To the People of House District 95
Week three of the legislative session has come and gone. While it may only be the end of January, we are already quickly approaching the sessions first funnel deadline – February 15th. If a bill has not made it out of committee in at least one chamber at that point, the bill can no longer be considered that session. The only exception to that being tax and appropriations bills.
Commerce Committee Advances PBM Legislation
Recently, the House Commerce Committee unanimously passed House File 2099. The bill comes from the Iowa Department of Insurance and Financial Services regarding Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs). PBMs are generally the middlemen between health insurers and drug manufacturers, who process prescription medication claims on behalf of the insurer or employer. In 2022, the Legislature brought PBM oversight under the Department of Insurance and this bill comes based on a year and a half of industry regulation. The bill expands PBM’s duty of good faith and fair dealing to pharmacies and prohibits retaliation against pharmacies that file complaints against PBMs. The bill now is able to be considered on the House Floor.
Iowa’s Unemployment Rate Decreases to 3.2% in December
Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased slightly to 3.2% in December amid hiring gains in both construction and manufacturing. The state’s jobless rate was 3.3% last month and 3.0% one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate remained at 3.7%.
Iowa’s labor force participation rate dropped to 67.7% in December, down 0.4% from last month, as 8,500 Iowans left the workforce. The national labor force participation rate is 62.5%.
“December’s report shows job growth in construction and manufacturing, adding 1,400 and 1,100 jobs respectively, which is always a very good sign for Iowa’s economy,” said Beth Townsend, Executive Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “On the other side of the equation, we saw a reduction in the number of Iowans in the labor force, with most indicating that they left the workforce voluntarily. IowaWORKS.gov currently has nearly 58,000 open job postings, so there are plenty of good jobs available for any Iowan who is unemployed or wants to return to the workforce. We can help.”
The number of unemployed Iowans declined in December to 55,800 from 57,200 in November. The total number of working Iowans also declined in December to 1,665,000. This figure is 7,100 lower than November and 5,400 lower than one year ago.
Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Employment
Iowa’s establishments added 2,100 jobs in December, raising total nonfarm employment to 1,593,200 jobs. This gain was the third consecutive and the fourth in the last five months. Hiring gains in December were primarily the result of goods-producing industries, specifically construction and durable goods factories, adding jobs. Private service industries decreased slightly relative to November (-400) and government decreased slightly (-100 jobs). Total nonfarm employment combined is up 10,200 jobs.
Construction added 1,400 jobs in December to lead all industries. Much of the gains last month were related to specialty trade construction contractors. This sector showed some weakness during the summer months but finished the year with increases in three of the last four months, accumulating 4,300 jobs during that span. Manufacturing gained 1,100 jobs. All this increase stemmed from durable goods factories in December, while nondurable goods shops pared jobs for the second consecutive month and continue to trail last year’s mark. Leisure and hospitality added 800 jobs. Hiring was heaviest in accommodations and food services which has now added jobs steadily since July. On the other hand, trade, transportation, and utilities shed 800 jobs to lead all super sectors. This loss is largely due to cutbacks in transportation and utilities. Other services posted the only major other loss this month (-600).
Compared to last year, total nonfarm employment has gained 10,200 jobs. The education and health care super sector added 8,100 jobs to lead all other industries. Most of those gains were in health care and social assistance (+7,100). Manufacturing is second in jobs added annually (+4,800) thanks to hiring in durable goods producers and construction has advanced by 3,000 jobs. Conversely, job losses were led by professional and business services (-7,500). Cutbacks were highest in administrative waste and support services (-4,700).
Legislature Continues to Sift Through Governor’s Education Bill
As a result of the Governor’s proposed reforms to the state’s Area Education Agencies, the AEA’s have been a very hot topic so far this session. At this point, the Governor’s office has stated that an amendment to the original bill is being proposed that shifts the control of state and federal special education funding from the AEA’s to local public school districts. It also allows schools to retain their share of the AEA funding for general education services. The AEA’s would continue to provide all special education services they do now, including Child Find and Early Access for children birth to three. AEA’s would also provide general education services and media services if requested by schools and approved by the Department of Education. Under the Governor’s revised plan, special education oversight will shift to the Iowa Department of Education for accountability, transparency, and improved outcomes of students with disabilities.
Many have asked to see the education scores that the Governor’s office references as part of the basis for the proposed reforms. The sources to that data can found below:
• NAEP: Since 2017, Iowa students with disabilities ranked 30th or worse on 9 of 12 assessments.
• ISASP: Spring 2023 assessment results show a 41% proficiency gap for students with disabilities as compared to overall student results.
