Collins Capitol Connection – Week 9

The pace of debate has slowed down a bit this week as many House files have already been messaged over the Senate. With the Senate now messaging over Senate files, subcommittee and committee meetings are now picking up again as these senate files must be out of a House committee before next friday (the second funnel deadline).


General Fund Revenue Higher Through First Eight Months of Fiscal Year

With less than 2 weeks to the next meeting of the state’s Revenue Estimating Conference, additional information is arriving to help the three-member panel adjust their official December forecast.

February revenue collections for the state of Iowa were lower than last year’s take, but tax payments for the year are still running ahead of the latest REC forecast. Overall revenue in February was down $116 million when compared to last year’s figures. Even with February’s decline, state General Fund receipts are 1.3% higher through the first eight months of the fiscal year. This figure is ahead of the latest forecast from the Revenue Estimating Conference. Last December, the three-member panel projected state revenue would decline by 1.3% for the fiscal year.

Personal income tax collections continue to be below the previous year’s receipts, but that would be expected with last year’s phase of the 2022 income tax reform bill fully implemented. For the year, personal income tax payments are down 13.2%, which is more of a decline than what the REC has projected.

Sales and use tax collections fell slightly in February. Sales tax collections came in $1.1 million lower than what the state collected in February 2023. Sales tax collections are still outpacing the REC projection. Over eight months, sales and use tax payments have risen by 6.9 percent over FY 2023. This is higher than the 5.1% growth forecasted by the REC.

Corporate income tax revenue was higher in February than the previous year’s level. Payments came in $13.8 million higher than February 2023 collections. But February is traditionally one of the smallest months of the year for corporate income tax payments, and that was the case again this year as total payments amounted to $23.8 million. For the year, corporate tax collections are 4.1% higher than in FY 2023. This is ahead of the December forecast of 1.5% growth.


Election Security Measure Passes House

This week the House passed House File 2610, a bill to make several minor changes to increase security in Iowa’s elections. The bill completes the full cycle of security for absentee ballots, ensuring accurate reporting of receipt of ballots, and assist in the timely delivery of absentee ballots to voters who request them.

In 2017 Iowa enacted voter identification requirements to register to vote and to cast votes. Iowa Code extends this requirement to voters requesting an absentee ballot to provide the same information as a person registering to voter must provide. This can be a voter’s driver’s license number or the voter’s voter identification number. Currently, there is no required identifying information required to return a completed ballot. To ensure that the ballot has been completed and returned by the voter who requested the ballot, HF 2610 requires the voter sign an affidavit envelope and affix their driver’s license number or voter identification number before placing it in a secrecy envelope to return it. Each envelope is affixed with the same serial number to confirm that the absentee ballot was completed and returned by the requester. These requirements are the same information a voter who votes in person must provide in order to cast a ballot.

Another change the bill makes regarding absentee ballots is the requirement that they arrive at the county auditor’s office before 5pm the Monday before an election and requires the county auditor to report the ballot as received. This change is to provide more accurate information for absentee voters to know if their ballot has arrived in time or not. If enacted, this change allows the voter to know for certain that they have successfully voted absentee or that they will need to go to their polling location the next day. To ensure that this change does not limit the window an absentee voter has to complete and return their ballots the bill authorizes county auditors to mail absentee ballots two days earlier than current law.

These changes to the election code are not drastic but are necessary to complete the work of maintaining Iowa’s election integrity. It is clear that Iowans have faith in our elections and trust the outcomes. While the work to ensure election integrity is never over, House Republicans have led the way in enacting legislation to protect the election process while enabling Iowans the fundamental right to vote.


House Republicans Advance Religious Freedom Throughout the State

The original Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed in 1993 and signed into federal law by then President Bill Clinton. Democrats championed the bill as one that protects the religious beliefs of Americans and keeps the federal government from substantially burdening a person’s free exercise of religion. In 1996, the United States Supreme Court determined that federal RFRA did not apply to states and if states want to implement RFRA they must pass their own state law. Senate File 2095 is Iowa’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and after a contentious debate, it is headed to the Governor for her signature.

