Schools will receive a 2.4% funding increase under a bill Governor Kim Reynolds signed into law Tuesday. House and Senate Republicans reached a compromise on the spending measure earlier this month. Reynolds and the House had supported a 2.5% increase, while the Senate GOP favored a 2.2% hike. Although the funding levels in SF 269 are proportionally higher than last year, schools will actually receive about $50 million less due to student disenrollment during the pandemic. Democrats had argued the GOP plan would severely underfund schools and force many school districts to increase property taxes. Republicans said the bill was part of a larger spending package.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are focusing on committee work as they race to beat a procedural deadline. On March 5 most bills that haven’t passed both subcommittee and committee in the House or Senate will die. The main exceptions are measures dealing with taxes, spending, or government oversight. This week alone, the House held 70 subcommittee meetings and 16 committee hearings. On the Senate side, the chamber had 56 subcommittees and 11 committee hearings. After this year’s “first funnel” deadline, lawmakers will focus on priority policy bills and new spending legislation.
Former Governor Tom Vilsack will once again serve as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed his nomination Tuesday, 92-7. Both of Iowa’s Republican senators, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, voted in favor of his confirmation. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) joined Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Missouri), Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Marco Rubio (R-Florida), Rick Scott (R-Florida), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) in opposition.
In a statement Vilsack said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us to contain the pandemic, transform America’s food system, create fairer markets for producers, ensure equity and root out systemic barriers, develop new income opportunities with climate-smart practices, increase access to healthy and nutritious food, and make historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy in rural America.”
Vilsack was previously Secretary of Agriculture under former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017, making him Obama’s longest-serving Cabinet member. He is also the second longest-serving Secretary of Agriculture in U.S. history after Iowan James Wilson, who served from 1897 to 1913.
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