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The legislature concluded the 2020 session on Sunday, June 14th, 2020.

The following bills have been passed out of the legislature this past week:

FY 21 Budget – Due to a decrease in projected state revenue stemming from a government shutdown of many businesses during the public health disaster emergency, the budget passed by the legislature is a status quo budget for the vast majority of the General Fund line items. There are, however, targeted increases for education and health care. The FY 21 budget spends $7.7785 billion. With that amount, a healthy ending balance is projected and rainy day funds are fully filled. The 2.3% increase passed earlier in the session for K-12 schools for the 20-21 school year was not changed.

Occupational Licensing Reform – One of the governor’s priorities. Reduces barriers for inmates released from prison to get an occupational license. Reduces the red tape for a new Iowa resident from another state to qualify for license reciprocity. The bill includes a fee waiver for occupational licenses for individuals making less than 200% of the federal poverty level. It also continues the provisions from the governor’s COVID proclamations allowing continuing education requirements to be completed online and allowing expanded use of telehealth to deliver health care and mental health services.

Future Ready Iowa – Part 2:  This is the governor’s initiative to build the workforce in high-demand, mid-level skilled jobs. It expands apprenticeship programs, boosts funding for the child care industry, and builds on the requirement for K-12 computer science instruction statewide.

24-Hour Waiting Period – This amendment requires a mandatory 24-hour waiting period between a 1st meeting at an abortion clinic where a woman by law should get information about the risks involved and her options and the time the woman gets an abortion. This measure is another step in the effort to protect unborn lives. 27 states have a waiting period ranging from 18-72 hours. In the 1992 landmark abortion case, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey the U.S. Supreme Court upheld as constitutional a 24-hour waiting period and said that it was not an undue burden on a woman seeking an abortion. A waiting period helps ensure decisions are not made under duress or with undue influences. A waiting period is normally required for many important life-long decisions such as marriage, adoption, divorce, etc. It is hoped that after taking time to consider the risks and her options, more women will choose life over death. This was a bill I helped run on the floor.

Election Integrity Update – During a public health disaster emergency the Secretary of State must get approval from the Legislative Council (if the legislature is not in session) to change election law. This prevents one individual from having unchecked power to change election law during a disaster emergency. Also, in an election held during a disaster emergency, the number of polling places shall not be reduced by more than 35% and the ones that are open shall be equitably distributed in the county between rural and urban. Also includes the auditor-requested county seal provision and a prohibition on faithless electors to the Electoral College. Provisions were included to shore up the integrity of the absentee ballot process to ensure the same voter that requests the ballot casts the ballot.

Dyslexia Bill – Major step forward to equip our teachers to help our students with dyslexia. Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that makes it difficult to read, write and spell. It is a leading cause of reading failure but it can be remediated with appropriate teaching methods. There is no relationship between dyslexia and intelligence. Iowa teachers are not trained on how to help their students with dyslexia. Therefore there are little to no supports for dyslexic students in our schools. This bill requires teacher preparation programs to include training on dyslexia, creates a dyslexia specialist endorsement for teachers, requires AEA’s to offer dyslexia resources, and requires special ed. teachers, Pre-K through Grade 3 teachers, Title 1 teachers, and all teachers that teach English as a second language to have dyslexia training as part of their professional development. This was also a bill I worked on and ran on the floor.

Classroom Behavior Management – This bill is designed to help prevent the sometimes overuse of “classroom clears” in schools. A “classroom clear” is when a teacher removes all the students from a classroom and not the misbehaving student. (This may or may not be occurring at your local school. It is not occurring everywhere.) The bill provides for the Dept. of Ed. to create guidelines for the appropriate physical restraint of a student by a teacher in the classroom when the student presents an imminent threat of inflicting injury and how to remove the misbehaving student as safely as possible so that the rest of the students may remain in the classroom. If a “classroom clear” is used, there is a procedure outlined to handle it. Individualized Education Plans (IEP’s) can no longer include the use of “classroom clears”. Included are liability protections for school employees. The Dept. of Ed would also create a grant program for school districts to establish therapeutic classrooms and also a reimbursement program for transportation costs for those students assigned to therapeutic classrooms. A therapeutic classroom is a special classroom designed for students with disruptive behavior issues described above.

Online Learning – Since Iowa Learning Online no longer exists, this bill makes provision for online learning options for schools. It allows AEA’s and school districts to provide an online learning program for grades 9-12. The online coursework must be high quality and aligned with Iowa’s standards. Schools can offer from a list of options online providers to provide course content taught by a licensed teacher. If the school is unable to find a teacher for a subject and has made a reasonable and good faith effort to do so, then the school can use an online option. Also, various provisions covered the 2020-2021 school year in case the public health disaster emergency continues.

Smoking Age – Conforms to federal law, changes the age to use or buy tobacco or vaping products from 18 to 21.

Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program – Establishes a rural veterinarian loan repayment program to provide loan repayments for vets who practice in rural or vet shortage areas in Iowa for 4 years.

Blue Alert – Notification is provided to the public if a law enforcement officer has been seriously injured, killed, or gone missing in the line of duty, and the suspect has not been apprehended.

Author: Sandy Salmon