Lawmakers passed their first major appropriations bill this week, funding K-12 education. Under SF 2142 school spending would increase by about $85.57 million. The 2.3% funding hike was a compromise between Senate and House Republicans. While the Senate proposed a 2.1% increase, the House called for 2.5%, which is what Governor Kim Reynolds requested in her Condition of the State address. Democrats in both chambers pushed for a 3% increase.
The measure passed the Senate Wednesday on a party-line vote, 31-17. The House took up the bill Thursday, passing it on a nearly party-line vote, 51-46, with Rep. Jeff Shipley (R-Birmingham) joining Democrats. It now goes to the governor for consideration. Late last month she signed a $12.5 million appropriations bill that would give additional funding to school districts with disproportionately high transportation costs or low per-student spending. Education appropriations are generally among the earliest funding bills the legislature passes, since school districts determine their budgets in the spring. After the March Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) and the second legislative funnel deadline, lawmakers will shift much of their efforts toward hammering out other government spending bills.
Another compromise measure passed both chambers this week. A holdover from the 2019 legislative session, SF 583 originally would have allowed electric utilities to charge new solar customers an additional fee. Utilities argued such “grid equity” fees would cover the costs related to the amount of grid energy solar customers actually use. Iowa’s small solar companies opposed the measure, as did environmental organizations, along with pork producers and other livestock and agriculture groups.
Under the new proposal, the rates for existing solar users would remain the same. Once solar energy achieves 5% market penetration or after seven years—whichever is sooner—the Iowa Utilities Board (IUB) would be authorized to conduct a study on the Value of Solar rate system. Any rate change as a result of the study could not exceed 5%. The bill also provides that an electric company may choose to charge customers via either a “net metering” policy or an “inflow-outflow” billing process. Stakeholders on both sides of the issue largely supported the revisions. The amended bill unanimously passed the House on Tuesday. The Senate unanimously approved the changes Wednesday. It now goes to Governor Reynolds for consideration.
Meanwhile, both chambers also passed a measure Reynolds advocated for in her Condition of the State address. SF 155 would allow mobile barbershops, giving barbers the flexibility to see underserved Iowans at nursing homes, homeless shelters, senior centers, and other locations. The bill unanimously passed the Senate Monday. The House unanimously approved the measure Tuesday, and will send it to the governor.