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Week ten was full of debate on some of the more contentious bills this session. Late night, after late night, saw some good back and forth on these bills, but at the end of the day, we were elected to put the work in and get the job done. I’ll try to briefly discuss the bills we passed and why in the following paragraphs.

HF 756 was the 2nd Amendment omnibus bill, or the “Constitutional Carry” bill. As an Iowan and American, whether you live in a city or in a rural area, your right to keep and bear arms is essential and I am committed to protecting it. The concept is very simple, law abiding citizens will be able to carry a firearm for defense of themselves or others without first having to obtain a permission slip from the government. Read this next part carefully, this legislation in no way eliminates federally required background checks. Other BS claims are that this bill will allow felons or domestic abusers to purchase and carry firearms, nothing could be further from the truth. All of our current prohibitions on criminals possessing firearms remain in place. This bill does not jeopardize the safety of Iowans but instead adds stronger protections in our current laws. The right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

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HF 621 is a bill clarifying immunity for firearms manufacturers. This bill reestablishes that the responsibility for a heinous act relies solely on the perpetrator of the act, not on the manufacturer of the firearm or ammunition. Of course, those manufacturers would still be able to be held accountable for defective firearms or ammunition.

HF 744 was a bill to protect free speech in schools and on campus. Protecting the right to free speech on our campuses and schools has been a top priority for us across many different committees this session. There were instances brought to our attention where the Regents had violated a student’s right to practice free speech. Upon further review, it has become increasingly clear that these are not isolated instances, but a systemic problem. As we’ve continued to say, a school’s role is to educate, not indoctrinate students. This bill prohibits faculty and staff from intentionally violating the free speech of students and allowing disciplinary measures if violations occur and it requires free speech training at all Regent universities for students and faculty.

HF 802 prohibits gender or race-based stereotyping in training and curriculum. The divisive concepts outlined in this bill, often referred to as “critical race theory”, claim to be in the name of fighting racism, but they are, in fact, racist. This bill will stop divisive concepts like that, which rely on race or gender-based stereotypes as fact in training and curriculum. It does not ban or limit diversity trainings, or limit the teaching of African American history. Simple put, we cannot fight racism with more racism. We must unite, not divide.

HF 555 prohibits cities or counties from banning the provision or purchase of natural gas or propane. Local jurisdictions across the country (mainly on the east and left coasts) are aggressively seeking to exclusively use renewable fuels. While this is a great goal, a problem arises when clouds block the sun or the wind does not blow. The need to provide consumers with multiple energy options, and limit the ability to prohibit energy options, both directly and through creative means, drove the need for this bill. This will protect consumers from attempts to prohibit viable energy sources for both heating and cooling needs. It also ensures consumers will have multiple energy options available.

HF 720 is a bill that prohibits cities and counties from imposing an ordinance or resolution prohibiting someone. This bill was about maintaining the property rights of landlords and preventing cities and counties from forcing landlords to participate in this program, as it is an infringement upon those rights. Additionally, it could ultimately lead to less housing overall which would drive up costs and drive down availability of affordable housing for everyone, whether they are on section 8 or not.

Now here are a couple of items making their way to the House Floor from some of my committees, but they haven’t quite made it yet. Senator Keolker and I continue shepherding the Governor’s Broadband Grant Program bill through our respective chambers and committees. Thursday I ran it in the full Appropriations Committee, and although there were some clarification questions, it passed unanimously and I think we are all ready to dig in on what the appropriate appropriation should be.

A butchery innovation bill, HF 787, that ran in Economic Growth, aims tackle the busy meat locker problem by expanding or creating new small-scale meat processing businesses, licensed custom lockers, or mobile slaughter units. It also looks to create an artisanal butchery program task force within IEDA for the purpose of exploring the feasibility of establishing an artisanal butchery program.

On March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 into law. This bill provides just over $170.3 billion to education alone. Of the $170.3 billion for education, about $125.4 billion for state K-12 public education and $39.6 billion in higher education, with remaining funds going to other educational programs. What does this mean for Iowa? Iowa will receive a total of $774,516,000 for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Funding. That breaks down to an additional $1,513.17 per pupil. LEA for learning recovery is slated to get $135,540,300.

The three-member Revenue Estimating Conference held its March meeting this morning. For Fiscal Year 2021, the REC raised its projections for state revenue. The panel increased expected revenue from its December forecast of $7.9693 billion to $8.0789 billion. This is an increase of $109.6 million over December’s number. Please remember that the FY 2021 enacted state budget (including supplementals) spends $7.8046 billion. So under these figures, the state would take in $274.3 million more than it spends in the current fiscal year. For Fiscal Year 2022, the REC is now projecting that state revenue will be $8.3856 billion. This amounts to a growth rate of 3.8 percent over the current FY 21 projection. Iowa Code requires the Legislature to use the lower of the two estimates (December or March) for calculating the 99 percent expenditure limitation for the budget it is creating, so we will be using the December number of $8.2657 billion to calculate the limitation for the FY 22 budget. As for the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, the REC raised their forecasts for gaming revenue by $5.1 million for both FY 21 and FY 22. The panel also lowered their forecast for interest earned on the state’s reserve funds by $1.5 million. So the net effect to RIIF is an increase of $3.6 million each year.

My kiddos had spring break this week so the whole fam stayed in Des Moines. Maria took the kids swimming everyday and to do activities like the Science Center and Urban Air (an indoor park), but on Thursday morning, both Independence and Michael led the House Chamber in the Pledge of Allegiance, and later they got to visit with Governor Reynolds in her office. She took time out of her day to show them around and even gave them a couple of coins to mark their visit! Thanks Governor Reynolds! After my meetings, Mikey and I climbed the many stairs to the top of the Golden Dome and had a blast. Thanks to the Reps and staff (especially Rep. Nordman and Savannah) who helped wrangle our kids throughout the day.

Author: Ray Sorensen

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