Dear Senate District 48,
– Week Five –
This Week in the Senate
We have now completed the fifth week of the legislative session and, we are now coming up on the first deadline for the year. Because of this deadline, the Senate was abuzz with many ongoing subcommittee meetings in an attempt to move legislation through committees before the end of next week.
Economic Development Appropriations Budget Subcommittee Receives More Updates
The Senate Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee met once again on Monday to hear presentations from more of our stakeholders who receive appropriated funds. An update was given by Director Debi Durham, Iowa Finance Authority and Iowa Economic Development Authority. We also heard from David Spalding, Vice President for Economic Development and Industry Relations and the Dean of Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University of Science and Technology and his colleague, Dr. Peter Dorhout, Vice President of Research at Iowa State University of Science and Technology. Director Durham highlighted jobs, housing and tourism and spoke about programming that has been deployed and success measures that have been used to monitor progress to making Iowa the best state to live and work in.
Health and Human Services Provides Assistance for New and Expectant Moms
In her Condition of the State speech last month, Governor Reynolds spoke about wanting to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage for low-income Iowa women from 60 days to 12 months. Senate Study Bill 3140 advanced in the Senate this week. It does two things. First, it reduces current income eligibility from over $93,000 annually for a household of three to over $53,000 annually for a household of three. It also extends the time period for coverage from 60 days to 12 months. Eligible women will now be covered during the months of pregnancy through a year following the end of the pregnancy.
Public assistance programs like Medicaid should be available for low-income Iowans and not for everyone to qualify. Hard-working Iowans should not be asked to pay for the health insurance of people making nearly $100,000 per year. Iowa is one of only a few states to offer two months of postpartum coverage for women, but the income eligibility has been the most generous in the country. The changes in this bill bring Iowa in line with many other states, both for income eligibility and duration of coverage. This policy is consistent with many of Senate Republicans’ policies that advanced over the years to ensure public assistance programs are available for people truly in need and are not utilized by people with the means to provide for themselves.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee also passed Senate Study Bill 3114. This bill designed to support expectant mothers, would update the More Options for Maternal Support (MOMS) program to provide more accessibility to pregnancy support services for pregnant women in Iowa. This bill would also allow the Iowa Health and Human Services department to better support women throughout and after their pregnancy, by affording the department more flexibility in distribution of the funding allocated to them.
Protecting Iowa’s Farmland
A bill that made its way through the Agriculture Committee in the Senate last week is Senate File 2204. This bill is designed to protect our Iowa farmland from being purchased by foreign entities like the communist Chinese government. For years Iowa has had one of the toughest laws in the country regarding foreign ownership of land. This year, the governor proposed to update and strengthen those laws to ensure Iowa’s land stays in the hands of Iowans and Americans.
SF 2204 tightens up the reporting requirements from foreign corporations owning more than 250 acres of land from annual reporting to twice per year. Foreign entities must register land within 60 days of acquisition and if they fail to register in a timely manner, they would be subject to a penalty of up to 25% of the assessed value of the land. Under the bill, if a foreign entity fails to file the biennial report or provides false information, it will be subject to a fine of up to $10,000 per offense.
Iowa has some of the most productive farmland in the world and it provides the world with safe, plentiful, and affordable food. A safe and reliable food supply is a critical aspect of America’s national security. No country can survive or defend itself without a safe and abundant food supply. This bill enhances already strong protections surrounding Iowa’s farmland and protects the food supply for our country.
Providing Equal Opportunity for All Iowans
Opportunity has, and continues to be, one of the foundations of our country and a principle at the core of its founding. Equal opportunity was the conversation in the Senate State Government Committee this week. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about getting a job you want, building the life you’ve always dreamed of, or serving your community in an area of expertise, the government’s goal should be to provide an equal playing field and reward merit.
This week, the Senate State Government Committee passed Senate File 2096, ensuring the most qualified applicants for boards and commissions in Iowa would be considered. It eliminates the gender-balance restrictions for state appointments put into place in 1987 and later expanded to local governments. The law was initially enacted to help women, however, it now hinders the ability for boards and commissions to find the most qualified people and even keeps women off of boards and commissions that they are perfectly qualified for because of the restrictions.
This idea was proposed last year in the State Government Committee, but has become more important recently. Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled Iowa’s law requiring a judicial nominating panel be gender-balanced is unconstitutional, highlighting the need for us to get rid of this unnecessary restriction. This lawsuit occurred because a highly qualified woman was ineligible to serve on the commission because of the gender balance law.
A quick review of the people holding Iowa’s elected offices gives insight into some of the many ways women are representing us in Iowa and underscores how the times have changed. We are represented by Governor Kim Reynolds, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, Congresswoman Ashley Hinson, and Congresswoman Mariannette Miller-Meeks. Brenna Bird is serving her second year as Iowa Attorney General, and serving her second year as the President of the Senate is Senator Amy Sinclair. According to the Boards and Commissions Review Committee report, when the law was enacted in 1987, no Iowa woman had been elected to the United States Senate, United States House of Representatives, Governor, Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, or Speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives. As of last year, that has all changed and all offices have now been held by women in Iowa.
By eliminating this rule, we can establish more opportunity for all Iowans to serve in capacities important to them. We will also be able to ensure we are looking at people based on merit instead of gender. SF 2096 benefits all boards and commissions looking for the best people to serve their communities and our state.