Legislature accomplishes a lot before closing
The legislature adjourned for the year on Sunday, June 14. This year’s session was definitely different than previous years. While we didn’t get to all the legislation we wanted, we were able to accomplish a lot in the time we did have.
Before we paused the session in March, the Senate passed legislation to lower barriers to some professions, and bring unemployed people back into our workforce and encourage them to build careers for themselves. We worked to expand the governor’s Empower Rural Iowa and Future Ready Iowa initiatives, and passed bills to improve access to and availability of affordable health care in our state, especially in rural areas. We passed bills that would put victims first in Iowa, and make sure their rights were just as important and protected as those who have committed crimes against them. We funded an increase of almost $100 million in new funding for K-12 schools, including transportation equity and per pupil equity, while also working to protect teachers and giving them additional tools to work with students who become violent in the classroom.
At the beginning of the year, many of us had high hopes of continuing our work on tax reform for Iowans. The pandemic had a major effect on what type of tax reform was possible this year, but we were still able to make some reforms and changes to the tax code. One of the most important parts of this bill is ensuring the stimulus payments many people received a few months ago would not be taxed at the state level. It also ensures any loans that are forgiven through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and payments universities and colleges received to help students with expenses would also not be taxed. Payments received under the Governor’s Iowa Small Business Relief Program to provide financial assistance to small businesses economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will also be exempt from tax at the state level. Additionally, the tax bill ensured companies doing business in Iowa would not be punished for stepping up to help their communities during the pandemic and eliminated the additional tax liability for companies that switched their production outputs to make masks or gowns instead of their normal products.
Lastly, one of the main things we had to do upon coming back into the session was pass a budget for the next fiscal year. We wanted to pass a responsible budget that we knew the state could afford. We did not want to be in a situation where we would have to cut money we appropriated when the legislature reconvenes in January. Many of us felt the state should be tightening the budget just as Iowans across the state have had to tighten their budgets as a result of the pandemic. In the end, the budget we passed appropriates $7.778 billion for the next year. This budget focuses state spending on the areas that matter most – health care, K-12 education, and public safety.
On July 1, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) went into effect. This historic fair and free trade agreement will have great effects on our country and its businesses. More importantly are the effects it will have for our state’s farmers and manufacturers and the new opportunities that will be available to them. The growth the USMCA will provide for our economy is even more important as many in these industries are struggling as a result of COVID-19.
Looking back over the first four years as your senator, I can say without a doubt I stuck to the promises I made. I have approached the budget much like an Iowa family does their own and provided reliable education funding for our schools. I have worked to create an environment for the prosperity of all Iowans, ensured the integrity of our voting system, and adhered to our constitutional values.
Thank you for all your calls, emails and messages throughout the legislative session. I am excited to be back home, talking with constituents, and hearing your thoughts and ideas about what is needed to help our state thrive once again.
It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the constituents of Senate District 36 and I look forward to serving you in the future.
Jeff Edler is a Senator for District 36.