From Senator Mark Lofgren

– Week 10  

This Week in the Senate
During Week 10, the focus in the Senate included debate on a number of issues like improving access to health care, ensuring education funding is being spent in the classroom, easing regulations, and cutting red tape. We also released our budget target for this year. The March Revenue Estimating Conference meeting last week, provided us a look at the state’s budget and revenue, and confirmed that our pro-growth policies and responsible budgeting have been working for our state. $8.486 billion is our budget target for the next fiscal year. This aligns with the target that Governor Reynolds has put forward. It is a 3.3 percent increase in state spending and an amount that allows us to continue our goal of responsible, conservative spending so we can focus on investing in important priorities and continue to provide tax relief for Iowans.
Adding Access to Pharmaceutical Care
The Senate passed Senate File 326 on Wednesday with a vote of 45 to 3. This bill would allow pharmacies in Iowa to dispense Epi-Pens without a prescription. If a patient needs emergency access or forgot their prescribed EpiPen, this will provide them the ability to secure one at a pharmacy within the state. Access to these life savings drugs should not be limited to a prescription. The bill also allows self-administered hormonal contraceptives to be dispensed and administered by state pharmacists for patients 18-years and older without a prescription. To qualify for this, the contraceptive must be approved by the FDA to prevent pregnancy and cannot be intended to induce an abortion.

 Senate File 318 also passed the Senate this week.  This bill allows the Department of Workforce Development to establish the Iowa Office of Apprenticeship under their direction. There will be specific criteria in order to register an apprenticeship program with the Iowa Office of Apprenticeship. An apprenticeship program must include:

  • employer involvement
  •  on-the-job training
  •  related training instruction from a lead apprenticeship sponsor
  •  paid work experience
  •  receipt of a portable state or nationally recognized credential
  •  must be in compliance with applicable federal regulations.

The goal of this bill is to help address the workforce challenges our state continues to experience and to provide more people the skills they need to be successful in the industries with workforce needs.

Placing the Focus on Students and on Technology

Two bills passed the Senate this week that will ensure that education funding is focused on students and teachers. The first, Senate File 251, expands the definition of administrative costs within the Iowa code. The current Iowa Code limits administrative expenditures to not more than five percent of a district’s general fund. The bill defines administrative expenditures as those which do not relate directly to students and their instruction. This definition includes salaries for administrators and office staff, school administration, general administration, and data processing and collection services. The bill exempts schools with less than 1,000 students so that schools that rely on sharing agreements or rural and small schools are not inhibited from being able to provide essential services.

The goal with this legislation is to ensure that the billions of dollars spent on K-12 education in Iowa is thoughtfully spent with a focus on getting more money into the classroom for instruction and teacher salaries rather than growing administration. From FY 1993 to FY 2021, the number of students in Iowa has increased 9 percent, and teachers have increased 25 percent. At the same time, the increase in all other school district staff was 60 percent. Administrative staffing and costs are rising at a rate far above the increase of students and teachers.

Approximately two-thirds of district expenditures come from their general fund. Based on FY 2021 estimates, of this fund, less than half of those expenditures went directly to instruction in terms of teacher and para educator salaries, general supplies, and curriculum materials. This data shows on average, roughly only a third of the money schools spend is spent in the classroom. While administration, facilities, and other services are necessary, we want to ensure money is first and foremost going to teachers and classrooms for the instruction of students.

Another bill, Senate File 398 , which passed the Senate with a unanimous vote, would require the Department of Education to provide educational resources and technical assistance to school districts with career and technical student organizations related to robotics and robotics teams and competitions. The bill would also allow robotics organizations to receive money from a school district to pay dues or membership fees, or to sponsor or administer interscholastic contests or competitions related to robotics. Robotics activities are a great way to expose students to STEM learning through hands-on experiences and they assist in the development of important skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and other competencies needed in our workforce today. This bill will provide access to additional resources to support and expand robotics programs across the state and will allow more students to benefit from these programs.

Controlling Over-Regulation by Local Governments

SF 455 passed this week. It aims to  provide relief on over-regulation of storm water by local governments. This is not a high profile issue and rarely does it make the news, but it is another in a long line of regulations at every level of government making the cost of living too high. SF 455 simply says local governments cannot regulate topsoil beyond the standards set by the DNR. This language provides clarity for small businesses working to build affordable housing and helps them avoid the added costs inherent in excessive regulation.

Visitors This Week

With this week being Spring Break for many school districts across the state, we had many young visitors at the Capitol. One of those was our oldest granddaughter, Gracie. She spent some time touring and learning about our beautiful capitol building, and she was able to visit both chambers of the legislature. Her favorite part of her visit to Des Moines was getting to travel to the top of the dome for the first time. It doesn’t matter how old you are, it never ceases to amaze visitors of the uniqueness and timeless beauty of our state house.

REC Day on the Hill 

On Wednesday we welcomed representatives from the Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative in the rotunda for REC Day on the Hill. This gave us the opportunity to meet with electric cooperatives from around the state and talk about legislation, safety issues, rural Iowa and our communities, and economic development in our state. We welcome the many visitors and groups that come to the Capitol and talk to us about their interests, concerns and give us feedback on issues moving through the legislature.

Changes Coming for Medicaid Recipients

Muscatine County Public Health has announced that changes are ahead for Medicaid recipients. Please Click Here to access the announcement and for information about how to call to ensure you continue to receive benefits.

Iowa Workforce Development: A Great Resource for Individuals and Businesses Across the State
Whether you’re an individual looking to start a new career or open your own business, or a current business owner looking to make changes to your business plan or hire new employees, you can count on finding resources to help you in your endeavors on the Iowa Workforce Development website or at an Iowa Works location near you. You will find podcasts to assist you in your job search as well as an ongoing blog full of information and updates for individuals and businesses alike. Trying to secure employment can be a stressful undertaking, and locating qualified workers to fill vacancies in a business can be quite time consuming. Let Iowa Workforce Development help you with these challenging situations!

Best regards,