• The U.S. Department of Education has identified Iowa as “needs assistance” for implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Act since 2018.
What is a Woman?
On Tuesday, House Republicans led a subcommittee on House Study Bill 588 which sets a definition of “woman” in Iowa code. The definition reads that a “woman” means an adult female human. The bill advanced out of subcommittee 2-0. During the meeting, One Iowa handed out the infographic I will leave below reflecting the various decision points one supposedly has to contemplate if they are, indeed, a woman. Ironically, the chart begs the question that with some many decision points related to deciding if one is a woman, that an actual definition of “woman” is needed to help along the way. After all, it would only be helpful if a definition existed to help with any confusion.
Your Children Still have the Right to Privacy
Last year House Republicans worked hard to ensure students in schools were not indoctrinated with destructive gender ideology without the knowledge of parents. One of the bills signed by the Governor, Senate File 482, is important to keep in mind as the far-left tries to fight back against common sense.
Before this bill was signed into law, many parents reached out with concerns for the privacy of their children in school. There were reports of biological males using female changing rooms, bathrooms and instances of female students forced to share a hotel room with a biological male on a school trip. Violating the privacy of these boys and girls is wrong and places them in a position that no child should have to navigate.
Senate File 482 took a simple and straightforward approach. The bill required schools to designate bathrooms and changing rooms for either boys or girls. Girls are now required to use a girl’s bathroom or changing room, and boys are required to use a boy’s bathroom or changing room. If there is any conflict or confusion, the sex listed on the child’s original birth certificate clarifies what facility the child shall use. These requirements also apply when there are extracurricular activities outside of the school building. This ensures girls and boys each have the privacy they should expect in a school.
If a child wants greater privacy than provided by law, their parent can send a letter to the school requesting reasonable accommodations. A reasonable accommodation does not allow a boy to use a girl’s bathroom or vice versa but does allow the child access to a single occupancy restroom or changing area. The bill does make exceptions for a parent assisting a child, maintenance staff, and emergency situations.
Protecting the privacy of children should be a priority for all adults – children shouldn’t be subjected to woke and destructive gender ideology and should have their privacy protected in their school setting.
Where Does the DEI Restructuring Plan at Iowa Universities
Stand Right Now?
As a result of legislation proposed by House Republicans during the 2023 legislative session, the Iowa Board of Regents established a study group of three members of the board to investigate not only the effectiveness of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) offices and programs but also if a need actually exists for the offices and programs. The study group was established in March of 2023 and it delivered ten recommendations in November.
Those recommendations were:
1. Restructure the central, university-wide DEI offices to eliminate any DEI functions that are not necessary for compliance or accreditation. Support services in these offices must be broadly available to all students and/or employees, subject to applicable state or federal eligibility requirements.
2. Review all college, department, or unit-level DEI positions to determine whether DEI specific job responsibilities are necessary for compliance, accreditation or student and employee support services. Any position responsibilities that are not necessary for these purposes shall be adjusted or eliminated. Position and/or working titles shall be reviewed to ensure they appropriately reflect position responsibilities.
3. Review the services provided by offices currently supporting diversity or multicultural affairs in other divisions of the university to ensure they are available to all students, subject to applicable state or federal eligibility requirements. Program promotional and informational materials and websites shall be updated to clarify that the mission of these offices is to support success broadly.
4. Take reasonable steps to assure the following:
• No employee, student, applicant, or campus visitor is required to submit a DEI statement or be evaluated based on participation in DEI initiatives, unless the position is required for DEI-related compliance or accreditation.
• No employee, student, applicant, or campus visitor is compelled to disclose their pronouns.
5. Develop a Board policy prohibiting the consideration of race and other protected class characteristics in admissions that is consistent with the law.
6. Initiate a review of DEI-related general education categories and update category names to accurately reflect the array of options students may select from to satisfy these requirements and ensure a breadth of offerings.
7. Standardize issuance of annual employee guidance regarding the separation of personal political advocacy from university business and employment activities.
8. Explore potential recruitment strategies for advancing diversity of intellectual and philosophical perspective in faculty and staff applicant pools.
9. Explore a proposal, including cost, to establish a widespread initiative that includes opportunities for education and research on free speech and civic education.
10. Annually, the Board office shall issue a reminder to the universities on the requirements of 4.2.I, which governs university websites and other university communications.
The regent universities are supposed to provide a progress update at the April 2024 board meeting. It is worth noting that the April meeting is to occur after the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn for the year. The next scheduled meeting of the board is set for the end of February – no agenda for that meeting has been released yet.
