Iowa 2021 Legislative Report – Week 5

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Week 5 at the Iowa legislature brought a lot of action both in committee and in each chamber.  Dozens of bills passed out of House and Senate committees each day this week, which is a much faster pace than any recent session.  Additionally, the chambers completed a solid amount of floor work, clearing debate calendars of mostly noncontroversial legislation that passed unanimously.  Bills have been messaged from one chamber to the other and a few have already made their way to the Governor.  The pace cannot be understated.  All of this happening while new bills are still being drafted and introduced.  Friday, February 12 is the final day for individual senator and representative requests for bill and joint resolution drafts.

Legislative Update

Senator Dickey from Senate District 41 was sworn-in on Monday after the results of the canvassing board were certified.  Republicans now return to a 32-18 advantage.  The new senator was named Vice-Chair of the Transportation committee and named to the Labor and Ways and Means Committees.

Education Funding

The Senate made quick work of the Supplemental State Aid bill (SF269) which sets education funding. The bill moved through subcommittee and the full Education and Appropriations committees on Monday, February 8.  On Tuesday, the bill was called up on the floor and after a lively debate, passed 32-17, with one Democrat Senator voting with the Republicans.  The bill sets the state growth rate (SSA) and the categorical funding rate for schools at 2.2% for the 2021-2022 school year and creates a new $65 per-pupil qualified instruction supplement, which is based on the number of in-person school days schools held this past school year. 

Amendments from the Democrats addressed concerns that 140 school districts will receive less in state funding under this calculation and property taxes will need to increase to make up the difference. Democrats also believe the qualified supplement punishes Des Moines students because of the dispute over returning to in-person learning during COVID. 

The House has their own SSA bill (HF439) which sets the rate at 2.5%. The House SSA rate is higher than the Senate rate and uses a different formula to distribute $30 million in a qualified supplement to schools. HF439 was approved by the House Education Committee earlier this week.

Childcare

The House passed six childcare bills with largely unanimous support on Wednesday, February 10.

  • Child Tax Credits HF230
  • Childcare Numbers HF260
  • Childcare Reimbursement Rates HF292
  • Childcare Matching Grants HF301
  • Childcare Phase Out HF302
  • Business Childcare HF370

The bills will expand eligibility for childcare credits, increase the number of children allowed in a childcare home, increase reimbursement rates, establish grants to increase wages for childcare workers, establish a phase-out for parents whose income has increased, and give credit to employers who build childcare facilities at work.  These bills have been identified by all parties and the Governor as a priority this session.

Supplemental Funding

The Senate debated a Supplemental Appropriation bill (SF284) that makes a supplemental appropriation in FY 2021 of $21 million to the CIO to pay for the Workday central personnel, accounting, and budgeting system. The appropriation is needed to pay for the system after it was determined that Federal CARES money could not be used to pay for it. 

Executive Branch Update

Economic Recovery Advisory Board Final Report

Governor Reynolds’ Economic Recovery Advisory Board issued recommendations on steps the state should take to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The entire report was published last week.  Recommendations include the following legislative actions for the current and upcoming legislative sessions:

  • Expanding access to childcare and lowering costs for families
  • Expanding access to broadband
  • Creating new housing programs, including programs to prevent eviction and foreclosure
  • Improving health care with better emergency responses and more health care providers and telehealth
  • Improving education with more work-based learning, school choice, and charter school options

The board is made up of 12 leaders of Iowa companies, the state economist, a chamber of commerce official, and the CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. The board also made recommendations to improve manufacturing in Iowa, increase bio-manufacturing opportunities, improve water quality in the state, and improve community life.

Housing

On Monday, February 8, the Governor announced new housing funds available for small rural cities (under 20,000 residents).  The Rural Innovation Grant Program allocated $300,000 for innovative ideas on community investment to spur growth and $100,000 for the Rural Housing Assessment Grant Program to help communities analyze hard data and determine how to make changes through development codes, ordinances, and housing incentives in conjunction with Iowa State University Outreach.

The Governor’s housing proposal (SF295/HSB178) is making its way through both the House and Senate.  Both bills moved through the committee process this week; SF295 was approved by the Senate Local Government and Ways and Means Committees and HSB178 moved through subcommittee.  The bill provides a number of incentives to establish affordable housing in Iowa.

COVID-19 Update

Governor Reynolds issued a new Public Health Disaster Proclamation that relaxed public health measures including lifting the limited mask requirement and repealing other COVID-19 mitigation measures for business and social gatherings.  Governor Reynolds stated that while the pandemic is not over, Iowa has seen a decline in the rate of COVID-19 infections since November which is why she lifted the mitigation efforts.

According to the state’s COVID-19 vaccine dashboard, 366,109 total doses have been administered to Iowa residents and 99,978 individuals have completed the COVID-19 vaccine series.  The state issued an RFP for a vendor for an appointment scheduling system and selected Microsoft.  Governor Reynolds said in addition to the number of doses increasing, appointments will become easier to schedule due to the new scheduling system.

Judicial Branch Update

State Court Administrator Todd Nuccio is resigning as of April 30, 2021.  Nuccio has been the State Court Administrator since September 2017, replacing David Boyd who served 14 years in the position.