Senate File 2095 prohibits the state, counties, or cities from taking action that substantially burdens a person’s religious liberty unless there is a compelling governmental interest. If there is a compelling interest, the limits placed must be met in the least restrictive manner possible. This language is similar to laws in 25 other states, and 10 states that have RFRA like protections in their Constitution.

What should have been a celebration of the first amendment and the right to religious freedom, turned in to a combative debate where Democrats accused Republicans of weaponizing religious beliefs, accused many Christians of being racist, sexist, homophobic and worse. The debate was not about the merits of the bill but instead one of made-up stories and fictious fear mongering. Democrats tried to cite court cases claiming RFRA allows discrimination but the manager of Senate File 2095, Rep. Holt, quickly pointed out that the cases cited weren’t RFRA based cases. RFRA is over 30 years old and none of the outrageous claims made by Democrats have happened in any state.

Some examples of RFRA protecting religion include:

  • A Native American child was told to cut his hair to comply with the public school grooming policy. His family was denied a religious exemption and filed a lawsuit alleging a violation of RFRA. The court found the school had violated the student’s religious liberties.
  • Hobby Lobby was allowed to limit contraception coverage for employees based on the owners closely held religious beliefs under federal RFRA.
  • The Federal Government was required to return eagle feathers it had previously seized from a Native American spiritual leader. The leader appealed the seizure under RFRA.

Protecting religious freedom should be a noncontroversial issue but the contempt shown for those who want religious freedom was unmistakable. It was also clear Democrats did not understand RFRA or what religious liberty actually means in our state and country. Prohibiting the state, counties, and cities from unnecessarily infringing on religious beliefs used to be a nonpartisan issue. Thanks to the work of House Republicans, Iowans will be able to continue practicing their religion without undue burdens from state government.


Mental Health Legislation Advances Through the Legislature

This session, the legislature has advanced 7 bills to address mental health care in Iowa. These bills build on the work the legislature has done over the last 6 years to expand access to mental health care, increase workforce, increase Medicaid rates, create sustainable long-term funding of the mental health regions, and provide an emphasis on children’s mental health care.

The below list includes the status of each bill as of March 6th.

  • Children’s Mental Health – House File 2402 provides for an enhanced rate for psychiatric medical institutions for children that care for children with specialized needs and makes regulatory changes to PMICs based on feedback from providers. This bill passed the Iowa House and has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
  • Access Center Transportation – House File 2397 requires DHHS to authorize payments to ambulances transporting mental health patients in crisis to an access center at a similar amount to when transporting to an ER. This bill passed the Iowa House and has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
  • Social Work Compact – House File 2512 establishes an interstate license for social workers after 7 states have joined the compact. Two states currently have enacted this compact (Missouri and South Dakota). 26 states have pending legislation. The compact is effective upon 7 states joining. This bill passed the Iowa House and has been assigned to the Senate State Government Committee.
  • Direct Supervision and Licensure by Endorsement – House File 2515 creates licensure by endorsement for licensed marital and family therapists and licensed mental health counselors. This bill also prohibits live and recorded direct observation of client interaction for LMFTs, LMHCs, and Social Workers. This bill passed the Iowa House and has been assigned to the Senate State Government Committee.
  • Behavioral Health System – House File 2509 comes from the Governor to transition the current county run mental health and disability services regional system to a state behavioral health service system with state contracted administrative service organizations governed by the Department of Health and Human Services. This bill is in the House Appropriations Committee and does the following:
    • The behavioral health service system has the purpose of prevention, education, early intervention, treatment, recovery support, and crisis services for mental health, substance use, tobacco use, and problem gambling.
    • DHHS will divide the state into behavioral health districts with ASOs to oversee each district and its behavioral health services. ASOs will be selected through RFP. Each district will have a district behavioral health advisory council.
    • The bill directs the funds from the federal community health mental health services block grant and the federal substance abuse prevention and treatment block grant to DHHS.
    • Creates a central data repository for behavioral health data with demographic information, expenditure data, and services and supports provided to individuals.
    • Establishes a behavioral health fund, with similar funding to the existing annual increases based on a state growth factor.  The bill prohibits an ASO from spending more than 7% on administrative costs.
    • This bill requires DHHS to designate aging and disability resource centers to establish a coordinated system of providing assistance to persons with disabilities and the elderly.
    • The timeline:
      • September 30, 2024 – DHHS must post transition plan online and update quarterly
      • April 1, 2025 – DHHS will designate the districts and their ASOs
      • July 1, 2025 – the behavioral health system and ADRCs are implemented
  • Social Media for Minors – House File 2523 requires parental consent for minors to access social media. There are many studies that show increased depression in youth using social media. This bill has passed the Iowa House and awaits assignment of a Senate Committee.
  • Therapeutic Classrooms – House File 2631 allows the Iowa Department of Education to retain and repurpose unspent therapeutic classroom transportation funds to support additional therapeutic classroom grants. The bill passed the Iowa House and has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee.
  • Clinical Privileges – House File 2210 prohibits questions regarding past mental illness or substance use disorders for clinical privileges or licensure applications for health professions. This bill passed the Iowa House and has been assigned to Senate State Government Committee.
  • Voluntarily Holding Firearms – House File 2421 allows a person to voluntarily handover their firearm to a FFL dealer for safekeeping. This allows gun owners who are in mental health distress to give their property over while in crisis and have it returned when they are prepared. This bill passed the House and has been assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee.
  • Clinical Privileges – House File 2210 prohibits questions regarding past mental illness or substance use disorders for clinical privileges or licensure applications for health professions. This bill passed the Iowa House and has been assigned to Senate State Government Committee.


