The legislative session finally ended late on May 19th, a couple of weeks later than scheduled. I was very pleased that we had no interruptions due to Covid-19 and that the Capitol was open throughout the session. The change to having subcommittees online enabled more Iowans to participate in a convenient way, but it did reduce the feeling of personal input from just being there to support your cause. I hope that next year we continue the online option while including face-to-face opportunities as well.
One of the first things we did in January was to give all Iowa students an opportunity to be in the classroom full-time if they wanted. We know most students learn better in the classroom, face-to-face with their teachers and classmates. We ended the session by going a step further and prohibiting schools and local governments from requiring masks. Masks may still be worn if a person chooses to, but state government will not force anyone to wear a mask. We also passed a ban on requiring vaccine passports to participate in public events.
Iowa’s elections went very smoothly, with few opportunities for fraud, but election integrity is on everyone’s mind this year. We did pass a few more refinements to our election laws that will help make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. We also passed a resolution for an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to protect life. This was the first step in the multi-year process of bringing the resolution before the people for a vote to say there is no right to abortion in our state constitution.
Iowa is in a strong position fiscally due to the conservative budgets put in place since 2017. We have been rated as one of the best states in recovering from Covid-19 and our unemployment is approaching the lows of a year and a half ago. We continued responsible budgeting, yet were able to increase funding for K-12 schools and provide $100 million for expansion of broadband.
Not all Iowans suffered economically from the lockdowns this past year, but many did. Rather than pass out checks that would impact families once, Republicans focused on permanent tax relief that would provide an impact into the future and allow the economy to rebuild on a firm foundation. Our goal was to start Iowa’s road to recovery, get Iowans back to work, students back to school and families thriving. This year we passed legislation to repeal Iowa’s inheritance tax and pull the trigger on tax relief put in place in 2018. This will provide one billion dollars in tax relief over the next few years and reduce the top income tax bracket from 8.53% to 6.5%. This legislation also eliminates the state inheritance tax over the next 4 years and helps small businesses by allowing them to utilize bonus depreciation on business related expenses. We finally moved the cost of mental health from property taxes to the state budget. We increased funding for mental health for the next two years and put in place the mechanism for future funding increases. All of these steps will enable businesses to invest in the Iowa economy rather than taxes.
Before the session started I helped set up a meeting with law enforcement and area legislators. Those with the job of protecting us have seen many challenges in the past year. I was pleased to be able to add legal protections for law enforcement officers who have to make difficult decisions in dangerous situations on a moment’s notice. Rioters will now face harsher penalties for the destruction they cause to Iowans, both to law enforcement officers and property. Part of this legislation would defund cities if they fail to enforce state and local laws and allow rioting in their communities.
This legislative session had its unique difficulties and disappointments about things that did not happen. Still, I am satisfied with what we accomplished and the progress we made in making Iowa a prosperous, safe, and a freer place to live. It is an honor to serve as your senator and I appreciate those who contacted me throughout the session. I look forward to hearing from you throughout the summer and fall.