To the People of House District 95
|We are now a month into the legislative session and the pace is quickly picking up. Between both the House and Senate over the last two weeks there have been over 100 subcommittee meetings considering different pieces of legislation. The first funnel is quickly approaching, so if we do not get a bill out of subcommittee and committee soon, it cannot be considered again this legislative session.
|Governor’s AEA Bill Will Not Advance in House
I appreciated the emails over the last month voicing support or opposition to the Governor’s education bill. Since the original bill was introduced, it significantly changed – specifically based off of the feedback I received from many of you.
This week, Rep. Wheeler and I held a subcommittee on the bill and decided not to advance the bill to the full committee.
It has become clear that after taking feedback from Iowans, there is not the support in the House to move this bill forward in its current form. I share the Governor’s goal of improving special education outcomes in Iowa, and as I’ve learned more about this topic, it is clear some improvements can be made to our current system.
We will continue to work with stakeholders and get feedback from Iowans to ensure that anything we pass in the House will truly help improve special education in our state.
|Certified Enrollment for 2023-24 Holds Steady; 16,757 ESA Participants Enrolled at Accredited Nonpublic Schools
Last week the Department of Education announced the 2023 fall certified enrollment numbers for public school districts, accredited nonpublic schools, and certified participation in the Students First Education Savings Account program for the 2023-24 school year.
Public school district certified enrollment was 483,699, down only approximately one-half percent (0.57%) from last year, as projected from population patterns. Certified enrollment at Iowa accredited nonpublic schools was 36,195, up from 33,692 last year, an increase of 7.4%. A total of 16,757 participants used their Students First Education Savings Account (ESA) at an accredited nonpublic school as of the October 1st certified enrollment date.
Certified enrollment count is a snapshot in time, taken on the first day of October every year or the following Monday if the first falls on a weekend. Certified enrollment is used to determine funding for public schools and differs slightly from the actual headcount of students enrolled. Certified enrollment in October of any given year drives funding for the next fiscal year. Fall 2023 numbers will be used to determine public school funding for the 2024-25 school year.
Approximately 33.7% of the 16,757 student participants who used an ESA at an Iowa accredited nonpublic school for the 2023-24 school year did not previously attend a nonpublic school. About 12.7% of the student ESA participants previously attended a public school. Close to 21% of the student ESA participants were entering kindergarten students.
- 2,135 ESA participants attended an Iowa public school last year.
- 3,513 ESA participants were entering kindergarten students.
A breakdown of public school districts that have ESA participants who reside within their district boundaries is as follows:
- 19.7% of districts (n=64) had no ESA students living within their district boundaries.
- 40.6% of districts (n=132) had 1-10 ESA students living within their district boundaries.
- 28% of districts (n=91) had 11-99 ESA students living within their district boundaries.
- 11.7% of districts (n=38) had 100 or more ESA students living within their boundaries.
State enrollment projections from May 2022, prior to the passing of the ESA program, show a downward trend in public school enrollment starting in the 2023-24 school year and continuing through at least 2026-27.
The number of participants using their ESA account differs from the total number of applications that were approved by the September 30th program close date. Some participants withdrew prior to the October 1st certified enrollment date, and others had an approved ESA but did not use it.
Certified enrollment for 2023-24 by public school district and accredited nonpublic school, including the number of ESA students by resident school district, is available on the Education Statistics page of the Department’s website under Public School Certified Enrollment Summary by District 2023-2024 and 2023-2024 Nonpublic Schools Certified Enrollment.
|Bills Advance on Child Care, Maternal Health, and Parent Access to Medical Records
This week, the House Health and Human Services committee passed six bills with bipartisan support to address a variety of issues affecting Iowans. Below are some of the bills:
- Parent Access to Child’s Medical Record – House File 2064 requires health care providers to give parents access to their children’s health care information through electronic health records or printing the record at no cost to the parent. Minors are able to consent to very few health care services under the law, and based on those few exceptions, some health care providers were cutting off parents entirely from their child’s health information.
- Child Care Flexibility – House File 2056 allows for additional workers to be able to assist during nap times and breaks. In 2022, the legislature allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to work in child-care centers with children 5 years and older. This bill allows those workers to assist with younger children during naps and brief periods.
- Maternal Health – House File 2057 makes updates to the More Options for Maternal Support program. This bill allows the state to contract directly with pregnancy resource centers, allows for the 3rd party administrator to be based in Iowa, and allows for additional services to be provided to pregnant women.
- Medicaid Look-Back – House Study Bill 501 clarifies that Medicaid has 2 years to do a post-payment review of Medicaid claims that do not involve fraud or misrepresentation and cannot recoup funds or offset against future reimbursement claims after the two years have passed.
