Taylor Collins: To the People of House District 95

November is officially here which means the 2024 session of the 90th General Assembly will be gaveling in before we know it. This month House Republicans will be gathering in Des Moines for a planning caucus to discuss what our priorities will be ahead of January. As a reminder, next Tuesday is election day for local offices such as city council and school board. In the voting booth, make sure you are voting for candidates that will put the taxpayer first when it comes to your property taxes, and prioritizes education over indoctrination when it comes to our public schools.
Update Following Iowa’s Deployment to U.S. Southern Border 

Last week, Governor Reynolds held a press conference to signify the safe return of 109 Iowa National Guard soldiers and 31 Department of Public Safety officers from their deployment to the U.S. Southern border as part of Texas’s Operation Lone Star. The Iowa National Guard deployed from August 2nd through Sept. 1st, and DPS deployed from September 1st through October 2nd.

From 2020 through 2022, Iowa has experienced a 500% increase in fentanyl seizures, 100% for meth seizures, and a 35% increase in drug-related deaths.

Governor Reynolds authorized the deployment in May upon an Emergency Management Assistance Compact request from Texas Governor Greg Abbott for assistance from other states.

DPS deployed 20 state troopers, 2 trooper pilots, and 9 special agents from the Division of Criminal Investigation and Division of Narcotics Enforcement. Troopers and agents partnered in two-person teams with the Texas Highway Patrol and Criminal Investigation Division primarily working proactive human smuggling investigations. Officers were directly involved in 40 human smuggling cases, 11 drug trafficking cases, 14 narcotics arrests, 6 weapons arrests, 42 vehicle pursuits, 35 vehicle bail outs, 11 stolen vehicle recoveries, and a total of 491 illegal migrants were turned over to Customs and Border Patrol.

According to Major General Stephen Osborn, Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, Iowa’s soldiers worked alongside the Texas National Guard and federal law enforcement partners to detect and apprehend transnational criminals and deter illegal migration. “Our soldiers performed static and non-static missions along the border including observation points, prevent / deter / interdict missions, and coordinated searches for illegal migrants hiding and avoiding apprehension,” he said. “As a result, 1,700 illegal migrants were apprehended by Customs and Border Patrol and another 1,241 surrendered themselves.”

Captain Thang Truong from the 1-113th Cavalry Squadron, 2nd Brigade of the Iowa National Guard who was commander of the mission commented that the influx of migrants attempting to cross the border came from various countries including China and Iran. “I’ve personally been deployed overseas three times, but this is a mission I can directly see how we, as the Guard, are making an impact,” he said. “We are proud that we could help stem the flow of migrants across the border to protect Iowans.”


Iowa on Solid Financial Footing According to State Revenue Estimating Conference

The three-member Revenue Estimating Conference held its annual fall meeting last month, and pronounced the state to be on “solid financial footing.” The panel met to assess the current condition of the state’s economy and to update fiscal projections for state revenue.

Both the Legislative Services Agency and the Department of Management found the state to be in a good fiscal situation as Iowa ended the last fiscal year with nearly $100 million more of state revenue than the panel had predicted in March. The state is weathering the uncertain economic conditions faced nationally and globally. Higher interest rates, persistently high consumer prices, and global instability have yet to have such a negative impact that they override the continued strength of consumer spending in Iowa.

Iowa’s economy is helped by the fact that non-farm employment continues to be strong, close to last spring’s all-time record high. The need for additional workers remains a high concern for employers in Iowa. With more available jobs than people seeking work and an aging workforce, businesses are looking for ways to either keep workers on the job longer or making the long-term switch to automation. In spite of high input costs, fluctuating commodity prices, and continued drought conditions, the state’s farm economy also appears to be on stable ground.

For the current fiscal year, the panel updated their forecast for Fiscal Year 2024 General Fund revenue to $9.7528 billion. That is $92.5 million below the final revenue figures for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. The decline in revenue is largely due to the implementation of this year’s phase of the 2022 tax cuts, which was projected by LSA to return $450 million to Iowa taxpayers.

The FY 2024 enacted budget spends $8.5173 billion. Based on the new forecast, the state will end the 2024 fiscal year with $1.2355 billion unspent revenue.

For the next budget year – Fiscal Year 2025 – the REC set their forecast at $9.5763 billion. This amount is $176.5 million lower than the FY 2024 forecast, or a reduction of 1.8%.  Again, the decline is not unexpected and is a result of the lower personal and corporate income tax revenue thanks to the 2022 tax cuts.

