills in particular were major education bills, which you can find summarized below. You can find the full list of bills here.

  • HF 2577: A bill that requires Iowa public schools to post their curriculum materials and library books online and detail the process through which books be removed from the curriculum
  • HF 2575: A bill relating to the appropriations of the Department of Education. This bill did not include additional funding for the Iowa Board of Regents that the Regents requested this year.

On Wednesday, the Waterloo Youth City Council visited the Capitol to raise awareness for youth mental health and to lobby legislators for HF 2294, a bill which would add the Your Life Iowa crisis hotline to student ID cards for students in grades 7-12. It was great to see these young people advocating for issues important to them and the Waterloo community. If you or anyone you know is experiencing issues with alcohol, drugs, gambling, or mental health, you can find resources to help at the Your Life Iowa website: https://yourlifeiowa.org/.

In the morning, the Youth City Council members were introduced on the House floor and spent time discussing HF 2294 with legislators on both sides of the aisle. They then visited legislators in the Senate and held a lunch discussion with local representatives before visiting the Capital Dome. It was great to see their hard work and motivation reach legislators from all over Iowa.

On Wednesday, the House debated 12 bills. Below is a summary of the bills, and you can find a complete list here.

  • HF 2556: An act which changes the due date for applications for the solar energy system tax credit from May 1 to June 30th, 2022
  • HF 2197: An act which establishes a task force related to special education support at nonpublic schools
  • HF 2356: An act which authorizes boards of directors of school districts to engage certain individuals to serve as substitute teachers without compensation

On Thursday, the legislature did not have any debate or committee meetings. We’ll resume debate on Monday, April 4th.

In the Statehouse Newsletter, you will find information about:

  • Education bills debated in the legislature this week
  • Increased protections for seniors
  • The legislators’ plans to expand solar energy
  • Steps taken to fix the teacher workforce shortage
  • Radon testing in schools becoming law

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 31 Holy Rocka Rollaz Hawkeye Community College, 7pm, 319-296-2320

Mar 31-Apr 1 Carden Circus The Hippodrome, 4:30pm & 7:30pm, 319-234-7515

Apr 1-3 USA Wrestling Folkstyle Nationals UNI-Dome, 719-598-8181

Apr 1-3 Judy Moody and Stink Hope Martin Theatre, Fri 7pm; Sat & Sun 2pm, 319-235-0367

Apr 2 Waterloo Black Hawks Hockey vs. Dubuque Young Arena, 6pm, 319-232-3444

Apr 2-3 UNI Women’s Softball vs Missouri State Robinson-Dresser, Sat 12pm & 2pm; Sun 12pm, 319-273-4849

Apr 3 Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center, 7pm, 319-273-7469

Apr 8 Waterloo Black Hawks Hockey vs. Fargo Young Arena, 7pm, 319-232-3444

Apr 8-9 Judy Moody and Stink Hope Martin Theatre, Fri 7pm; Sat 2pm, 319-235-0367

Apr 9 RodCon Rod Library, 10am-4pm, 319-273-2311


Strong Public Schools, Affordable Tuition

There were several education bills debated in the Iowa Legislature this week.

When the session began, we heard from students and educators across the state, exhausted from underfunding and navigating through two years of pandemic learning. Democratic lawmakers pledged to stay focused on returning to Iowa’s deep-rooted history in public education, and we continue that promise today.

There have been several bills that lawmakers worked together on earlier this session that bring good things to the table for Iowa students and teachers including:

  • A new scholarship program through the College Student Aid Commission to help young adults with intellectual disabilities transition to, and pay for the college (House File 2495).
  • A program to assess, monitor and track language development for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids (House File 604).
  • Keeping students safe while protecting them from bad actors that teach our children by eliminating an age requirement of an abused child under the mandatory reporter law, and requiring the reporting of the identity of a school employee under the mandatory reporters who may have caused injury to a child (House File 2567).

Unfortunately, as a whole, it’s been a troublesome session for many educators. On the very first day, the GOP leader in the Iowa Senate claimed teachers had a “sinister agenda”. Since then, we’ve heard from many who are frustrated by the bills being worked on this year, and have communicated that such legislation will likely drive more teachers out of the classroom.

Here are some of the controversial education bills that remain under consideration this year that have parents, students, and educators concerned:

House File 2577 creates new burdensome requirements for teachers, mandating them to share classroom materials already available to parents. Eighty-four percent of Iowa school districts already have a learning management system in place where teachers share and post information. This bill requires additional and unnecessary work that distract teachers from focusing on teaching students, along with opening the door to more easily ban books.

The Iowa Senate passed a bill, Senate File 2369 that would create school vouchers and take millions of dollars away from public schools and give it to private schools instead. A majority of Iowans are opposed to vouchers, and believe that public money should not be used to fund private schools. Iowans already have multiple options for educating their children, including open enrollment, private schools, and home schools. This year, over $100 million in public tax dollars will be spent to support non-public schools. In the last six years, funding for private schools and homeschools has increased by 150 percent while public school funding has not kept up with rising costs.

