From Representative Taylor Collins

To the People of House District 95


The seventh week of the 90th General Assembly has come to a close and it has been a busy one. I serve on four different policy committees so my week was packed with meetings pushing as many bills out of committee as possible before we hit the first funnel deadline next Friday. I apologize for not getting my newsletter out yesterday, but I did not get back to Mediapolis until late last night!


Sexually Explicit Material in Schools

Over the past week I started receiving questions about republicans in Iowa supposedly trying to ‘ban books’ – this is far from the truth, so let me provide some background as to the conversations / hearings that have been going on at the capitol. This month, the Government Oversight committee brought in five Iowa moms to share their experience challenging age-inappropriate books in their child’s school library or curriculum. The parents cited graphic sexual images, explicit sexual content, and disturbing accounts of violent sexual assault, rape, and pedophilia. There are a couple of takeaways I want you to get from reading my newsletter:

1. This is a serious issue.

We’re not talking about books with a couple of swear words or romantic scenes. We’re talking about material that is pornographic. I don’t feel comfortable sending the images or text of some of the passages of these books to your inbox, nor would it even be allowed to be printed in your local paper – which I hope would prove our point that these books should be no where near a child. Nevertheless, if you would like more information, I can send you some excerpts from these books or I am happy share some of the images with at one of my next forums. To illustrate, all three of these books below were found in school districts across Iowa:

Let’s Talk About It is a graphic novel described as “The Teens Guide to Sex, Relationships and Being a Human.” The book contains sexually explicit illustrations with instructions, tips and suggestions on how to perform various sex acts, and also suggests ways to consume pornography.

Gender Queer is a graphic novel about gender identity and sexual orientation written to relate to others who are struggling with gender identity. The book explores the use of pronouns and hormone-blocking therapies. It contains graphic illustrations of different sexual acts.

Push is described by as a “heavily sexually abused teenager’s life circumstances change when a new mentor teaches her to read.” The book contains detailed and disturbing instances of incest and sexual molestation.

2. We’re not banning books. 

This isn’t about banning books. This is about ensuring sexually explicit materials aren’t available in public schools without parental knowledge and consent. Whether these books are removed from school libraries or given a parental consent restriction, parents are still able to allow their children to read whatever books they’d like. The child may just not be able to get sexually explicit material from school.

3. The system is broken. 

You would assume that once those books I mentioned above were objected to by parents that they would be immediately removed or placed under restriction, right? Wrong.

The process to challenge a book is a bureaucratic mess and gives little to no power to parents. One parent from this month’s meeting described the book reconsideration process in her school district which required her to go through an eight-step process that included at least four different administrator-selected committees and other boards. Eventually, she hired an attorney to help guide her through the process. She lost at every step along the way.  The book Gender Queer is still available in the school without restriction. This issue must be addressed, and legislators are discussing many proposals as far as how to handle it.


Maternal Health Bill Advances Through HHS Committee

This week the House Health and Human Services Committee advanced House Study Bill 91, the Governor’s Maternal Health bill, with bipartisan support.

This makes the following changes expand access to maternal health care in Iowa:
•    Doubles the number of Regional Centers of Excellence Programs in Iowa
•    Adds four annual family medicine obstetric fellowships every year
•    Creates a statewide standing order to allow pharmacists to dispense initially 3-months of an oral hormonal contraceptive, hormonal vaginal ring, or a hormonal contraceptive patch, and then subsequent year supplies, to patients 18 years and older. The woman must complete a self-screening risk assessment and blood pressure check prior to being dispensed the contraceptive. At least 12 states allow women to get their birth control prescription directly from a pharmacist. This language was modeled after Utah’s law.
•    Adds $1.5 million to the More Options for Maternal Support Program and allows for funds to be used to support fatherhood initiatives
•    Increases the allowable expense for nonrecurring legal fees from $500 to $1000 per child for reasonable, necessary costs directly related to the legal adoption of a child eligible for Iowa’s adoption subsidy program
•    Expands opportunities for foster care students under the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship Program

Additionally, the Governor has already signed House File 161 addressing unpredictably high damage awards jeopardizing OB/GYN care in Iowa. The legislature will also address access to rural hospitals by establishing licensure for Rural Emergency Hospitals in House File 144 / Senate File 75.


