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This second week of the 89th legislative session was shorter due to the Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, but it was productive and busy with over 30 subcommittee meetings as we started running bills through the legislative process.

Due to the pandemic, this year in the Iowa Senate, we have adjusted our subcommittee process to utilize technology so Iowans can participate using Zoom to weigh in on a bill in a safe, responsible manner. I chaired four subcommittees this week using this new process and was pleased at how well it went, and how many people who would not otherwise be able to travel to Des Moines and participate were able to have their voices heard. Kudos to the Senate pages who handled the technology and helped the subcommittees run smoothly. You can visit the legislative website at www.legis.iowa.gov to find information on how to join these subcommittees.

Bills of Note This Week

  • Senate Joint Resolution 1: A bill that would add an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa that states that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed and that any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny. This joint resolution, if adopted, would be submitted to the voters of Iowa for ratification at the general election in November 2022. Currently, Iowa is only one of six states that does not have a provision guaranteeing a right to firearms in our state constitution.
  • Senate File 110: A bill that would repeal the state inheritance tax and the state qualified use inheritance tax effective July 1, 2021. Again, Iowa is only one of six remaining states that impose an inheritance tax when someone dies who owned a farm, business or other assets. This bill could be incorporated into a larger tax-policy legislative package that will possibly continue our efforts to lower individual income tax and help our Iowa economy with a more competitive overall tax structure.
  • Senate Study Bill 1042 A bill that expands the Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program to include OB/GYNs, allow physicians to work part-time in the program, expand psychiatric access for mental health services and better defines rural areas to improve access to specialty services in rural parts of Iowa.
  • Senate Study Bill 1041 A bill that addresses the need to temporarily lift the $6000 maximum school board members can make as a substitute teacher, food service worker or school bus driver. This bill provides flexibility for the districts whose school board members are filling in to help their districts with staff shortages throughout the pandemic.

Looking Ahead to Next Week

A subcommittee for Senate Study Bill 1064 will take place that would require schools to offer a 100% in-person option to return students to full-time classroom learning. Most students learn best by being in school with their instructors and other social, emotional, and academic supports to help them succeed. This bill continues the waiver process if significant spikes of COVID-19 occur in the community or the school district is unable to adequately staff their classrooms. Parents and families with health concerns will still have the option for their children to learn remotely.

Author: Chris Cournoyer