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Rejected bills interesting to know about

Week five is done and many bills are working their way through the committee process.  While the bills that pass through committee get most of the attention, often times the bills that are rejected are interesting to know about as well. 

One such bill that crossed my desk this week as chair of the Environmental Protection committee — House File 2332 — dealt with plastic shopping bags and straws. This bill was filed by one of our Democrat House members. This bill would impose a ten cent fee on each bag to be paid by the manufacturer of the plastic bags used by grocery stores, department stores, etc. The manufacturers would be required to maintain records of the quantity of bags sold, whom they were sold to, etc. This bill also would create a daily fine on restaurants and other food establishments for giving their customers plastic straws. Needless to say, I’ve declined to move this bill forward. Our retail system doesn’t need these kinds of costs and bureaucracy imposed on them, nor do the consumers appreciate such meddling. Nor do these ideas provide any improvement to the environment.

As I’ve reported in an earlier newsletter, my bill, House File 2164, to strike gender identity from the Iowa Civil Rights code, did not move forward. However, several other bills dealing with some of these issues are still being considered. 

House File 2201, a bill that I co-sponsored, seeks to require schools to inform parents of any sexual orientation or gender identity instruction to be conducted and allow parents to opt their child out. This bill is important to give parents more information and more control about what their children will be taught about issues that will conflict with the moral values of many families. The bill has passed a subcommittee and will hopefully be considered by the full committee before the funnel date of Feb. 21.

Earlier this week the House passed two bills dealing with K-12 school funding. We passed House File 2164 that provided schools with an additional $7.65 million in transportation assistance so that no school will have to pay more than the per pupil statewide average in transportation costs. This will result in more dollars for the classroom out of the per pupil state aid. We also included an additional $5.8 million to continue reducing the district to district per pupil inequity that has existed for the last forty years.   We also passed House File 2243, Supplemental State Aid, which provides a funding increase for our K-12 schools of $94.7 million.

Since 2011, Republicans have increased public school funding by $863 million with zero cuts to education. Over that same period Iowa’s schools have added 3,470 new full-time teachers.  This has led to Iowa’s student to teacher ratio decreasing from roughly 14 to 1 to a new 13.04 to 1 ratio statewide.  You will likely hear Democrats falsely claim the opposite of these facts in the coming months. Democrat legislators repeat them ad nauseam in debate in spite of the facts. 

You may also hear Democrats claim that school funding hasn’t kept up with the rate of inflation. However, since 2011, investment in Iowa’s K-12 system has increased by 34.4 percent. Over that same time, inflation has increased by just 13.5 percent.  These investments, along with other programs passed since 2011 by House Republicans, are truly paying off as Iowa ranks number one in the nation for graduation rates and ACT scores.

On Wednesday, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Subcommittee heard a presentation from Iowa State University’s Veterinary Diagnostics Laboratory (VDL) leadership.  The workload of the VDL has increased dramatically over the last decade, doubling since 2009. 

Also, swine oral fluid diagnostic tests, used to detect diseases in pigs, has increased from roughly 10,000 tests in 2010 to over 238,000 in 2019. 

The VDL is critical to Iowa’s livestock industry and in fact is an asset nationally.  The current building has been outgrown, and the needs for increased isolation of the workflow to prevent cross contamination led to the legislature to appropriate $63.5 million over 6 years for a new building.  That, along with $11.5 million that ISU is raising from donors, will be used to start the construction this fall on phase I of that important project. 

On Thursday, in the Public Safety committee we passed House Study Bill 611, a bill that conforms the Iowa sex offender registry laws with the federal law under the Adam Walsh Act. 

This bill changes the delay for when a Sex Offender can apply for a modification from two years to 10 years for a Tier I offender and from five years to 25 years for a Tier II or III offender. Not only does this toughen the penalties for sex offenders, it also allows Iowa to collect approximately $100,000 in additional funds for the program from the federal government.

There are so many bills working through the committee process now it’s difficult to pick out which bills to write about.  I’m proud of the progress the legislature is making on key priorities of Iowans.

As always, I hope to see you here at the capitol during the session.  This is a beautiful building and well worth the time to visit and tour it. I can also have my clerk take constituents up in the capitol dome and out into the cupola overlooking the city.