During Week 12, our main activity was floor debate. We discussed a variety of issues, including where fireworks can be sold, taking fur-bearing animals for nuisance control, and limiting acreage for hemp. One bill that passed unanimously on Tuesday was Senate File 2377. This bill will help Iowa schools recruit and retain high-quality teachers during the present workforce shortage. One aspect of this bill creates an alternate pathway to becoming a licensed teacher in Iowa, creating more opportunities to become a qualified teacher. It also eliminates the requirement that applicants be in the Teach Iowa Scholar program. This is helpful especially since all school districts are encountering difficulties hiring teachers.
The National Review published an article last Monday praising the Iowa Legislature for its bold tax reforms. The article outlined the pro-growth changes, such as the move to a flat personal and business income tax rate, and the elimination of retirement income tax. It also recognized Iowa’s tax code is much more competitive than many of the bordering states, making Iowa a Midwestern leader in tax reform.
One of the most leading issues in government across the country has been parental involvement in their children’s education. Because of Covid, parents became more involved in their local schools, demanded to know what their children are being taught, and saw materials their children can access (some sexually explicit). Parents are asserting their God-given rights and responsibilities to raise their children according to the way they prefer.
This week the Iowa Senate passed SF 2369, otherwise known as “Parents Bill of Rights.” It supports parents and gives them the ability to access curriculum, library materials, guest speakers, and other information related to the public education of their children. If the concerns of parents are not adequately addressed by the school, then parents ought to have choice in education.
The Student First Scholarship allows up to 10,000 Iowa students to use a scholarship to pay for private school education if their family income is less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level or they have an individualized education plan (IEP). This proposal gives low- and middle-income parents in Iowa the same school choice options wealthy parents have.
The state portion of education funding is approximately $7,500 per student. In this bill, about $5,000 of that amount is available in a scholarship for a student for private school education. The remainder is allocated to a special fund to support increased operational sharing functions with nearby districts to meet the needs of the rural school at a reduced cost.
Another issue of importance during this session is the pipeline to sequester carbon collected at ethanol plants. The House amended the Administration and Regulation budget bill to include a requirement that the Utilities Board not hold any hearings on these pipelines until February next year. That would give both sides time to make their points and the legislature can act if it is deemed necessary.
As Admin and Reg chair, I am researching the effectiveness of this amendment. I contacted the IUB and found out that they cannot hold those hearings until February next year anyway, so this amendment does nothing. It does not really belong in a budget bill anyway, so I will be removing it and working with IUB and Senate leadership to provide a real solution to this issue, hopefully by the start of next year’s session.