This week is our first legislative deadline of the year, meaning priority legislation, with the exception of bills in Appropriations, Government Oversight, and Ways and Means, must be moved out of committee by this Friday, February 21. It is referred to as “funnel week”. It’s a term used that Representative Dick Weldon from Hardin County started to make sure things got done at the legislature. He served from 1967 to 1985
Expanding the Workforce, Encouraging Work
Unemployment in Iowa has been below 3 percent for more than two years. This news is great for Iowans looking for work and it is a validation of the economic policies implemented during that time. However, the low unemployment rate is one of the primary concerns noted by employers looking to fill positions in their businesses.
In an effort to address the need for a larger workforce in Iowa, Senate Republicans have offered two new bills designed to increase the number of Iowans in the workforce, ensure welfare programs exist for those truly in need, and protect the taxpayers who fund those programs.
Senate Study Bill (SSB) 3068 directs the Department of Human Services (DHS) to contract with a third-party vendor to provide real time verification of eligibility for all welfare programs. In 2019, DHS was fined $1.8 million for an eligibility error rate of 10 percent, well above the 6.8 percent national average. SSB 3068 aims to solve this problem by using private sector technology to immediately identify and verify eligibility of individuals requesting welfare. By utilizing real-time data sources, it will improve the error rate and productivity in the department.
Another bill, SSB 3158, implements work requirements for able-bodied recipients of taxpayer-funded health care. It also updates state law to conform to the change in work requirements for food assistance required by the US Department of Agriculture.
Protecting Iowa Elections
Some local officials in Iowa have publicly discussed the possibility of allowing non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. A basic rationale for being a citizen or becoming a citizen of this country is the privilege to have a voice in determining its elected officials. It is common sense for Iowans to expect to have only U.S. citizens determine the direction of our country and not allow foreign interference.
Senate Republicans are proposing an amendment to the Iowa Constitution to ensure only U.S. citizens can participate in elections held in the state of Iowa. Senate Study Bill 3113 is a short, simple proposal. It amends Article II, Section 1 of the Iowa Constitution to state, “only” a United States citizen is eligible to vote in Iowa elections. The bill also conforms to the 26th Amendment, which was ratified in 1971, lowering the voting age to 18, with an exception for a primary election.
Physical Education Requirements
Permits a high school principal to replace a high school student from the physical education requirements under the educational standards if the student is participating in show choir or marching band for at least the equivalent amount of time as is required for one-eighth unit of physical education. The bill also exempts from physical activity requirements middle school and high school students who participate in show choir. The amendment adds marching band to the bill.
Here is a link to stay tuned to the legislature: Click here!