- Nursing Home Cameras – House File 537 allows for live-streamed cameras in nursing home and clearly outlines processes for residents or their legal representatives to request a camera in their room. The bill includes protections for shared rooms and gives roommates the authority to determine whether a camera is in their room.
|Democrats Remain Soft on Crime in House Judiciary Committee
Democrats in Illinois, California, New York, Minnesota, and other liberal states have taken a soft on crime approach. They have, at various times, voted to defund the police, eliminate cash bail, shorten sentences for violent crimes, and do whatever they can to help the criminal and not the victim. Democrats in the Iowa House appear to be following in those same footsteps by voting against some crime initiatives coming from the House Judiciary Committee which I sit on. The following bills passed with full support from House Republicans, and were rejected by House Democrats.
House Study Bill 503 – Statute of Limitations on Robbery
Under current law, a county attorney only has three years to bring a charge of robbery, before the offender goes free. HSB 503 extends this time to five years. This matches federal law and ensures those charged with this serious crime have their day in court. A person convicted of robbery could face up to 25 years in prison, depending on the level of the charge. Democrats opposed this bill in committee, and wondered if those who commit the robbery may have unique circumstances that caused them to break the law. Republicans recognized the individuals committing these crimes are a danger to communities and should not avoid punishment simply because the hid from law enforcement for three years. This bill passed House Judiciary Committee with no Democrat support.
House Study Bill 506 – Jury and Witness Tampering
Changes in HSB 506 protect those who are or may be a witness in a trial and those who are or may be jurors. If a person tampers with a witness or a juror and prevents them from serving in the judicial proceeding the penalties are increased from current standards. A person convicted of tampering is guilty of a class “D” felony, unless the case being tampered with is for a class “A” or “B” felony, then the charge is a class “C” felony. Ensuring the integrity of our judiciary is essential for defendants and victims. Illegally interfering with the court process should be punished at a high level and not just a simple slap on the wrist as suggested by House Democrats. This bill also passed House Judiciary Committee with no Democrat support.
House Study Bill 506 – Mandatory Minimum Sentences
When a person is sentenced to prison, sometimes there is a mandatory minimum. Under current law, these mandatory minimums can be lowered if the incarcerated individual earns time off their sentence. HSB 506 will prohibit those convicted of certain crimes from having a sentence lower than their mandatory minimum. The bill will apply to the following convictions: distribution of certain controlled substances to minors, distribution of certain controlled substances, forcible felonies while in possession of a dangerous weapon, habitual offenders, conspiracy to manufacture or deliver methamphetamine to minors, and prior forcible felon for parole or work release. This bill also passed the House Judiciary Committee with no Democrat support.
|Public Safety Committee Moves Bills to Help Law Enforcement and the Public
The House Public Safety committee continues to move a substantial number of bills. This past week the bills focused on helping law enforcement and increasing penalties for certain crimes.
House File 545 – Prohibiting Law Enforcement Quotas
Current law already prohibits quotas on the citations issued by law enforcement officers. This bill also prohibits a quota on the number of stops an officer must make, whether a ticket is issued or not. I happen to be the author of this bill.
House File 2011 – Trespassing Fines
HF 2011 Raises fines for trespassing. Under current law, knowingly trespassing while hunting deer is a schedule violation of $260. The bill raises the fine to $500. A second violation is currently $645, the bill raises the fine to $1,000. A third or subsequent violation is currently $1,285, the bill raises the fine to $1,500. I happen to be the author of this bill also.
House Study Bill 545 – False Reports to Public Safety Officials
The bill makes it a class “D” felony if a person makes a false report or call to public safety officials and claims there is a:
- Forcible felony occurring (felonious child endangerment, assault, murder, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, human trafficking, arson in the first degree, or burglary in the first degree.)
- Intimidation with a dangerous weapon,
- An act of terrorism,
- Unlawful possession of biological agents or diseases,
- Any arson crime
If a one of the false claims above is made, and the information results in serious bodily injury or death of another, the person who made the false report is guilty of a class “C” felony. All other false reports remain a simple misdemeanor unless the alleged criminal act reported is a serious misdemeanor or above and then the person commits a serious misdemeanor.
|Democrats Unanimously Oppose Maternity Home Legislation
This week, the House Commerce Committee passed House Study Bill 516 on a vote of 15 to 8, with all Democrat members voting no. This bill prohibits cities from restricting maternity group homes in residential areas.
A maternity group home is a community-based residential home that provides room and board, personal care, supervision, training, support and education in a family environment for women who are pregnant or have given birth in the last two years. This legislation is modeled after protections that already are in place for homes for those with developmental disabilities and brain injury in Iowa Code Section 414.22.
These homes help women in need of housing that want to bring their children in to this world in a stable and healthy home. The state has made clear that maternity homes, as well as homes for disabled Iowans, are important for the state, and that local governments cannot block them based on a “not in my back yard” mentality. It makes you wonder why the Democrats would vote no.
|Minor’s Driving Privileges Coming Into Focus In the Transportation Committee
Changing how Iowa allows underage drivers to go to school and to work is about to take center stage in the House Transportation Committee, as work begins on a bill that implements recommendations from the fall’s interim committee.
