News from Des Moines

Week five is coming to a close. Legislators have been extremely busy trying to get constituent bills through committee to meet funnel requirements. The funnel deadline is next Friday.

Here is a brief description of high interest bills passed through committee in the Senate:

• Senate File 2086, allows a person, with a permit to carry weapons, to have their weapon on school property while they are picking up or dropping off a person, transporting an item to or from school, or if a person is in a parking area or driveway. This does not allow them to carry inside a building. The main aim of the bill is to ensure parents who choose to carry are not violating any law (a felony offense) when picking up or dropping off their child. Please note- you must have a valid concealed carry permit for this law to apply.

• Senate Study Bill 3018 updates current law on scanning devices, like skimmers, due to the increase in information theft. The bill updates the language to include the tools criminals are using to steal information, like skimmers, wireless devices, RFID, and near-field communications. This bill is an important update to our current law as we work to protect Iowans from theft and fraud.

Commitment to Public Education

Our first floor vote this legislative session was to provide Iowa public schools with nearly $46 million in new money for the 2019 fiscal year.

The increase in supplemental state aid brings the allocation of state general fund dollars for K-12 education to more than $3.21 billion, which is nearly 44 percent of the state budget. This is a responsible and sustainable commitment school officials can depend upon as they begin working through their budgeting process. Many times in the past, legislators have over-promised on its resources to schools only to under-deliver in the long run, wreaking havoc on the budget of our Iowa school districts.

This bill, House File 2230, also works to address the transportation inequities between urban and rural school districts and evens out the costs of transporting students. The bill also works to close the $175 gap in per pupil funding that has existed for over 40 years. In addition to addressing SSA for our K-12 schools, we have devoted $14 million to addressing the transportation and district cost per pupil inequities that exist within our funding formula.

Supplemental state aid is just one funding mechanism for public schools. Senate Republicans have worked to give schools more flexibility with their funds so our districts and school boards can make the best decisions on how to utilize their resources.

A student’s zip code should not determine the quality of education available. Our vote this week on this important education funding bill will work to help level that playing field and increase the opportunities available to Iowa students in our rural communities.

Budget

The Senate voted on a bill this week to balance the budget for the current fiscal year. The bill reduces the general fund budget for the current year by a net total of nearly $32 million. This decision was not an easy one to make but we must manage the state budget like the family budget. This is a number we felt state agencies, departments and organizations that receive these public dollars can manage. No money is cut from K-12 education and we have ensured no cuts will be made to services provided to Medicaid beneficiaries. While these decisions are difficult, our number one priority is ensuring the taxpayer’s money is spent efficiently and in the most effective places.

Mental Health

This week I have feverishly been working with stakeholders and drafters from LSA (Legislative Service Agency) to finalize an important piece of legislation to address mental health for adults across the State of Iowa. It has always been my approach to use taxpayer money wisely and constitutionally. I believe this legislation adheres to both of these prerequisites.

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State Sen. Jeff Edler can be reached at (641) 751-5902 or jeff.edler@legis.iowa.gov