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The gavel has fallen and the 2023 session of the 90th General Assembly is underway. This week we welcomed a total of fourteen new members to the Iowa Senate. Nine new Senate Republicans were sworn into office, along with five new Senate Democrats. The Senate also elected Senator Amy Sinclair as the Senate President, making her only the fourth female to be sworn in as Senate President in Iowa history.  Jack Whitver continues to be the Senate Majority Leader and Zach Wahls was named Senate Minority Leader.

Of course Iowa went through the re-districting process in late 2021, changing all legislative district boundaries. I now represent Senate District 19 which includes western Mahaska County (not including Oskaloosa), most of Marion County and all of Jasper County.

During the first week of session, we learn the policy priorities of our legislative leaders, the Governor, and the Chief Justice through opening remarks and speeches. Many of the speeches this week focused not only on this year’s priorities and the work to come, but also the very significant accomplishments achieved over the last several years.

On Tuesday evening Governor Kim Reynolds gave the Condition of the State address where she shared her vision for Iowa. She has many significant reforms on her agenda to improve our state and the lives of Iowans, including major education reforms, expanding Iowa’s workforce, and streamlining Iowa’s state government.  On Wednesday Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen gave a report on the state of the Judiciary, and on Thursday Major General Ben Corell brought us up to date on the status of the Iowa National Guard.

This year I have been asked to serve as the chairman of the Senate Education Committee. This is certainly one of the busiest committees, and yes, a committee where clear partisan lines exist. Also, this year I will continue to serve on the Agriculture Committee, the Natural Resources and Environment Committee and the Transportation Committee.  For the first time in 10 years I will not be on the Appropriations Committee, but I’m sure the workload in Education will more than offset the time previously spent on appropriations.

A lot of work is ahead of us, but I am ready to start work on the important issues affecting Iowans all across the state. As bills get drafted, filed, and moved through the legislative process, please feel free to reach out with questions, comments and concerns. It is an honor to serve you in the Iowa Senate, and I appreciate hearing from each and every one of you.

This week Governor Reynolds released her school choice bill. School choice has been a priority for her (and me) for several years. She boldly led on the issue during the election and voters resoundingly reelected her. During the pandemic many parents developed concerns about their children’s education, virtual or hybrid learning, and the curriculum and content available in their children’s schools. They wanted the legislature to provide more options to address those concerns.

The governor’s bill empowers parents from all socio-economic levels the opportunity to access K-12 schools of their choice. Also included in her proposal is a significant increase in public school district control over the dollars sent to the districts. Over the years the legislature has developed a number of K-12 programs and allocated funding that can only to be used on those programs. Some districts have sizable unspent balances in those programs and this bill allows those funds be spent to increase teacher salaries if those school boards choose to do that rather than have money sitting in accounts unspent.

The governor’s proposal also includes more than $1,200 per student in new money to the public school district for any resident student who accesses the Education Savings Account and attends a non-public school. This new funding is in addition to the $500 million dollars in additional money allocated to K-12 public schools since 2017. Transportation equity funding has also helped rural schools address their high transportation costs.

Last year, the legislature passed a transformational income tax bill for Iowa. It had a number of important reforms for the state, including implementing a 3.9 percent flat tax for all Iowans, reducing the corporate tax rate, and providing farmers with a first-time pension exemption. That legislation also eliminated all taxes on retirement income in Iowa, a goal Senate Republicans have had for many years.

Tax reform continues to be on our minds as we head into the 2023 legislative session. Property taxes have increased dramatically over the last several years, outpacing increases in Iowa household incomes, general fund appropriations, and population growth. Iowa has some of the highest property taxes in the country. Property tax reform is a big priority this year and we’ll be looking into how we can best bring some relief to Iowa taxpayers, limit the size and cost of local government, and bring more transparency to a complicated process.

Author: Ken Rozenboom


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