From Rep. Linda Upmeyer’s newsletter:

It’s crazy to believe that we have already reached April. That means that our work in Des Moines to coming to a close but we still have some work to do. Work on the budget continues as well as discussions about policy and tax bills as we move closer to the 100th day of session.

This week was the second funnel deadline for the Legislature. Earlier this session we had the first funnel, where House bills were required to pass through at least one House committee. In the second funnel, bills that have come over from the Senate need approval from at least one House committee. Bills that need more work can get attention over the interim and be considered again next year.

With the second funnel behind us, most of the priorities that we came into this session with remain alive. This includes extension of the school infrastructure fund (SAVE), establishing a children’s mental health system, penalties on individuals who abuse or torture companion animals, and many others. We are making good progress to complete our work for the year in a timely manner.

We also began moving budget bills off of the House floor this week. On Thursday we passed the Federal Block Grant bill as well as the Education Budget.

The Federal Block Grant is funding that is provided by Congress and reserved for specific purposes. There are many strings attached to this funding so we don’t have as much control over how it is spent, but we must authorize its use.

The Education Budget funds various priorities including community colleges, our Regent universities, and career/job training, among other important programs. Here are some of the highlights of our budget plan:

  • Community Colleges: Increase of $7 million bringing total investment in community colleges to almost $210 million annually. Community colleges serve as an important economic driver in our local communities serving workers and employers alike.
  • Regent Universities: Increase of $16 million to be divided by the Board of Regents between the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa. This funding will hopefully be used to keep tuition affordable for Iowa students and parents.
  • Future Ready Iowa: A new appropriation of $14.8 million to fund last year’s Future Ready Iowa initiative. This funding will be used on Last Dollar Scholarships that will help 7,500 Iowans finish their postsecondary degree or certification and be prepared for 21st century careers.
  • Doctors in Rural Iowa: $1.4 million for the Rural Primary Care Loan Program that is designed to recruit physicians into high-need rural areas. With a shortage of health care providers in rural Iowa, this will bring new doctors into underserved parts of the state.
  • Mental Health Awareness Training: New funding of $3 million to provide school-based mental health supports. This will provide Iowa teachers with mental health awareness training detect potential mental health issues in students and to determine appropriate follow-up.

As you may have noticed, K-12 funding is not included in the Education Budget. This is because we already addressed that in the first 30 days of session, providing our K-12 schools with $90 million in new funding for next school year. This package included a general aid increase as well as targeted funding for rural school transportation costs and reducing the per pupil inequity in the funding formula.

This is the House’s Education budget plan which means we will have to sort out our differences with the Senate. Our budget committee chairs are working together closely and I am confident that we can reach an agreement soon.