The Capitol Roundup
The seventh week of session was busier as many bills moved out of committee. Next week is the first funnel week of this legislative session, meaning all Senate policy bills need to be out of Senate committees in order to be considered for the rest of the year. This deadline ensures we are focusing on the bills with enough support to advance through the process. I was also proud to hear Governor Reynolds has signed Senate File 269, which was the education funding increase we passed last week. Setting this increase early in session is important so local school districts can start working on their budgets and know how much money the state will send to them next year.
The Senate has also been discussing a few interesting bills important to many Iowans. One of these bills was House File 260, which allows a person or program providing childcare in someone’s home for five or fewer children. It also would allow six or fewer children if at least one of the children is school-aged. Currently, a childcare home providing childcare to more than five children must register as a child development home. Finding affordable childcare in Iowa, especially in rural areas, has been difficult, and even more so this last year. This legislation is one step we can take to help families looking for childcare in their area and provide more options to working Iowans.
The Senate Education committee moved Senate Study Bill 1205, protecting freedom of speech and other First Amendment rights at Iowa’s state universities and public schools. The bill does a number of things including ensuring those university and public school employees understand freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Over the years, issues have repeatedly popped up concerning the freedom of speech on campuses and a lack of diverse opinions in universities. Colleges and universities are supposed to be places learn and hear all points of view, and it is clear that isn’t always happening. This bill ensures our most important constitutional freedoms are protected for both K-12 and higher education institutions. Academic freedom is a vital part of Iowa’s education system and this bill goes a long way to protect it.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments on the legislation and issues in the Legislature. I am honored to serve you and be your voice at the Capitol. We have worked on a lot of important issues already this year, and I look forward to seeing what the coming weeks hold.
Protecting Taxpayers from Fraud
There was a time in American politics when opposition to waste, fraud and abuse in welfare programs was bipartisan. It appears those days are behind us.
This week the Senate debated SF 389 on the floor. This policy has been debated a few times in the Senate and its purpose is to ensure individuals on Iowa’s public assistance programs meet the requirements and are eligible to receive benefits. It also ensures taxpayer dollars are truly going to those who need them and not those abusing the system.
The current verification process has too many manual features, causing more errors than permitted by the federal government. Modern technology has created an opportunity to immediately verify the residency, income, assets, and citizenship of applicants required by federal and state law. This bill takes advantage of that technology and improves accuracy, saves tax dollars, and preserves resources for those truly in need.
The debate on the floor of the Senate bordered on surreal. Some Democrats actually advocated to allow individuals currently inappropriately receiving benefits to continue to receive food assistance as if it were a plausible economic development strategy. Economic development is not confiscating money through taxes from individuals working to provide for themselves and their families, so people ineligible for government programs can fraudulently collect benefits not intended for those individuals. Furthermore, every dollar fraudulently spent on a welfare program is one dollar not available to fund education, public safety, and tax relief in this state.
Good economic development strategies focus reducing the obstacles to work and investment. They lower the tax burden and eliminate needless regulations. Economic development is creating a tax and regulatory environment to encourage the creation of new career opportunities so Iowans can enjoy the results of their work and not be dependent on the government.
SF 389 passed the Senate 30-18. It now moves to the House of Representatives for their consideration. Senate Republicans have taken the common-sense approach of protecting taxpayers since coming into the majority and that agenda continued this week.