Highlights with Henry
“There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.”
- President Ronlad Reagan
We have about 29 days left of the legislative session, and as we wrap up, I want to share a bit about what we have accomplished this legislative session.
During this session, we made significant progress on offering different education options for students. Two main reasons why: first, there is no one size fits all when it comes to educating children, and second, it is important to parents in my district to help foster alternative options for education.
We passed the following legislation:
- Expanded charter schools.
- Ensured every student has an in-person option for education.
- Worked on a bipartisan basis to provide flexibility for funding to ensure schools are able to spend the money where they need it most.
- Increased budget for education.
- Provided additional funding for schools that were offering in-person learning to ensure the safety of students, teachers, and all other staff.
We have worked on a bipartisan basis to bring relief to families, individuals, and business owners across the State of Iowa. The federal government has offered assistance and relief since the beginning of the pandemic, however, more relief was needed.
- Senate File 346: An Act allowing certain deductions relating to the paycheck protection program loan forgiveness, and including effective date provisions. This bill provided $128 million in tax relief over the next two years.
- Iowa Restaurant and Bar Relief Grant Program: Governor Reynolds allocated $40 million in federal CARES Act funds to provide financial relief for eligible restaurants and bars impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. This program can be accessed through IEDA. More information here.
- Assistance for Renters and Homeowners Available: Iowa COVID-19 impacted renters and homeowners are now able to apply for assistance with rent and mortgage payments through two assistance programs. More info can be found below.
- Giving Dentists authorization to administer COVID-19 vaccines: This was an important bill. Getting back to normal means providing everyone the opportunity to get the vaccine if they wish. This was just another option to help administer more vaccines.
- Microchipping and Free Speech Survive Second Funnel: The second legislative funnel is this week. Bills that originated from the house, must be through committee in the Senate, and bills that originated in the senate must be through committee in the house. A bill that does not advance, is probably dead for the year. Here are a few of the bills from the House Judiciary committee that survived the second funnel.
HF 233/ HSB 31-Disclosure of Private Sexual Images
HF 233 is a uniform code bill that allows a civil action to be brought against someone who publicly shares a private sexual image of another without permission.
HF 259/ HSB 10- Microchipping
Prohibits employers from demanding or incentivizing the microchipping of employees.
HF 452/HSB 34-Massage Therapists and Human Trafficking
HF 452 requires persons who work as massage therapists or cosmetologists to immediately show their identification and permits if asked by a peace officer during an investigation. The bill also targets those who rent property to massage parlors involved in human trafficking.
HF 744/HSB 237-Free Speech
HF 744 protects the free speech of students and faculty in k-12 education and in college. The bill requires free speech training for students and faculty and provides penalties if free speech is unnecessarily restricted.
SF 172/ HF 281 Sex Act -
Expands the definition of sex act to close loopholes in the law.
STATUS-Sent to Governor
SF 240/ HF 295- Custodial Trusts
Statutory framework is created for a simple trust. It allows any kind of property to be made the subject of a transfer to a custodial trustee for a beneficiary. These types of trusts help Iowans who do not have a lot of assets and don’t need costly estate planning. The bill also provides for monitoring and enforcing custodial trusts.
STATUS-Signed by the Governor
SF 253/ HF 425- Sex Abuse 2nd Degree
SF 253 changes the definition of “child” in sexual abuse 2nd and 3rd degree. Under current law a “child” in these crimes is considered someone under the age of 12, SF 253 changes the definition to someone under the age of 14. Under current law, a person who sexually abuses an 11-year-old faces a 25 year sentence with a 70 percent mandatory minimum, whereas the exact same abuse done to a 12-year-old is only subject to a 10 year punishment with no minimum sentence.
STATUS-Sent to Governor
And the good news is:
Assistance for Renters and Homeowners Available:
Iowa COVID-19 impacted renters and homeowners are now able to apply for assistance with rent and mortgage payments through two assistance programs.
The Iowa Rent and Utility Assistance Program will provide eligible COVID-19 impacted renters with rent and/or utility assistance for a total of up to 12 months. General eligibility requirements require that applicants:
Be current renters earning no more than 80% of their county’s area median income
One or more individuals in the household must have either qualified for unemployment benefits or have experienced a documented financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic
Can demonstrate a risk of experiencing homelessness or housing instability which may include a past due utility or rent notice or eviction notice.
The Iowa Homeowner Eviction Prevention Program reopened applications this week to provide eligible COVID-19 impacted homeowners at imminent risk of eviction with mortgage assistance for up to four months, with a maximum assistance per household of $3,600. The short-term program will be available until funds are exhausted or a new federal program is launched. Program funding is provided through federal CARES Act funds. Program eligibility details are available under Assistance for Homeowners at IowaHousingRecovery.com
Some Child Care Legislation Advances, Many Still Held up by Senate:
This session House Republicans brought forward a legislative package to increase the child care workforce, increase provider rates to maintain existing child care facilities, provide incentives to develop new child care facilities, and support hard-working families to afford the high cost of child care.
Now, these bills are more important than ever, as child care is a key factor in getting Iowans back to work throughout this public health emergency. The Senate has considered the following bills:
House File 302 establishes a state-funded off-ramp program from Child Care Assistance (CCA) that will gradually increase cost-sharing from families as they increase their income. This bill removes the ceiling on Iowan’s ability to be successful. You often hear about the cliff effect in government programs—where individuals are stuck in welfare dependency and the program is limiting their ability to take a raise or promotion. This bill addresses the cliff effect in Child Care Assistance and the Senate is planning to move it out of Human Resources Committee.
House File 260 will allow nonregistered child care homes to increase by one school-aged child. This bill is important for rural Iowa parents who do not have access to a child care center in their area. This bill has passed both the House and Senate chambers, and now awaits the Governor’s signature.
House File 301 establishes a public/private partnership to expand the child care workforce in the state. This bill will help recruit and retain child care providers in Iowa by providing matching funds to communities that match the state funds. This bill is now up for consideration by the full Senate.
Five bills from House Republicans on child care still await any consideration by the Senate. In total, this child care legislative package will take significant steps to address child care access and affordability throughout the state.
House Passes Changes to Broadband Grant Program:
This week the House unanimously passed House File 848 making changes to Iowa’s broadband grant program. When the governor introduced her bill, it made significant changes to the existing broadband grant program and focused on increasing broadband speeds around the state. House Republicans believed the emphasis should be placed on connecting Iowans who currently do not have access to broadband internet.
The product of the resulting conversations and negotiations resulted in a bill that focused on both speeds of deployment and internet speeds. Grant funds will be eligible at varying amounts based on the internet speed (or lack thereof) available to Iowans. Broadband infrastructure projects must deploy fiber to Targeted Service Areas to receive grant funds, except for Tier 1 areas where projects must be capable of 100/20 to receive a 50 percent match.
• Tier 1 areas have speeds of 25/3 or less and are eligible for up to a 75 percent match.
• Tier 2 areas have speeds from 25/3 to 50/? and are eligible for up to a 50 percent match.
• Tier 3 areas have speeds from 50/? to 80/? and are eligible for up to a 35 percent match
Other changes include new scoring criteria to encourage projects in Tier 1 areas, allocating 20 percent of grant funds for hard to serve areas within Tier 1 (e.g. based on topography, soil, or other unique local conditions), and having a designated employee to help with grant applications for state, federal, and private funds.
House File 848 sets the framework for aggressively building out Iowa’s broadband infrastructure to ensure all Iowans have access to broadband internet. However, this policy bill will have limited effect without a significant financial investment in the grant program. House Republicans have announced their goal of $100 million in funding this year.