Week 15 of the session was a short week, we debated bills on Wednesday and Thursday in the House. Many of the bills we debated were bills that were amended in the Senate earlier in the week and sent back to the House for consideration.
House File 317, a bill that I filed known as the Raccoon Bill was passed by the Senate without amendment and sent to the governor’s office this week. This bill allows landowners to destroy nuisance raccoons, opossums and skunks without having to wait for them to be a threat to person or property, or waiting to obtain permission from the DNR.
This week, the Iowa House passed House File 718, our property tax relief bill to provide immediate relief and certainty for Iowa property taxpayers. We hear more about Property Taxes from our constituents than any other form of taxation, so we made it a priority this session. The current system provides very little transparency and no certainty for taxpayers, as property owners across the state have seen their assessments increase by astronomical amounts and thus raising concerns about their final tax bill amount. Our bill makes a number of reforms that are effective and easy for Iowans to understand. It will deliver over $200 million in immediate tax relief. The House is continuing to negotiate with the Senate on their ideas on property tax relief and we are hopeful that we will deliver a final package before the end of session.
The House bill makes the following reforms: Reduces the $5.40 levy by $1 and has the state fund the difference from the general fund. This will deliver more than $200 million in real, immediate tax relief to Iowans. Caps annual property tax increases per parcel to 3% for residential and agricultural properties and 8% for commercial and industrial properties. Increases transparency in the process by requiring tax bills to look like itemized receipt, including information on where the money is going. And finally, it moves all elections for bonding to every November to increase voter participation.
We also passed Senate File 496, the Parent Empowerment Bill, a package of education reforms and sent the bill to the Governor’s desk. Here are a number of provisions contained in the final bill: Ensures all books in schools are “age appropriate” and it explicitly states that age-appropriate books do not include books that contain graphic images or descriptions of a sex act. Prohibits curriculum on gender identity or sexual orientation in K-6th grade. Prevents schools from having policies that keep secrets from parents about their child’s gender identity. If a student requests an accommodation at school for a gender identity that is different than their sex at birth, the teacher must report that information to the administration and the administration must tell the parents. We believe our language is a simpler approach to this. There isn’t room for discretion, bias, or an agenda. The trigger for when the parents must be informed is very clear. It also removes the teacher from the situation so they can stick to what they really signed up to do – teaching. Schools must get parental consent prior to giving surveys and must share who created and sponsored the survey as well as how the data is being used and stored. The House had a number of other education policies in our original version of this bill that were removed by the Senate such as reforms to the Board of Education Examiners and creating additional paths to license more teachers. However, this bill still represents significant wins for parents and students and we will continue to push for more reforms going forward.