In response to the board’s recommendations, the University of Iowa announced that a 20-person committee of UI administrators and faculty. The committee includes just two Republicans and at least 14 Democrats. It will “make recommendations that will enhance the effectiveness of the university’s services and programs and evaluate central DEI efforts to ensure alignment with compliance, accreditation, and grant requirements. The group will also evaluate the structure of diversity and inclusion programming across campus, consider the skill sets students and employees need to lead on campus, review job responsibilities and titles, and establish measurable goals and outcomes.” The committee’s goal is to develop a plan to address the board’s ten recommendations and present that plan to UI President Barbara Wilson by March 15th.
Iowa State University President Wendy Wintersteen announced that a focus group of 14 along with a senior leadership team of six, including herself, along with other “faculty, staff, students and administrators who will work with the president and senior leaders to provide feedback and help advise on a plan to comply with the recommendations.” The focus group contains just one Republican and at least six Democrats. The senior leadership team contains two Republicans, two Democrats and two Independents. ISU plans to provide its implementation plans at the April 24th Board of Regents meeting.
The University of Northern Iowa announced shortly after the board’s recommendations were released that “the university will form an advisory group similar to that of Iowa State University and the University of Iowa.”
Five states have banned DEI programs – Florida, Texas, North Carolina, North Dakota and Idaho. CNBC reported last month that even woke tech giants like Meta and Google “have cut staffers and downsized programs that fell under DEI investment.”
DEI, according to Andy Kessler of the Wall Street Journal, can be simply defined this way: “Diversity meant ideological conformity. Equity meant discrimination. Inclusion meant blurring the sexes.”
Bill Ackman is a billionaire hedge fund manager, philanthropist, and graduate of Harvard Business School. He is a donor to Democratic politicians and his foundation has given money to Planned Parenthood. He recently gained notoriety for his activist stance against antisemitic views in the wake of the Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7th. He publicly campaigned for the resignation of Harvard President Claudine Gay after she failed to condemn the Hamas attacks during congressional testimony. Ackman posted on X (formerly twitter) that he began to look into why Gay did what she did. His focus eventually landed on DEI. He wrote the following:
“The more I learned, the more concerned I became, and the more ignorant I realized I had been about DEI, a powerful movement that has not only pervaded Harvard, but the educational system at large. I came to understand that Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion was not what I had naively thought these words meant.”
Ackman continued, “DEI was not about diversity in its purest form, but rather DEI was a political advocacy movement on behalf of certain groups that are deemed oppressed under DEI’s own methodology.”
“Under DEI’s ideology, any policy, program, educational system, economic system, grading system, admission policy, (and even climate change due its disparate impact on geographies and the people that live there), etc. that leads to unequal outcomes among people of different skin colors is deemed racist.
As a result, according to DEI, capitalism is racist, Advanced Placement exams are racist, IQ tests are racist, corporations are racist, or in other words, any merit-based program, system, or organization which has or generates outcomes for different races that are at variance with the proportion these different races represent in the population at large is by definition racist under DEI’s ideology.”
Ackman states, “DEI is racist because reverse racism is racism, even if it is against white people (and it is remarkable that I even need to point this out). Racism against white people has become considered acceptable by many not to be racism, or alternatively, it is deemed acceptable racism. While this is, of course, absurd, it has become the prevailing view in many universities around the country.”
What Happens When the State of Iowa is Facing a Lawsuit?
Iowa State University head wrestling coach Kevin Dresser didn’t pull any punches when he expressed his feelings regarding the Division of Criminal Investigation’s probe into gambling among athletes at Iowa State and Iowa. Dresser said, “I hope these athletes, at Iowa & Iowa State, take the State of Iowa to the cleaners.” Only time will tell if a lawsuit is brought by the athletes against the state.
But what happens when the state is facing a lawsuit? Who pays any claim or settlement when the state or one of its employees is being sued? The answer may surprise those who actually foot the bill.
Many in the public assume the state, just like they do at home or in their business, carries some form of liability insurance to cover settlements or judgments when they are sued. But that is not how it works for the state of Iowa. The state is self-insured, but what does it mean to be self-insured? It is actually pretty simple – the General Fund pays for any legal claims against the state. The state does not carry any type of liability insurance. Instead, the taxpayers of Iowa are the state’s insurers.
Claims against the state have to be filed with the State Appeal Board, a three-member panel that oversees payment of claims. The Board is made up of the State Auditor (Rob Sand), State Treasurer (Roby Smith), and Director of the Department of Management (Kraig Paulsen). All sorts of claims are approved or rejected by this board, ranging from reissuing paychecks when an employee forgets to cash it to sexual harassment lawsuits by state employees and multi-million dollar medical malpractice claims against the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC).
