The capitol roundup
By Jesse Green
Greetings friends! Now that the second funnel week is over, we voted on many more bills than we normally do to send to the governor’s desk or to the House.
This week we passed out of the Senate the Life Amendment. The section reads, “To defend the dignity of all human life, and to protect mothers and unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the day of birth, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution shall not be construed to recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or to require the public funding of abortion.” With the eventual adoption of this language, policy on abortion will be determined by the people of Iowa through their elected representatives and not through unelected judges.
Expanding quality broadband access has been an important issue in Iowa for a while and it is even more important when many are working from home, taking online classes in their living rooms, or even attending virtual doctor’s appointments during the pandemic. This week the Senate passed House File 848, amending the broadband facility expansion grant program and allowing the state to work on bringing broadband to more Iowans.
The goal of this bill is to expand broadband access to underserved areas in Iowa and also ensure the technology is not rendered obsolete shortly after it is installed. House File 848 amends the broadband facility expansion grant program administered by the Office of the Chief Information Officer to prescribe new matching percentages for grants, establish new minimum service speeds for qualifying projects, and amend certain factors used in evaluating grant applications.
Iowa currently ranks 45th in the country for broadband access. While over 80 percent of Iowa has access to the internet, the average speed is the second slowest in the United States. There are many areas across the state that also have very little options for the internet. Internet access opens up a number of opportunities for people, whether it is someone working remotely, furthering their education, or simply improving the quality of life. House File 848 is the next step in getting faster internet to more households in Iowa and bringing more opportunities to all Iowans.
The Senate passed SF 587 on Tuesday to address two major concerns for Iowans — property tax relief and mental health funding. It provides over $100 million in property tax relief for Iowans by eliminating property tax levies and removing the tax triggers put into place in the 2018 tax bill. Additionally, it provides $60 million in state funding for mental health in Iowa in the first year, $125 million in the second, and sets up sustainable, predictable funding growth for the future.
The concern I hear most about from constituents in regards to this bill has been the phasing out of the backfill. The backfill was originally created in 2013 to bridge a revenue gap created by corporate property tax relief. Since then, revenues to cities and counties have grown significantly in many areas of the state and the backfill has achieved its goal of covering lost revenue to cities and counties. Under this bill, the backfill to cities and counties would be phased out on either a four- or six-year schedule, depending on how they grew relative to the rest of the state. Cities and counties that grew more than the state average, which is over 131 percent, would have the backfill phased out over four years. Cities and counties that grew less than the state average would have their backfill phased out over six years.
You have heard me talk about the bottle bill many times and how reforming it is one of my top issues. We still have a couple of bills on the table that have a chance. Please let your legislator know that reforming this broken bill this year must happen. I am afraid that if it does not happen this year that it will remain broken for a long time.
As always feel free to reach out to me with any thoughts or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy trails till we meet again next week!
Jesse Green, R-Harcourt, is a state senator.