With the passing of this last week, we have officially reached the end of the 2021 Legislative session here in Iowa. This past session has required quite a bit more perseverance than normal, and I’m proud of the work my fellow lawmakers and I did during what proved to be a challenging time.
I am equally proud of the fact that 85% of the legislation passed this past year was done so as a result of a bipartisan effort. Most of the legislation that makes headlines does so because it is especially partisan. Lost in that news is the fact that each legislative session moves with the momentum that it does because of a uniquely Iowan effort to work together and get things done.
If I were to recount all the notable moments and pieces of legislation from this past session that I believe were truly remarkable, this would be one very long newsletter indeed. In the interest of time and in honor of a great session, I’ve provided below a few of the bills of which I’ve been especially proud.
HF 229: Returning All Iowa Students to the Classroom – After months of hearing from parents who felt like their voices weren’t being heard, we got straight to work on HF 229. This bill required schools to present parents with the option of sending their children for 100% in-person learning, giving parents a choice and a voice in their child’s education.
HF 228: Diversity Plans – Diversity plans were one way parental choice was being inhibited in education. Schools in a handful of districts could overrule a parent’s decision to open enroll their child by citing these diversity plans. The House passed a bill to do away with these plans and allow parents and students to make the decision that fits their family.
SF 269: Properly Funding Our Schools – This session, we passed a 2.4% increase in SSA. This increases the State Cost Per Pupil amount, including the additional $10 per pupil equity piece, from $7,048 to $7,227 an increase of $179. Though many people will try and misrepresent this issue, the fact is Republicans are responsible for record-high education investments over the last decade. K-12 education funding has increased by almost a billion new dollars over the last 10 years. The last time education funding was actually cut was when Democrats had the trifecta in 2010.
Reducing the Tax Burden on Hardworking Iowans
SF 619: Responsible Tax Cut Package – After extensive negotiations with the Iowa Senate and Governor’s Office, the House delivered a tax cut package that eases the tax burden on Iowans while maintaining the responsible, conservative budgeting principles that have gotten the state where it is today. The bill includes:
- Removal of triggers from the 2018 tax reform bill which ensures income tax cuts for all Iowans go into effect Jan. 1, 2023
- Increased the eligibility for the Child Care Tax Credits from families making $45k to $90k
- Exempts COVID-19 grant money & Paycheck Protection Plan loans from state income tax
- Phases out the state inheritance tax over five years
- Increase workforce housing tax credits to $40 million for Fiscal Year 2022 and $35 million for the following years
- Phases out the mental health property tax levy over two years, with guardrails to control for quality and equality of services as well as future costs to the state
Increasing Access to Quality, Affordable Child Care
House Republicans have been aggressive in addressing child care access this session. We know there is not one single solution to this complex issue. That’s why the House passed ten bills to address the crisis through a multipronged approach. Of those ten, here are a three that made it though to the Governor’s desk:
HF 302: Fixing the “Cliff Effect” – At the start of session, one of our top priorities was addressing the child care ‘cliff effect.’ Often times, families are forced to reject a pay raise because it would result in the loss of the entirety of their child care assistance. This “Cliff Effect” is holding our workforce back and forcing families to stay on government assistance. HF 302 provides an off-ramp, so that parents can grow in their career and phase off of government assistance.
HF 893: Child Care Tax Credits – Contained in the package addressing taxes, was a provision to double the income eligibility for the child care tax credit from families making $45,000 to $90,000.
More on Child Care – The Health and Human Services budget increased child care rates by $13.4 million to get the state up to 50% of the market rate survey. The Legislature also passed a bill allowing individuals providing child care in their homes to take care of 6 or fewer children, an increase from 5 or fewer. This will help increase access to quality child care in our rural areas.
Supporting Law Enforcement
HF 861: Justice Systems Appropriations – In this budget, we increased funding for the Department of Corrections and the Department of Public Safety by record amounts. Both saw the largest increase in a decade. The Department of Corrections received a $20.5 million increase in funding while the Department of Public Safety received a $10.4 million increase. The budget also allocates $2.5 million for the new Public Safety Equipment fund. The RIIF budget allocated the same amount, bringing the Public Safety Equipment fund total to $5 million, to ensure Iowa law enforcement has the equipment they need to do their jobs as safely as possible.
That’s all for this week, and for many many weeks to come. I’m looking forward to a summer spent with my family and working on issues to be ready for next January. Before we know it we’ll be back at work for the 2022 session. Between now and then, I am still available to you. Should you need clarification on a bill you didn’t see in this edition, or you’d like to get started having your priorities heard for next session, don’t hesitate to reach out.