AEA measure dominates forum

Possible constitutional amendment, hydrogen drilling also discussed

-Messenger photo by Bill Shea
State Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, center, speaks during Saturday’s Eggs and Issues legislative forum at Iowa Central Community College. Listening, from left, are state Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge; forum moderator Jim Kersten; and state Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge.

Legislation to make some changes to Area Education Agencies is moving forward, but it’s quite different from what was proposed earlier this year, local lawmakers said Saturday.

The House of Representatives passed an AEA bill Thursday and it is expected to be considered by the Senate Monday.

“I want to say that our bill had a much different process and outcome than the governor’s bill and the Senate bill,” state Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, said during an Eggs and Issues forum at Iowa Central Community College. “The governor’s bill was rejected by the House.”

Meyer said the bill would also increase starting teacher pay to $47,500.

An effort to amend the state constitution to require a supermajority vote of the legislature to increase income taxes may also move forward as this year’s legislative session winds down, according to state Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge.

“We want to make it harder for whoever is in power to raise taxes,” he said.

A bill to require a permit for drilling for hydrogen may also emerge. A company has been drilling for hydrogen in northern Webster County.

State Rep. Mike Sexton, R-Rockwell City, joined Meyer and Kraayenbrink for the Eggs and Issues forum. About 50 people attended. Eggs and Issues is sponsored by the college and the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance.


At the beginning of the legislative session, Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a major overhaul of AEAs, which provide special education and media education services to school districts. Among other things, her plan would have given state special education funding now given to AEAs directly to school districts. The school districts would then decide whether to provide special education themselves or contract with AEAs or perhaps some other entity for those services. Her plan ran into stiff opposition and was voted down by a House committee.

These are the key provisions of the new House bill, according to Meyer:

All special education money goes to AEAs in the first year after it becomes law. After that, school districts get 10 percent of that money.

School districts get more flexibility with media services.

There will be no change to “early access” services AEAs provide to special needs children before they are old enough to go to school.

Salaries of AEA chiefs can be a maximum of 125 percent of the average of the salaries of the top five school superintendents in the regions they serve.

A task force will be created and charged with making recommendations on special education by December.

Meyer said the bill will increase the salary for first-year teachers to $47,500, rising to $50,000 in their second year.

“Our superintendents, especially in Fort Dodge, say that is going to be a game changer,” Meyer said.

The bill includes $22.3 million to raise all teacher salaries, she said.

“It goes to move everybody up,” Sexton said. “The money’s there to do that.”

Kraayenbrink said the Senate passed its own AEA bill earlier in the legislative session, prompting Reynolds and the House to work on a revised plan.

“The outcome of this has to be focused on how our students will be better off than before,” he said.

He suggested that the House bill will be approved by the Senate.

“We’ll probably end up voting for it,” he said.

There were apparently several educators in the audience, and the majority of questions posed to the lawmakers during the forum were about specific details of the AEA legislation.

Constitutional amendment

Kraayenbrink said the proposed constitutional amendment would require a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature to raise taxes.

Sexton said the measure would only apply to income taxes.

“Sales taxes aren’t part of that bill,” he said.

In Iowa, proposed amendments to the state constitution must be approved by the legislature in two separate General Assemblies and then be approved by the voters.

Thus, the proposed two-thirds majority amendment would have to be approved by lawmakers this year and again in 2025 before being presented to the voters.

Hydrogen drilling

Twin Rivers Exploration has been drilling into the ground near 110th Street and Washington Avenue in Webster County in search of hydrogen.

There are no state or local rules regarding the drilling.

Kraayenbrink said there is a bill that would create a process to apply for a hydrogen drilling permit from the state Department of Natural Resources.

He said the company is drilling more than 6,000 feet into the ground in search of hydrogen.

“They’re saying that there’s no way that can affect your water aquifer,” he said.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today