Boards and Commissions Review Committee Submits Final Report to Legislature

Contained within last week’s Board and Commissions Review Committee final report was the committee’s findings and recommendations. The Committee was tasked with evaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of each board, council, commission, committee, or other similar entity of the state established by code. 256 Entities were sent questionnaires by the committee including whether the entity is statutorily required, funding sources, licensing authority, rulemaking authority, membership makeup, volume and frequency of meetings, and many other questions to get a clear overview of how each of these entities operate. Subcommittees were created to divide the entities into related categories. The subcommittees were Licensing (48 reviews), State Government (53 reviews), Agriculture and Natural Resources (35 reviews), Education, Workforce, and Labor (34 reviews), Economy and Finance (39 reviews), and Human Services (47 reviews).

The subcommittees reviewed their boards and commissions and made recommendations to the full committee on August 29th. In their review, the subcommittees found redundancies across many of these boards and commissions. On September 6th, the full committee met to hear from members of the public and stakeholders. In addition to the public meeting thousands of public comments were received by the Committee for consideration. The final report includes five findings discovered by the Committee and nine recommendations to prevent multiple layers of government from overlapping with one another. The conclusion of the report’s recommendations is to reduce the number of boards by 43%, reduce 450 Governor-appointed members, and to increase Iowans’ ability to participate on these boards by eliminating overly restrictive requirements to serve.

The Committee’s Recommendations are below:

Recommendation 1: Establish an ongoing review process for all boards and commissions, including true enforcement of sunrise and sunset provisions.

Recommendation 2: Reform the structure of advisory boards to create stronger channels for citizen input and facilitate meaningful perspective for policymakers.

Recommendation 3: Modernize Iowa’s open meetings laws to allow virtual or hybrid meetings more easily, which will expand public participation.

Recommendation 4: Remove arbitrary meeting requirements and allow boards and commissions to convene only as truly needed.

Recommendation 5: Allow the most qualified Iowans to serve on boards and commissions by repealing the gender-balance requirement.

Recommendation 6: Increase engagement on identified critical boards and commissions by compensating members for their more than “part time” work.

Recommendation 7: Clarify the budget and rulemaking roles of a part-time board or commission that oversees a full-time executive branch agency.

Recommendation 8: Implement clear, consistent, and effective licensing standards to reduce barriers to entry into the workforce while continuing to protect the health and safety of Iowans.

Recommendation 9: Consolidate, merge, eliminate, or otherwise reorganize Iowa’s boards and commissions to allow state government to better serve its citizens.

Recommendation 9 is the one that has attracted the most attention and conversation. The recommendation to reduce the number of boards and commissions by 111 sounds drastic. However, many of these boards and commissions’ responsibilities and licensing authority are either being merged with similar boards, being integrated into other existing boards and commissions to align related functions in one place and will not result in less oversight or function. In addition to these streamlining measures, the Committee found that some of these boards and commissions had met their statutory objective, hadn’t met in years, or were duplicative of other boards and commissions’ responsibilities.

The reason why the number of boards and commissions being reduced sounds so large is because Iowa has never evaluated the structure and effectiveness of its boards and commissions. This is why the first recommendation of the Committee is for the Legislature to establish an ongoing review process for all boards and commissions, including true enforcement of sunrise and sunset provisions.

This final report will give legislators clearer insight into how these boards and commissions can be addressed in order to eliminate unnecessary redundancy, provide adequate oversight of boards with licensing, rulemaking, and fee authority. I look forward to continuing to review the report of the committee to ensure that these boards and commissions are functioning as efficient and effective as possible in order to serve as Iowans to the best of their ability.

Alliant Proposes Electric and Gas Rate Increases

Last month, Alliant Energy filed proposed increases to electric and gas rates for 2024 and 2025 with the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB). These rate increases do not go in to effect until there is a hearing and decision made by the IUB, which takes approximately ten months. The proposed increases up the average monthly residential bill $10 a month in late 2024, and by another $7 a month in late 2025. There will be 4 public meetings to allow Alliant customers to express their concerns about the proposed increases. Representatives of Alliant, the IUB, and the Office of the Consumer Advocate, will be present at all meetings. The meetings are scheduled as follows:
•    Cedar Rapids – 6:30 p.m. Monday, November 6th, the Hotel Kirkwood Main Ballroom, 7725 Kirkwood Blvd. S.W., Cedar Rapids
•    Clear Lake – 6 p.m. Tuesday, November 7th, Surf Ballroom, 460 North Shore Drive, Clear Lake
•    Creston – 6 p.m. Wednesday, November 8th, Southwestern Community College Performing Arts Center, 1501 W. Townline St., Creston
•    Virtual – 6 p.m. Thursday, November 9th. Details about participating online and at the customer comment meetings are available on the IUB’s website.

