This week Republican lawmakers moved rapidly on two of Governor Kim Reynolds’ highest priorities, with Reynolds signing one of the bills this morning. SF 160 requires all schools to offer 100% in-person learning. Schools can continue offering additional online or hybrid options, and the waiver process for coronavirus outbreaks remains the same. Senate Republicans approved the bill in subcommittee and the full committee on Monday and passed it on a party-line vote Thursday, 29-18. The measure passed the House the same day on a near party-line vote, 59-39, with Rep. Wes Breckenridge (D-Newton) joining Republicans. Democrats largely argued more people should be vaccinated and other safety measures put in place before mandating fully in-person instruction. Republicans said the measure will help students catch up academically and benefit their mental health.
The other major education bill, SF 159 would establish a scholarship program for students in struggling school districts to attend private schools. It would also make it easier to establish charter schools and allow students in school districts with diversity plans to open enroll elsewhere. The measure moved through a series of subcommittee and committee hearings over the course of two days, passing the Senate on a near party-line vote Thursday, 26-21. Sens. Dawn Driscoll (R-Williamsburg), Tom Shipley (R-Nodaway), and Annette Sweeney (R-Halden) voted with Democrats. Democrats opposed the measure on the grounds that it would divert tax funding from public schools. It now goes to the House for consideration.
Meanwhile, a bill that would double the income threshold for taxpayers to claim the child tax credit passed both a House subcommittee and the full Ways & Means Committee this week. HF 230 is now eligible for floor debate. The Senate is also considering a companion bill, SF 119.
In other news, Senate Republicans welcomed a new member this week. Adrian Dickey (R-Packwood) defeated Democrat Mary Stewart of Ottumwa to fill the District 41 seat vacated by Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Ottumwa). Dickey is president of his family business, Dickey Transport, and a volunteer firefighter. The district covers all of Davis and Van Buren counties, and parts of Wapello and Jefferson counties. It includes the cities of Ottumwa, Bloomfield, and Fairfield, among other communities.
Finally, following a disruptive incident at a Senate Zoom subcommittee hearing, all meeting attendees will now be required to set up individual Zoom accounts. Previously, the public could simply click a link on the legislature’s website and participate anonymously. The incident doesn’t affect the House since that chamber only allows the public to view a live stream of hearings.
BrownWinick Government Relations:
To view additional summaries from the 2021 Iowa Legislative session or to learn more about BrownWinick’s Government Relations Team, click here.