Mark Lofgren – Week 6 Senate Update

This Week in the Senate

Week Six of the legislative session is now in the books and, we have passed the first deadline for the year. The week also included visitors representing the Iowa Association of School Boards, Eastern Iowa Light and Power, Area Education Agencies, and many others.


Patient’s Right to Save Act Advances

The Patient’s Right to Save Act, Senate File 431, passed out of Health and Human Services Committee this week with unanimous consent. This bill addresses the rising cost of health care by rewarding patients who shop for more affordable care. The bill requires cash rate disclosures from all providers, offering deductible credit for lower-cost cash care, and letting patients share in insurance company savings post-deductible. Lower health care costs are consistently one of the top issues of Iowans and the goal of this bill is to lower costs, reduce premiums, and empower patients.


Increased Regulation and Oversight Needed for Consumable Hemp Products

Also passed out of committee this week with a unanimous vote is Senate Study Bill 3159. The intent of this Judiciary Committee bill is to increase regulation and oversight of Iowa’s consumable hemp law. I received several emails on this bill, and I know other Senators did as well, but many constituents seemed to be confusing it with Iowa’s medical cannabis law. SSB 3159 only affects Iowa’s hemp law, which passed several years ago after Congress passed their own hemp law in the Farm Bill. This legislation is in response to concerns we’ve received on THC-infused beverages and food. It authorizes the Health and Human Services department to regulate the sale of consumable hemp products. This regulation includes setting a THC potency level per serving and also makes it a crime to sell consumable hemp products to someone under the age of 21.

Assault On a Sports Official Not Tolerated in Iowa

Another Judiciary bill that passed out of committee unanimously this week is SF 521. This bill, passed by a voice vote, adds “sports officials” to the list of protected occupations in the Code for which an assault enhances penalties. These range from an aggravated misdemeanor to a class “D” felony. The penalties are tied to conduct and results and are listed in the current Code section on protected occupations. Assault on individuals just for carrying out the jobs they are hired to do should not be allowed in our Iowa sports.


Regulating BOT Purchasing of Event Tickets on the Internet

SF 2269 passed unanimously on a voice vote during the Senate Technology Committee meeting this week. This bill addresses the use or creation of bots to purchase event tickets on the internet. The bill defines “Bot”, “Event”, and “Ticket”, and makes it clear that circumventing limits and controls for online event ticket purchasing will not be tolerated in Iowa.

The bill prohibits the use or creation of a bot to:
• Purchase more than eight (8) tickets, or posted limit if less than eight (8), for any internet ticket sale.
• Use multiple internet protocol addresses, purchaser accounts, or electronic mail addresses to purchase more than eight (8) tickets, or posted limit if less than eight (8), for any internet ticket sale.
• Circumvent or disable an electronic queue, waiting period, presale code, or other sales volume limitation system associated with internet ticket sale.
• Circumvent or disable a security measure, access control system, or other control or measure that is used to facilitate authorized entry to an event.
The bill provides the Attorney General with exclusive authority to enforce the bill’s provisions through civil action. The following remedies may be granted:
• Enjoinment of further violations by the person.
• Enforcement of compliance.
• Civil penalties of not more than $10,000 per violation.
• Other remedies permitted by law.
If the Attorney General has a reasonable belief that an injunction is being violated, the Attorney General may bring civil action to up to $100,000 in civil penalties.


The Senate Education Committee Advances AEA Reforms

This week the Senate Education Committee advanced Senate Study Bill 3073, the bill to reform Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs). Although I’m not on this committee, I have received a lot of emails with comments, questions and feedback. I have met with stakeholders and concerned citizens and shared their feedback with members of the Senate Education Committee, and a number of changes have been made to the original bill that was put forth by Governor Reynolds. The information that follows is currently where the committee in the Senate is at as of today. This is not a final overall Senate decision, nor does it include input from the Iowa House.

Under the bill, as amended in the Senate Education Committee, AEAs will still be able to provide schools with the same services they do now. Since funding is determined on a per pupil basis, if large schools decide not to contract with the AEA, the impact to the pool of AEA funds would be proportional to the number of students with disabilities the AEA would no longer serve. Per pupil amounts are the same within each AEA regardless of school size.

The bill also requires the Department of Education’s special education division to oversee AEA operations and ensure compliance with all applicable federal and state laws related to special education and provide guidance and standards. Each AEA must also submit a report to the Department of Education director and the General Assembly containing the progress the AEA has made in its goal to reduce expenses associated with executive administration by at least 30 percent. It also requires proposals by the AEAs regarding the reorganization of their services, provided they centralize some services while creating centers of excellence for others.

For next school year, AEAs will retain all teacher development and special education funding currently allocated to them. They will keep a portion of media and educational services. After next school year most of the funding for special education, media, and educational services will be directed to local school districts. Districts then can contract with the AEA or another entity to provide those services. This funding formula provides more flexibility to local school districts to best meet their needs for these services, while also ensuring AEAs will have enough resources to continue to offer those services.

It is my hope that we will continue listening to Iowans as we work through this bill, and we will work with our colleagues in the House to find a solution on this issue. Helping to ensure success for our Iowa students with disabilities should always be at the forefront of our decision making on this issue.

Full-Day Preschool Could Become a Reality

SF 2075 also passed out of the Senate Education Committee this week with an almost unanimous vote. This bill gives schools the option under the current statewide voluntary preschool program to phase in full-day preschool for students whose household income is at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

For the school year beginning July 1, 2024 (year 1), schools will be able to include 75 percent of the actual enrollment of income-eligible students toward their total preschool budget enrollment. Students in the category must receive at least 15 hours of instruction weekly.

For school years beginning July 1, 2025, and succeeding years (year 2 and beyond), schools will be able to include 100 percent of the actual enrollment of income-eligible students toward their total preschool budget enrollment. Students in this category must receive at least 20 hours of instruction weekly.

A school may choose to continue providing only 10 hours weekly instruction to preschool students as they do now, or they can choose to provide additional weekly instruction (and receive the corresponding funding) to students who meet the income eligibility. If a school chooses to offer additional instruction, families who meet the income eligibility can still choose whether or not to participate in the additional instruction hours (and the student will only receive additional funding if opting to additional hours).