Legislature to Examine Driving by High School Students This Fall

Legislators will look at school driving permits and other laws governing minor drivers as part of an interim study committee this fall. The six-member panel began its work last month during the second week of October.

The question of who is allowed to drive to school while not having a permanent driver’s license and where they can drive has vexed many high school students over the years. Under current Iowa law, a student holding a school permit may drive from their home to school or a site of a school activity between the hours of 5AM and 10PM. If the school permit holder lives on a farm or works on a farm, they are allowed to drive during this time period to and from the farm, as long as the distance is less than 50 miles one way.

The way the school permit is constructed in code creates issues for families today. In some cases, consolidation of school districts has created situations where the driving distance between the home and the school is significant and may be outside the limits of the permit. Also, a school permit does not provide an option for a student to stay with family members who are closer to the school but not the primary residence. And, current law prevents students who live within 1 mile of the high school from obtaining a school permit.

Last session, a number of bills were introduced in several committees to adjust Iowa’s school permit and farm permit work issues. Consensus on how to make changes that address current concerns and recognize safety issues was not found during the 2023 session. Thus, the interim committee was set up to look for a solution.

The panel is comprised of six legislators – co-chaired by Rep. Brian Best and Sen. Adrian Dickey. The other appointed members are Rep. Brent Siegrist, Senator Chris Cournoyer, and Senator Todd Taylor. House Democrats have yet to appoint a member. The Committee also has five ex officio members, representing the Departments of Education, Transportation, Public Safety and Workforce Development as well as a individual representing the insurance industry.

I look forward to seeing what this interim study committee recommends.

IRS Announces Annual Inflation Changes to Tax Provisions

Last month the Internal Revenue Service announced the tax year 2023 annual inflation adjustments for many tax provisions, including the tax rate schedules. Some of the more widely applicable changes are outlined below.

The standard deduction for married couples filing jointly for tax year 2023 goes to $27,700 up $1,800 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction goes to $13,850 for 2023, up $900, and for heads of households, the standard deduction is $20,800 for tax year 2023, up $1,400 from the amount for tax year 2022.

Marginal Rates: For tax year 2023, the top tax rate remains 37% for individual single taxpayers with incomes greater than $578,125 ($693,750 for married couples filing jointly). The other rates are:
35% for incomes over $231,250
32% for incomes over $182,100
24% for incomes over $95,375
22% for incomes over $44,725
12% for incomes over $11,000

The lowest rate is 10% for incomes of single individuals with incomes of $11,000 or less.

The tax year 2023 maximum Earned Income Tax Credit amount is $7,430 for qualifying taxpayers who have three or more qualifying children, up from $6,935 for tax year 2022. Estates of decedents who die during 2023 have a basic exclusion amount of $12,920,000, up from a total of $12,060,000 for estates of decedents who died in 2022. The annual exclusion for gifts increases to $17,000 for calendar year 2023, up from $16,000 for calendar year 2022.

By statute, certain items that were indexed for inflation in the past are currently not adjusted. More information can be found at IRS.gov.

How the Supreme Court’s Decision is Trickling down to Iowa’s K-12 Schools

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions. This means that race cannot be a factor for colleges during the admissions process (as it should be). Obviously this had a huge impact on higher education across the United States, but does this actually mean anything for K-12 education in Iowa?

In January this year Governor Reynolds signed Executive Order 10, which requires all state agencies to identify which administrative rule chapters will be retained or rescinded. This means the Department of Education is reviewing their administrative rules. At the Administrative Rules Committee meeting last month, the Department presented notice of intended action ARC 7098C. They proposed rescinding current chapter 95.5(9)(h) of Administrative Code which provides, in part, that race or ethnic origin may be considered when “selecting applicants for an interview, employment and promotion.” According to the Department, this raises constitutional concerns and concerns under Title VI. For those reasons, that provision is not going to be readopted.

This is a very tangible way we are starting to see the overturning of affirmative action trickle down into not just Iowa, but K-12 schools in Iowa.

Staying in Touch

As always, you can shoot me an email at taylor.collins@legis.iowa.gov with any questions or conerns.


Rep. Taylor Collins