Every year during FFA Day on the Hill, the rotunda is swarmed with blue corduroy jackets, the official uniform of the organization. They have over 17,000 members across the state. Many senators were involved in FFA when they were in high school. I truly enjoyed meeting with some hard-working students from LeMars.
On Wednesday, a subcommittee met to consider the governor’s biofuel bill proposal, SSB 3084. If enacted, this bill would create an E15 access standard, which requires gas stations to sell E15 at more of their pumps. E15 is gasoline that contains 15 percent ethanol. It is cheaper per gallon than typical unleaded blends and works in most 2001-to-present vehicles. Under the bill, all retailers with compatible infrastructure must offer E15 by January 1 of 2026. New fuel retailers that open on or after January 1 of 2023 must offer E15 from 50 percent of their dispensers. I have heard concerns from small town gas stations about the cost of the infrastructure and the effects of tax credits on competition with larger chains. I have not made up my mind on this bill so your input on both sides would be appreciated. This bill will next be considered by the full Agriculture Committee.
Tax Relief Advances in the Senate
The Senate’s tax proposal moved forward this week, giving the public an opportunity to provide feedback on the bold vision for Iowa’s future. Senate Study Bill 3074 includes one 3.6 percent individual income tax rate by 2028, flattening the rate and taking a step towards the path of eliminating the income tax in Iowa. This change would move Iowa from the eighth highest income tax rate in the country to the fourth lowest. It fully eliminates all taxes on retirement income, expands the military pay exemption to full-time National Guard members, and also provides farmers a first-time pension exemption. Under this proposal, Iowa taxpayers would see an average of $1,590 in tax relief. When the state has billions of dollars in surplus, the government should not be looking for ways to spend it.
Senate File 2117 was originally drafted to give Iowans who had been placed on a ventilator the right to try alternative medicines in the treatment of sickness. This was in response to Covid-19. It offered a right-to-try option for people in the end-of-life stage. I proposed SF 2031, a bill that permitted physicians to prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine without any threat of sanction. Sen. Jeff Edler has informed me that his end-of-life legislation will now be amended to permit the administration of ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of Covid-19 in the early onset stages. Physicians around the state have had prescriptions for these life-saving for their patients denied by pharmacies and in some instances, were sanctioned for doing so. This was an unprecedented infringement on the doctor-patient relationship that should not be permitted to stand.
Children around the country have received vaccinations without the knowledge or consent of their parents. When I researched the issue, I found out that Iowa has no law mandating parental consent prior to the administration of a vaccine. SF 2028 would require parental notification and consent prior to the vaccination of minor children. It has passed out of the subcommittee, and I am optimistic that it will be brought up for a vote before the Human Resources Committee.
Empowering Parents in their Children’s Education
Education issues were prominent in the Iowa Senate this week. A number of bills moved through the legislative process to improve Iowa schools.
This year empowering parents means making sure they have access to the materials and content their children are being taught and how to address sexually explicit or even pornographic material in their student’s curriculum. SSB 3079, commonly referred to as a “Parents Bill of Rights,” continues that commitment by establishing defined and consistent rules for school districts to follow as it relates to the curriculum and books assigned or available to students. It enshrines in Iowa law the fundamental right of parents to make the educational and developmental decisions for their children.
Finally, this week in subcommittee and committee the Senate approved education funding for the next fiscal year. This amount is approximately $150 million. This amount continues to keep the commitment made by Senate Republicans to implement sustainable, reliable education funding increases to schools. Over the last 5 years ever dollar promised by the state to K-12 schools has been kept. Stable and dependable funding ensures schools have the resources they need to prepare Iowa students for successful careers.