Automated Traffic Enforcement Systems in Iowa Legislature

As discussions pick up again over the role of automated traffic enforcement systems in Iowa, it is important for Iowans to understand what these systems are, what they do, and how much money they generate. Thanks to the work of the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, many of these questions can now be answered.

Under Iowa law, automated traffic enforcement systems are officially known as “automated or remote system for traffic law enforcement”. In much of the discussion at the Capitol, they are referred to as ATE’s. State law defines these as a camera or other optical device designed to work in conjunction with an official traffic control signal or speed-measuring device to identify motor vehicles operating in violation of traffic laws, the use of which results in the issuance of citations sent through the mail or by electronic means. To the average person, these are speed cameras used to reduce the incidence of speeding in a specific location or a red-light camera who catch people running red lights.

Some of these ATE are mobile, moving around a community to certain streets and roads to deter speeding in the area. Most ATE systems deployed in the state are in a permanent location. In most situations, the systems are operated by an outside vendor which retains a portion of the paid fines as payment for equipping and operating the system.

The Legislative Services Agency identified 25 communities at the start of 2024 were using an ATE system for traffic control of some manner. These are Bellevue, Buffalo, Cedar Rapids, Chester, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Fayette, Fort Dodge, Hazleton, Hudson, Independence, LeClaire, Marion, Marshalltown, Miles, Muscatine, Oelwein, Postville, Prairie City, Sioux City, Strawberry Point, Waterloo, Webster City, and West Union. There are other communities who are reported to be considering placing an ATE system on a roadway in or around their city.

LSA was able to get additional information from ten of the communities currently using ATE systems for traffic law enforcement.  They were able to get details on the amount of the base fine, number of violations, and amount of revenue generated for the community and their vendor. A picture of those results can be found at the end of my newsletter.


Childcare Center Property Tax Cut Will Spur Availability

House Study Bill 726 passed unanimously out of House Ways and Means Committee this week. The bill cuts property taxes for commercial childcare centers to spur growth in the availability and affordability of childcare in Iowa.

Current law provides that a childcare center or childcare facility are commercial properties and as such are assigned a 90% rollback. This means they pay property tax on 90% of their assessed value. HSB 726 provides that for assessments years beginning January 1, 2024 and after—property that is primarily used as a child care center or facility—although a commercial property—will be given the same rollback as residential property (this year 46%). This will result in a property tax cut for these businesses.

A person who wishes to qualify for this rollback must file an application with the assessor by July 1st of the assessment year for which the person is first requesting the limitation on forms provided by the Department of Revenue. The license to operate as a childcare center or facility must be included with the application. The person will not have to apply in subsequent years as long as the property is still used for this purpose.