The Board works with the Attorney General’s office and Department of Management staff in reviewing claims. Every month, the State Appeal Board meets to review and act on claims. These meetings usually go on without much fanfare, unless there is a case that involves a significant payout. These usually are malpractice claims against UIHC.
How much does the State Appeal Board pay out annually? Under Iowa law, the Board receives a standing, unlimited appropriation for its work. The Board receives as much money as it needs to cover the cost of these claims each year. In Fiscal Year 2023, the state budgeted $4.6 million for the State Appeal Board but actually spent $17.9 million. This does not include the claim made against the University of Iowa’s athletic department by former football players alleging discrimination. That settlement of nearly $2 million was paid for by the University after legislators considered language requiring athletic departments at the three state universities to repay the state for any legal claims against them.
The situation with the DCI sports gambling investigation has a long ways to go until it may appear on a State Appeal Board agenda, but if the media reports are anywhere close to accurate, the taxpayers of Iowa should be on alert.
Retirement Income Exclusion Rules Effective on Valentine’s Day
The Department’s rules to implement the retirement exclusion enacted in Division VI of House File 2317 (2022) will be adopted and effective on February 14th. By way of reminder for tax years prior to 2023, a taxpayer who was disabled, at least 55, or who was the surviving spouse of a qualifying taxpayer, could exclude a maximum of $6,000 of requirement income from individual income tax. House File 2317 excluded all retirement income from individual income tax beginning with tax year 2023.
This rulemaking is intended to implement the statutory change to the retirement income exclusion from a partial to a full exclusion for qualifying taxpayers receiving distributions from qualifying plans. This rulemaking identifies certain plans that do and do not qualify for the exclusion as well as defining how survivors with an insurable interest may qualify for the exclusion. It also updates what items of income are and are not required to be added back to Iowa taxable income to determine whether a taxpayer has a filing requirement, including eliminating excluded retirement income from the required add backs. Finally, this rulemaking updates rules related to withholding to implement the full exclusion for retirement income described above. The text of the rules can be found at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/aco/arc/7502C.pdf
USDA to Reopen Signup for CRP
This month the United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (USDA-FSA) announced the agency will begin accepting applications for the Continuous Conservation Reserve Program (Continuous CRP) signup on January 12th. USDA-FSA encourages agricultural producers and landowners interested in conservation opportunities for their land in exchange for yearly rental payments to consider the enrollment options available through Continuous CRP, which also includes the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) offered by FSA partners. Additionally, producers participating in CRP can apply to re-enroll beginning January 12th, if their contracts will expire this year.
2024 Forum Schedule
Des Moines County:
• Greater Burlington Partnership Friday Forum: Friday, January 19th from 8 – 9AM.
• Greater Burlington Partnership Friday Forum: Friday, March 8th from 8 – 9AM. (Was originally March 15th.)
(In person attendance for these forums are limited to chamber members only but a link to the live video of these forums and recordings of past Friday Forums can be found here. Questions can also be submitted through the chat live.)
• Saturday, February 3rd from 11AM – 12PM at Wapello City Hall in the City Council Chambers.
• Saturday, March 2nd from 11AM – 12PM at Wapello City Hall in the City Council Chambers.
• Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast: Friday, February 16th from 8 – 9AM at Mount Pleasant City Hall.
• Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast: Saturday, March 16th from 8 – 9AM – location is TBD.
• Muscatine Community College Legislative Forum: Saturday, February 3rd from 9 – 10AM at Muscatine Community College in the lounge in the Student Services Building.
• Wilton Legislative Forum: Saturday, March 2nd from 9 – 10AM at Wilton City Hall in the Community Room.
Staying in Touch
As always, you also can shoot me an email with any questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call the Capitol Switchboard and leave me a message at (515) 281-7340.
Rep. Taylor Collins
‘One Iowa’ infographic on what a woman is. Perhaps we have over complicated this issue…
In this week’s edition of The Hawkeye, Sheriff Glendening shares his support for a bill introduced by myself and Rep. Rinker cracking down on felons in possession of a firearm. This bill has passed the House and awaits consideration by the Senate.
As seen in last week’s Farm Bureau Spokesman, my bill, HF 2014, would give farmers another window to fill depredation deer tags by allowing them to use the tags during the January Antlerless Deer Season.
Listening to a presentation from the Iowa Reading Research Center at the University of Iowa in the House Education Committee last week.
Tasker got to be Governor for about 30 seconds!
Wapello’s RoboLoco kids!
It was great to meet Matt and show him around the Capitol! Matt receives services from Hope Haven in Burlington – now a division of Imagine the Possibilities.