Education Committee Bill Gives Schools More Flexibility

This week the House Education Committee passed House Study Bill 119 which is a bill that comes as a collaboration between legislators, the Governor’s office, and superintendents and administrators being asked what could be done to help their schools and allow more flexibility.

The bill removes the requirement that schools must submit a Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP). This does not mean districts aren’t tracking and reporting what is in that plan, it simply means they don’t have to re-input the same data and submit it again. This helps free up administrative time and resources. It also eliminates the requirement that a school librarian must have a Masters degree and allows a district to employee a librarian who was previously employed by a public library. The bill also allows for up to five school days to be virtual. This would be used for things like snow days, flooding, or other reasons why students cannot be in the physical building. The legislation also allows more flexibility for teachers when it comes to classroom space by allowing teachers to teach sequential courses in the same classroom whether it’s AP, regular courses, or community college courses as long as they meet the certification requirements.


Iowa’s Bond Debt Situation – The End Is Still A Long Ways Away

Just like home mortgages, payments on bonds issued by the state seem to go on forever.  And while the state of Iowa has a significantly-lower amount of outstanding bond debt when compared to other states, the cost of these bonds still has a big impact on what can be done to address state infrastructure needs of today and tomorrow.

In 2009, Governor Chet Culver and legislative Democrats believed it was wise fiscal policy for the state to borrow $800 million for a variety of state and local infrastructure projects. The I-Jobs program, as it was called, ended up primarily financing the repairs to the University of Iowa in the aftermath of the floods of 2008.

Perhaps the biggest ongoing impact of the I-Jobs program is the continual debt service payments for this ill-fated scheme.  The state issued $695 million of bonds backed by the state’s gaming tax revenue.  Here in 2023, the state still owes $354.1 million of the bonds’ principal alone. The state will pay approximately $55 million this year from state gaming tax collections to the holders of these bonds, instead of using the funds for needed repairs and new construction at state facilities.  The payments on all the I-Jobs bonds will not end until Fiscal Year 2034.

Another portion of the I-Jobs program was the issuance of $115 million academic building revenue bonds by the Iowa Board of Regents. The Legislature authorized this series of bonds to fund construction projects at the three state universities. While the bonds are backed by tuition revenue from each school, the state actually makes the payment via the Tuition Replacement line item in the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIIF).

The I-Jobs bond and other previous academic building revenue bonds are still being paid off today. In Fiscal Year 2023, the state appropriated $27.9 million from RIIF for the year’s payment on these bonds. And still, there is $240.5 million of principle owed on the outstanding 18 bond series, and interest too. The last payments on these bonds will not be made until the end of Fiscal Year 2036.

The other major bond payment made by the state pays for the construction of the state’s maximum security prison.  In 2007, the Democrat-led Legislature authorized the selling of bonds to finance the building of a new Iowa State Penitentiary at Fort Madison. Today, the state is still making annual payments on the 20-year bonds. In Fiscal Year 2023, the state will pay $13.8 million of judicial revenue for this bond. The state still owes $48.9 million in principle that will finally be paid off at the end of 2027.


Legislative Forums

Tomorrow, Saturday, February 25th, at 8:30AM I’ll be attending the Mount Pleasant Legislative Breakfast hosted by the Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce on on Iowa Wesleyan’s campus in the International Room in the University’s Library. On Saturday March 4th, I’ll be attending two forums – the first one at 9AM at Muscatine Community College, and the second one being at 11AM at Wapello City Hall. I’d encourage anyone in the area to attend!


Rep. Taylor Collins
Iowa House District 95