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Last week, I mentioned how different everything feels at the Capitol this year because we do not have the opportunity to interact with the many visitors from across the state who usually throng the Rotunda and the area outside the House Chamber.  They come to advocate, to inform and to appreciate this beautiful building.  Not this year!

I am now experiencing the inability to be physically inside the building as my quarantine continues.  While I still tested negative on Monday, my roommate tested positive so both of us must stay away  – mostly in our bedrooms.  I have been attending all meetings virtually, but am not allowed to speak or vote due to the unique rules of the House.

Meanwhile, at the Statehouse, there are some bills of note that were passed by the House this week:  a bill to increase the tax deduction for adoption; a lifetime trout fishing license for those 65 and older; a limit of $100 per month on charges for insulin prescriptions; and the ability to acquire a CDL license online.

The debate on Wednesday evening seemed to have a child care theme: tax credit for child care; employer child care tax credit; expansion of child care assistance which addresses the child care cliff; and child care workforce grants.  We are in a child care crisis in Iowa, and while these bills were all a good start, we need to be even bolder.  Child care workers and parents need our support!

Not all of the news affecting our children is good, however.  This week we saw two proposals for school funding on behalf of our half-a-million public school students move forward.  The Senate proposed 2.3%; the House 2.5% (the Governor’s proposal).  It is anticipated that either of those numbers will force 41% of our schools to raise property taxes.  These figures are $70 million below what was funded last year and, in both proposals, the preschool program alone will lose $8 million.  We will debate the funding bill in the House on Thursday.

House members have been receiving lots of emails regarding two bills in the Education Committee:  HF 159 that proposes taking tax money from public schools to support private schools and HF 222 that would penalize school districts whose teachers use any part of the 1619 Project as part of their curriculum in teaching American history.  (If you are not aware of the 1619 Project published by the New York Times, you can google it.)  The majority of my emails from individuals are against these bills. Read my recent opinion piece that appeared in the Globe-Gazette.

I love the interest shown by people of North Iowa in the legislative process…both by emailing and especially in the participation in the two virtual Town Halls that Senator Ragan and I have held.  On Wednesday evening, Cerro Gordo Health Director, Brian Hanft, joined us on our Zoom Town Hall.  Great turnout and great discussion!  We will be scheduling another soon…so watch this space!

In the meantime, stay safe, stay warm and stay interested!  As always, I welcome your comments and concerns!

Author: Sharon Steckman