Fiscal Year 2023 budget bills have again been the focus during the 12th week of session.
This week the Iowa House of Representatives passed the Education Appropriations bill, House File 2575. This bill spends just over $1 billion, primarily for higher education programs. It provides increases for Community Colleges, Department for the Blind and Iowa Tuition Grants. The bill also makes a substantial investment in the Jobs for America’s Graduates program and creates a new financial aid program for state university students, who are seeking degrees in fields that are high need professions.
An amendment was added to the Education Appropriations bill to expand bonuses for Iowa teachers. Earlier this year Gov. Reynolds announced she was using federal money to provide $1,000 bonuses. However, we learned of instances where teachers were not eligible for those bonuses. Our amendment to the Education budget bill loosens restrictions on how school districts can use their surplus money. School districts may pay bonuses to the additional school employees, including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and classroom aids. We also made these bonuses free from Iowa taxes, ensuring more of that money actually makes it into the pockets of these hardworking individuals. This change also applies to bonuses for peace officers, childcare providers and correctional officers.
Also this week, the House passed the Health & Human Services budget bill. This bill addresses community-based services for those with intellectual disabilities. The bill also provides funding to increase access to mental health care in Iowa’s hospitals and children’s mental health provider network. Substance abuse treatment facilities and rural home health providers also would see an increase in funding.
Early next week, the House will likely complete the nine spending plans put together by the various budget subcommittees. The next steps will be in the Iowa Senate.
Transparency in Education
Iowans largely agree that parents have a fundamental right to know what is being taught to their kids in taxpayer-funded schools. Iowans also largely agree with legislation that allows parents to view classroom instructional material. That’s why this week the House passed HF 2577, which requires teachers to post classroom instructional material by the end of each week. There are exemptions for special education and short-term substitute teachers.
There has been a lot of misinformation shared about what this bill does, so here’s a summary to help bring clarity:
- Requires school districts to post syllabus or written summaries and all instructional materials used in the classroom. This includes links to videos, slide presentations or articles. The school district must provide a process for parents to view that material when requested.
- Requires school districts to post a list of all school library books available while providing parents a protocol for preventing their child from checking out specific books.
- School districts must post teacher professional development and trainings on their website.
Most teachers are already using an online platform. Schools that don’t already have a classroom management software system will have until July 1, 2024, to comply.
Sex Offenders to Serve Longer Time on Registry
Senate File 2363, which was passed March 24 by the Iowa House, will increase the time an offender must remain on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry before applying for a modification. This bill is on its way to the Governor’s office for her signature.
Current law allows offenders to have their sentence reduced after a short time on the registry. The new law will require a Tier I offender to be on the registry at least 10 years before applying for a modification. In addition, they must have not been convicted of any criminal offense besides a simple misdemeanor or traffic violation during that time. Tier II and III offenders must wait 15 years before requesting a modification and cannot have any convictions besides simple misdemeanors or traffic violations at that time. All offenders must have successfully completed treatment programs and be classified as a low risk to offend.
All Iowans can find information to keep their family safe on the Iowa Sex Offender Registry Website (iowasexoffender.gov). Offenders must provide their address, picture, and other identifying features. There is also information about the offender’s crimes.
We’re all at risk of a data breach. That’s why the Information Technology Committee, on which I serve, has been learning and gathering information on cybersecurity risks. The IT Committee advanced a bill to create a cybersecurity simulation training center at Iowa State University (CySim), and this week HF 2555 was passed during debate on the House floor.
CySim will conduct and sponsor research and activities that enable businesses, teams, and others to practice strategies to counter and mitigate cyber threats and attacks. It will be available to businesses, state agencies, political subdivisions, as well as students and educators. CySim will be capable of conducting cybersecurity training exercises, developing case studies, providing a setting for student events and competitions, providing training exercises for educators, and coordinating cybersecurity workforce development.
The House and Senate have been working hard to reform Iowa’s bottle bill system. Each chamber has its own version of the bill to provide more viable options for redemption. Both chambers’ plans give more money to redemption centers than the centers receive under current law.
The House was scheduled to debate House File 2571 on Tuesday afternoon, but this bill was pulled from the calendar after the Senate passed its bill.
"We’re letting some negotiations play out before determining our next step," said Rep. Brian Lohse, one of the bill's authors. "We remain hopeful that we will be able to come together and reach an agreement on a good bill for Iowa."
Protecting Iowa’s Poultry from HPAI
Iowa leads the nation in egg production and ranks seventh in turkey production. To protect Iowa’s domestic chickens and turkeys from highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), flocks of poultry with HPAI are euthanized. Additional biosecurity measures are in effect. Live bird exhibitions have been canceled at fairs and other gatherings. Live birds also cannot be sold or transferred at livestock auction markets, swap meets and exotic sales until this order is lifted by the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship (IDALS).
What does this mean to consumers? Recent HPAI detections in birds do not present an immediate public health concern, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It remains safe to eat properly handled and prepared poultry products.
For updates on this developing situation, please visit https://iowaagriculture.gov/animal-industry-bureau/avian-influenza. For information on Governor’s disaster proclamations for HPAI, visit https://governor.iowa.gov/newsroom.
Constituents in the Capitol
This week I was glad to see Larry Sailer, chairman of the Franklin County GOP Central Committee. I also got to welcome Mark Gillette and his grandson of Webster City, which is part of the new Iowa House District 55. I filed my paperwork on March 16 to run for re-election to Iowa House District 55, which covers all of Franklin and Hamilton Counties, as well as southeastern Wright and northwestern Story Counties.