The state’s education budget, House File 2575, passed the Iowa House on Tuesday. With a small investment in community colleges and no new funds to operate Iowa’s three public state universities, which could lead to another tuition increase next fall. Many Iowans have expressed concern that tuition increases will prevent more Iowans from getting training or education after high school.


Increased Protections for Seniors

Anyone who abuses aging Iowans could face criminal charges under a new proposal that passed the Iowa House.

Senate File 522 makes physical, psychological and financial exploitation of our older population, 60 years of age or older, illegal in Iowa. The penalties for elder abuse range from one to five years in prison. The penalty for financial exploitation of an older individual can be up to 25 years in prison, depending on the value of the assets involved in the exploitation.

According to FBI data, 10 percent of people age 60 and over experience elder abuse each year, across the country. Senate File 522 passed the Iowa House unanimously. The bill previously passed the Senate last year unanimously, but with new changes made this year, it will now return to the Senate for approval.


Legislature Set to Expand Solar Energy

Iowa lawmakers are working together to follow through on a commitment made to Iowans who invested in solar energy to power their homes.

House File 2395 won bipartisan approval and will reimburse Iowans who invested in solar technology. For several years, Iowa offered a $5,000 tax credit for solar energy installations, but once it expired last year, many Iowans were left on a waiting list without receiving the credit.

While this bill is a good step, Democratic lawmakers have been working to continue and expand the successful solar energy program to reduce demand and lower energy costs.

The bill now goes to the Iowa Senate for further consideration.


Legislature Takes Steps to Fix Teacher Workforce Shortage

Iowa is currently facing a workforce shortage, which impacts every sector of employment in the state, including those in education. There are many reasons for the workforce shortage in the state, none more obvious than GOP lawmakers prioritizing tax cuts for corporations instead of investing in education and other good paying jobs.

This past week a bipartisan bill was signed into law with the hope of attracting retired workers back into the workforce. The bill, Senate File 2266 lifts the income cap on retired teachers and other public employees who come back to the workforce.

Other bills to curb the teacher workforce crisis include:

  • Eliminating exams teachers take between graduation and certification (House File 2081)
  • Giving schools more flexibility for teacher substitutes (House File 2493)
  • Expanding the Iowa Scholar Program to expand eligibility for teachers who apply for grants (House File 2083)
  • Allowing a student teacher to substitute teach (House File 2158)

While these are steps in the right direction, this alone will not solve the issue. Iowa continues to rank behind many of their border states in wages and investments in quality of life.


Radon Testing in Schools Set to Become Law

Increased radon testing and mitigation in schools is set to soon become law. Radon is an invisible, odorless gas that is known to cause cancer. Iowa has some of the highest radon levels in the country and is commonly found in basements and older buildings, including schools.

While many school districts are already addressing the problem, the bill would require schools to implement radon testing by 2027, and at least once every five years. Schools must also have a plan to mitigate any radon issues to protect kids and staff.

The bill, House File 2412, is named the “Gail Orcutt School Safety Radon Act”, as she advocated for the bill for many years before losing her battle to radon induced lung cancer in 2020.


More Iowa News

IOWA YOUTH CONGRESS NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS: Iowa young people are encouraged to apply to the Iowa Youth Congress to advocate for youth issues and provide input to state and local leaders. The Iowa Department of Human Rights is accepting applications for the 2022-2023 term of the State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council (SIYAC). SIYAC is a formal council composed of 21 youth from across Iowa, ages 14-20. Members advocate for youth issues with policymakers through advocacy, service, and public awareness. The application and two letters of recommendation are due June 3, 2022. For more information visit: humanrights.iowa.gov/cas/siyac.

INCREASING HEMP PRODUCTION IN IOWA: Thanks to a bill recently sent to the Governor, Iowa farmers will soon be able to grow up to 320 acres of hemp a year. The bill, House File 2380, increases the number of acres a farmer can grow from 40 acres to 320 acres. Hemp is growing in popularity in Iowa and around the country. The increase in acres is needed for farmers to grow hemp for industrial use. Industrial hemp can be used to make products from paper and clothing to construction materials. As the industrial hemp industry continues to gain popularity, Iowa should be a leader in its growth.

NATIONAL VIETNAM WAR VETERANS DAY – A TIME TO HONOR OUR VETERANS: On Tuesday, March 29th, the United States celebrated National Vietnam War Veterans Day. This day honors all veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time from November 1, 1955 to May 15, 1975, regardless of location. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, there are more than 6 million U.S. Vietnam veterans living both in the United States and abroad. To help veterans in our state, the House of Representatives recently passed a bill that increases the amount of money that can be allocated to assist veterans in need from the Veteran’s Trust Fund. Currently, the Trust Fund can spend $500,000 annually, but this bill would raise that amount to $800,000. The Veterans Trust Fund helps qualified veterans for job training, education assistance, emergency housing, vehicle repairs, dental work, and durable medical equipment. The Iowa Lottery provides $2.5 million annually to the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund. Since 2008, the Iowa Lottery has given more than $36 million to the Fund. The bill, House File 2293, is currently in the Senate waiting for consideration. We take this time to thank those that have served, and House Democrats continue to find ways to show our appreciation.

By | 2022-03-31T18:41:27+00:00 March 31st, 2022|Newsletters|