During last session, a number of bills were filed to update, expand, or change the school driving permit process. The work was spread out over several committees, with different solutions being brought forward. When consensus was not found during the 2023 session, the issue was moved to the interim period.
Last fall, a six-member interim committee on minor driving privileges convened to meet with experts from inside state government and the insurance industry. Over two meetings, several changes were discussed as the panel worked their way towards a bipartisan agreement.
The committee’s recommendations change the school permit and the farm work permit into essentially one permit – the special minor’s driving license. Under this, a student, who not 16 years old but has completed driver’s education, could get a permit that would allow them to drive in certain circumstances:
- To and from school;
- To and from extracurricular activities they are participating in;
- To and from their work;
- And to and from a service station.
A student with this license would be limited in how far they could drive, which would be 25 miles and must be the most direct route. The driving would have to take place one hour before or after these events. The 25-mile limit would be a change from the current farm work permit. That currently allows a student to drive up to 50 miles one way, and to drive at any time between 5AM and 10PM.
The biggest change is allowing these students to drive to a non-farm job too. Currently that is not allowed under the current school permit, but there are conditions that would have to be met before this would be allowed. The parent or guardian of the student would have to submit written consent to the Department of Transportation before they could start driving to work.
Another change would be who could qualify for the new license. Current law prevents students who live within one mile of their school from getting a school permit – that exclusion is removed by the committee’s recommendations.
Current law also limits a student to one residence to travel to and from. The committee’s recommendations now allow a student to have three residences, which would have to be consented to by the parent or guardian. In addition, the new license allows students to travel through a contiguous school district in order to attend their school if they are using open enrollment. However, they would still have to be within 25 miles of their residence.
The interim committee’s work has been put together in House Study Bill 612 in the Transportation Committee. Subcommittee work on the bill began this week, with consideration by the full committee expected before the funnel deadline of February 15th.
|Polling Suggests Americans Oppose DEI Agenda
America’s New Majority Project describes itself as an organization that “creates and shares trustworthy opinion research and strategic messaging guidance.” Some of their recent polling concerns DEI related topics at universities.
According to ANMP, “A large majority (88%) of Americans believe universities should focus on teaching students to think for themselves and job preparation, rather than promote social activism.” “43% of voters say that university professors and administrators are more liberal than the average American. Fewer than 2-in-10 say they are more moderate or conservative.”
63% agree with the statement, “Discrimination and racism are bad, but they are not the cause of all disparities in American society.”
61% believe “university professors and administrators are trying to push their own beliefs on students instead of teaching them to think for themselves.
|Meet Kernel – The Department of Revenue’s Newest Employee
As Iowans gather our tax documents, the Iowa Department of Revenue reminds everyone of the many resources available to assist taxpayers with filing their tax return. The Department is already accepting returns and Iowa taxpayers are required to provide their federal return with their Iowa return. Iowa income tax returns are due on April 30th.
The Department website’s Tax Guidance section has been improved to allow taxpayers and tax professionals the ability to easily search for tax guidance. The Expanded Instructions section provides line-by-line details to help complete the IA 1040. There is even a section that outlines some of the more common questions on new tax laws. These include:
- Change in starting point for Iowa taxation
- Required filing status
- Increased retirement income exclusion
- Change to Iowa health insurance deduction
- New farm tenancy income exclusion
New This Year – The Kernel, GovConnectIowa’s new virtual assistant, was available February 1st. Available 24/7, including holidays, The Kernel can answer general tax and licensing questions. With just a few clicks of the keyboard, users can now access instant, helpful, insightful answers. The Kernel is meant to enhance the customer experience by providing quick, reliable information.
If you need assistance, there are multiple ways to contact the Department:
Phone: 515-281-3114 or 800-367-3388, Monday – Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
|2024 Forum Schedule
Des Moines County:
- Greater Burlington Partnership Friday Forum: Friday, January 19th from 8 – 9AM.
- 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.)
- Saturday, February 3rd from 11AM – 12PM at Wapello City Hall in the City Council Chambers.
- Saturday, March 2nd from 11AM – 12PM at Wapello City Hall in the City Council Chambers.
- Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast: Friday, February 16th from 8 – 9AM at Mount Pleasant City Hall.
- Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce Legislative Breakfast: Saturday, March 16th from 8 – 9AM – location is TBD.
- Muscatine Community College Legislative Forum: Saturday, February 3rd from 9 – 10AM at Muscatine Community College in the lounge in the Student Services Building.
- 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 email@example.com or you can call the Capitol Switchboard and leave me a message at (515) 281-7340.
Rep. Taylor Collins