On Saturday, April 27, the Iowa House and Senate completed their work and adjourned the first session of the 88th General Assembly. The legislative session ended after 104 days, adjourning earlier than schedule and saving taxpayer money.
Rep. Jon Jacobsen (R-Council Bluffs) says that it was a successful session focused on improving the lives of Iowans:
“This session was about taking the priorities that we heard from Iowans last fall and acting on them. I am proud of the work we accomplished this year to put taxpayers first, grow our rural communities, and improve health care and education in our state.”
Rep. Jacobsen says some of the highlights of the session include:
Responsible Budgeting and Property Tax Transparency: The Legislature passed a responsible budget plan that spends $7.643 billion which is 0.2% more than the year before. This budget plan spends 97.4% of ongoing revenue, fills the state’s reserve accounts, and leaves a healthy ending balance. The budget also increases funding for priorities like community colleges, career training programs, rural hospitals, nursing homes, and public safety. Another important bill passed this session will provide Iowa taxpayers with more transparency in regards to their property taxes and local government budgets.
Initiatives to Grow Rural Iowa: The Legislature passed several bills that were focused on bringing more quality of life to rural parts of the state, including Governor Kim Reynolds’ Empower Rural Iowa Act. These efforts included encouraging the expansion of high-speed internet to underserved areas, incentivizing housing development in communities where affordable options are lacking, and providing additional resources to rural schools with higher than average transportation costs.
Increased Support for K-12 Through College: Several bills were passed this session that will improve education in Iowa. The SAVE penny, which is used for school infrastructure, school security and property tax relief, was extended through 2051. Another bill will help reduce the teacher shortage and attract more teachers by matching graduation standards with neighboring states. Additionally, the Legislature also made education a priority in the budget, providing funding increases of $90 million for K-12 schools, $6 million for community colleges, and $12 million for Regents universities.
Improving Health Care Access: One of the major achievements of the session was the creation of a mental health system designed for Iowa’s children. The legislation lays the groundwork for expansion in future sessions and will ensure that parents have local resource where they can go to find mental health treatment. The Legislature also passed legislation to train more health care providers and encourage them to practice in rural Iowa and provided additional funding to Iowa’s rural hospitals that offer 24/7 access to care.
Growing Iowa’s Workforce and Economy: The Legislature continued its focus on workforce development, further implementing the Future Ready Iowa program to train Iowa workers with the skills needed for 21st century careers. This session, the Legislature funded a Last Dollar Scholarship program that will help Iowans attain skills in high-demand fields as well as career and technical education programs in high schools to provide students with on-the-job experiences.
During the interim, Rep. Jacobsen encourages constituents to reach out and share their thoughts. He can be reached by email at Jon.Jacobsen@legis.iowa.gov.
The 2020 legislative session will convene on Monday, January 13, 2020.