State Senate addresses wide range of issues

Last week was busy with floor debate. The Senate passed over 30 bills, talking about a range of issues, including insurance companies, the duties and compositions of state departments, emergency medical services, deer hunting, and public safety.

One bill, House File 2594, establishes the crime of organized retail theft. This bill targets groups that go into stores, steal a large amount of merchandise, and try to sell it. It has become a more prominent problem over the last several years, and this bill will establish more consequences for this crime.

I was proud to floor manage Senate File 2406 which changes the Community College Funding Formula. The change allows the presidents and chancellors of our Iowa community colleges to establish the funding formula for general state aid. Changing this code language will allow for greater flexibility so the formula can be changed more frequently to reflect changing enrollments. It’s not often a bill is approved by 100 percent of those affected. Our Iowa community college presidents and chancellors were unanimously behind this change.

Senate Study Bill 3189 went through the Ways and Means Committee this week. It proposes an amendment to put the flat tax into the Iowa Constitution. Earlier this year, another proposal advanced that included both the flat tax and a requirement for a two-thirds supermajority to increase tax rates in Iowa.

We believe strongly in both ideas and want to put each of them separately before the people of Iowa. These proposals are part of our goal to ensure tax relief for Iowans and protect the pro-taxpayer measures put in place over the last several years.

The Revenue Estimating Conference

Last week, the Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met. This group is charged with giving the legislature the budget outlook and projections so it can start planning budgets for the next fiscal year. Iowa continues to be in a strong fiscal position, and projected revenues have increased for the budget.

Now that the REC has released its projections, the legislature can start work on the state budget. This news also means we will be discussing other major topics, like tax reform and education funding.

Area Education reform passes Iowa Senate

Changes to Iowa’s Area Education Agencies (AEAs) has been a central focus of many Iowans this year. There are many misconceptions of this bill. The status quo of Iowa’s special education system is not good enough, and something has to change. The federal government has designated our state as “needs improvement” and is starting in-state monitoring this fall. This alone shows us something needs to be done.

There are a lot of important parts of this bill to support both the students requiring special education instruction, and the teachers and staff that provide services to them. This bill, House File 2612, gives more control to Iowa school districts over special education, media, and education services funding.

The bill also moves oversight of the AEAs to the Iowa Department of Education to ensure compliance with both federal and state laws, works to reduce administration costs so more money is freed up for students, and increases accountability by requiring reports to the school district on spending. Additionally, the bill raises the minimum teacher salary in the state to $46,251.

Nothing in this bill cuts services to students. The only goal of this bill is to improve services for students who require special education services.

All the communication I have received on this bill is appreciated. This bill has gone through a lot of changes since the idea was first brought forward. We have all heard from parents, school districts, AEA staff, superintendents, and more about this bill and what they liked or didn’t like about it. The conversation on the final version of this bill is continuing with the House and the Governor’s office.

State Sen. Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge, represents Calhoun, Pocahontas, Sac and Webster counties.


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