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In the Iowa Senate, week 17 focused on wrapping up priority legislation for Iowans, confirming Governor Reynolds’ appointees and debating bills that were sent back to us from the Iowa House.

Bills of Note:

  • HF 744: This bill protects free speech and other First Amendment rights at state universities and K-12 schools. It prohibits retaliation against a member of the campus community or school district who files a complaint, requiring First Amendment training for members of the campus community, and requiring a disciplinary hearing if a faculty member knowingly and intentionally restricts freedom of speech.
  • SF 356: This bill provides limited liability protections for “agritourism” businesses from injuries occurring due to the inherent risks of farming, such as the behavior of farm animals or the operation of equipment used on a farm. The liability protections do not apply if the injury was caused by an action or inaction performed by the farmer that was illegal, intentional, reckless or grossly negligent, but the intention is that it will cut down on costs incurred by potentially frivolous lawsuits. Examples of agritourism include: wineries, farmer’s markets, pumpkin farms, u-pick operations, petting farms, corm mazes, cider mills, and farm retail such as dairies and creameries. It offers the opportunity for people to visit farms and get a better understanding of where their food comes from and I believe it has a considerable role in the future of rural areas as it brings visitors to support the local economy.
  • SF 541: I floor managed this bill that enables electronic records, smart contracts and electronic signatures to utilize distributed ledger technology, aka, BlockChain. This emerging technology helps ensure business processes are transparent and efficient and our digital assets are authentic and secure. It is used across many industries such as supply chain, healthcare, finance, retail, etc. We want to make sure any innovation using such technology is encouraged in Iowa.

In other news, this week WalletHub reported Iowa ranked second in the country for fastest recovery following the pandemic. Iowa also has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, and April general fund receipts were the highest in Iowa’s history for that month. Additionally, Iowa has more job openings than people looking for work, making it even more important to pass legislation that will grow our state, expand the workforce, and help businesses find the qualified workers they need.

Iowa is in a great position to cut taxes and help taxpayers keep more of the money they earn. We have passed bills to remove the triggers put into place by the 2018 tax bill and give Iowans the tax relief they deserve. The Senate has also passed legislation to provide over $100 million in property tax relief to Iowa taxpayers and while also providing increased funding for mental health services.

As we draw to a conclusion of the 2021 session, we are still working out the details of a compromise with the House of Representatives regarding policies regarding tax reform, support of first responders, education, mental health funding, and economic development.

Author: Chris Cournoyer