We ended the 2021 legislative session a few weeks behind schedule, but I am proud of what we accomplished. Throughout the year, we heard from Iowans who want to keep more of the money that they earn, business owners looking for workers, and parents who wanted their kids back in the classroom safely. Iowans want good schools, safe communities, tax relief, election integrity, and sustainable funding for mental health.
Following is a summary of what we accomplished:
- One of the very first things we did this legislative session was give Iowa students the option to be back in the classroom full time. We know most students learn better in the classroom, in person, with their friends and classmates, developing important skills they need in school and in the future.
- We passed more election integrity measures aimed at further securing Iowa’s elections, making it easy to vote but hard to cheat.
- A constitutional amendment to protect life and put power back in the hands of the people took its first step to be added to the Iowa Constitution.
- We passed legislation helping Iowans get back to normal and ensure their own health care decisions remain private by prohibiting vaccine passports.
- We prohibited school districts and nonpublic schools from implementing a policy that requires its employees, students, or members of the public to wear a facial covering for any purpose while on their property unless the facial covering is necessary for a specific extracurricular or instructional purpose. Additionally, we prohibited cities and counties from adopting a mandate relating to facial coverings that is more stringent than a policy imposed by the state.
- Iowa’s Second Amendment rights received further protection by allowing Iowans the freedom to carry without a government permission slip and moved a constitutional amendment to put the language of the 2nd Amendment into the Iowa Constitution.
- We passed another increase in funding for K-12 education, community colleges, Last Dollar Scholarships for students seeking post-secondary education and training, in-home healthcare workers, and $100 million for broadband expansion across Iowa.
- Bold, meaningful tax relief bill passed to reduce the number of tax brackets and bring the top rate down from 8.53 percent to 6.5 percent, eliminate the state inheritance tax over a four-year period, and provide tax relief for small businesses by allowing them to utilize bonus depreciation to deduct more business-related expenses from their taxes and invest more in the Iowa economy. By moving mental health costs off of property taxes, funding for mental health services in Iowa increases and Iowa property taxpayers get tax relief.
- Finally, we passed legislation to support the men and women of law enforcement in the difficult jobs they do to protect our communities each and every day. We added legal protections for law enforcement officers on the job, making difficult decisions in dangerous situations on a moment’s notice. Rioters will face harsher penalties for the destruction they cause to Iowans, law enforcement officers, and property. Lastly, we passed legislation defunding cities if they fail to enforce state and local laws and allow rioting and destruction in their communities.
Responsible, conservative budgets have been a priority since 2017 and they have put the state in the strong fiscal position it is in today. Iowa was recently rated as one of the best states recovering from COVID-19. The unemployment rate is approaching pre-pandemic levels and the state budget is sound, being recognized as one of the most resilient in the country to the fiscal effects of COVID-19.
This legislative session was not without its difficulties, but I am proud of the legislation we passed and the bills signed into law.