Each county’s board of supervisors shall determine eligibility of applicants by September 1st of each year. There is a process for appealing a decision. Additionally, if a property is receiving the residential rollback, but no longer is being used as a childcare center or facility—the taxes that would have been owed will have to be paid back. The bill now moves to the floor as a Ways and Means Committee bill for further consideration.


House Advances Updates to Iowa One Call System

Recently the Iowa House unanimously passed House File 2581, a bill to make changes to the Iowa One Call system. Iowa One Call is the 8-1-1 phone number that Iowans call before they dig to ensure that underground utilities are not harmed. The Iowa One Call system currently processes over 540,000 tickets and coordinates more than 2.7 million locate requests per year throughout Iowa.

Iowa Code Chapter 480 has not had many updates in the last 10 years, and this bill is meant to modernize the Iowa One Call system. The bill makes the following changes:

  • Revises the 48-hour notice period and the notice timeline from 20 days to 25 days.
  • Requires two excavators and two locators to the board as non-voting members.
  • Requires IUB to receive records upon request when they are involved in a case with the AGs office and allows the IUB to investigate complaints against locators.
  • Allows the AG to issue civil penalties ($100-$5,000) against the locator if a complaint is filed. Allows for a warning letter from the AGs office instead of the civil penalty.
  • Requires locators to accurately complete locates and to notify One Call when a locate cannot be completed.
  • Requires One Call to establish a communication system to allow for notice to be provided to utilities, locators, and excavators.
  • Allows for nondestructive methods to be used when agreed to by the excavator and utility.
  • Requires the flag used to include the name of the utility.

This bill has passed the Senate Commerce Committee and awaits floor action in the Senate.


Department of Education Presents to Education Budget Subcommittee

On Tuesday, representatives from the Iowa Department of Education presented to the House Education Budget Subcommittee. They walked through the Department’s organizational chart, the Governor’s budget recommendations, updated the committee on the aligned entities, and discussed their administrative actions in the Department’s four top priorities.

As many know, over the past two years the House has pushed to reform the Board of Educational Examiners so actual results from the complaints submitted by teachers and parents. House Republicans want to get the “bad” teachers out and protect students from them. From 2020 to 2023, the BOEE saw a 66.7% increase in total cases per year. In 2020 there were 141 total cases. In 2023 there were 235 total cases. So far in 2024 there are 201 open cases. The Department has requested funding for another investigator to help with that growing case load so decisions are made in a timely manner. Right now, some of the cases are going past deadlines causing additional stress on the families, teachers, and everyone involved while potentially keeping that bad teacher in the school. Adding at least one investigator will help.

The Department is working to narrow and close achievement gaps through accountability and support. Part of this support is by providing education leaders with information about and access to high-quality instructional materials. This means if districts use the materials vetted by the Department, they know what they are teaching is high quality and aligned to standards.

Multiple people commented that this was the most thorough presentation they can remember from the Department. Not only was it thorough, but offered departmental transparency under Director Snow’s leadership.


Iowa Veterans Trust Fund Annual Report Released

The Iowa Veterans Commission released its annual report on the status of the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund. The report can be found here. Currently the Trust Fund has $40.5 million. Annually the Iowa Lottery transfers $2.5 million to the Trust Fund based on proceeds. Additionally, the Trust Fund accumulates interest that increases the balance.

Last session, the Iowa House unanimously passed House File 142 to increase the appropriation to the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund to $800,000 annually in addition to monthly interest revenue. Currently the fund receives $500,000 annually from the Iowa Lottery to help eligible veterans and their families with emergency needs. The Iowa Senate has not advanced the bill. However, in 2022 the legislature allowed for an additional investment of the fund, which has resulted in significantly higher interest payments since going into effect.

Our Iowa veterans stepped up to serve our country and they deserve our support when they return home. If you are an eligible veteran and need of assistance, please click here to find the application process.


Remaining Forums

Des Moines County:

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.)
Louisa County:

Saturday, March 2nd from 11AM – 12PM at Wapello City Hall in the City Council Chambers.
Henry County:

Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast: Saturday, March 16th from 8 – 9AM at the Mount Pleasant Masonic Lodge #8.
Muscatine County:

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 or you can call the Capitol Switchboard and leave me a message at (515) 281-7340.

Rep. Taylor Collins