Here is a brief overview of some of the highlights of the 2018 legislative session. It was certainly an exciting session for me.
We started the session by coming up with additional funding for our K-12 schools and helping rural schools in particular with the passage of extra funding for districts with transportation costs above the average. That’s a big deal when some of the schools in District 4 approach three times the state average for transportation. We also expanded opportunities for online education.
This year the House passed legislation that provides long term funding for improving water quality. The Senate passed this legislation last year, so this was signed into law by Governor Reynolds early in the session.
We also passed legislation that addresses the collapse of the individual health insurance market and rising premiums for health insurance. These new laws give Iowans some options for their healthcare that allows them to choose the coverage that fits their budget and family needs. We also now require insurance companies to pay for tele-med services so rural Iowans can go to their local healthcare provider and video link with specialists that may be hundreds or thousands of miles away.
With the governor’s Future Ready Iowa plan we began an initiative to educate and expand the workforce. The goal is to see 70% of Iowans with training that goes beyond high school by the year 2025. This effort includes apprenticeship and internship programs.
Tax reform has been a priority for Republicans, and this year we were able to deliver. The tax bill that is soon to be signed by the governor helps make taxes for Iowans more simple, predictable, and affordable. It begins in 2019 and by 2023 is estimated to deliver a 25 percent reduction in individual income taxes for a single parent with one child making $48,000. A single taxpayer with no children making $25,000 should see a 22.3 percent reduction and a family of four making $75,000 will also have a 25 percent reduction. Farmers and businessmen will appreciate Section 179 coupling of $100,000 in 2019 and full, permanent coupling of $1 million by 2023.
Finally, I’d like to talk about the Heartbeat Bill that protects life from the moment a fetal heartbeat can be detected with an ultrasound.
The story really starts in 2017, when Republicans gained a majority in the Iowa Senate, giving them control of the Senate, House and Governor’s office. We started the session passing a Life-at-Conception Bill out of subcommittee. That failed to come to the floor for debate, so we started over with a ban on abortion from 20 weeks after conception. That put Iowa on par with the most pro-life states in the country.
In 2018 Senate Republicans knew we wanted more than just a 20 week ban, so we proposed the Heartbeat Bill. That sailed through committees and was passed on the floor of the Senate 30-20 with the support of all 29 Republicans and one Independent the last day of February.
The House took time advancing the Heartbeat Bill out of committee. They amended the language onto a bill that bans the sale of fetal body parts that was sitting in a different committee. It passed there easily.
However, the bill still needed to pass on the floor of the Iowa House. It was amended on the floor and the Heartbeat Bill passed the House 51-46 on May 1 sometime after 8 P.M.
The Senate was working late that day in hopes of having the Heartbeat Bill pass. Since it had been amended after passage in the Senate, it had to be passed in the Senate again. We took it up late in the day and it passed the Senate around 2:20 A.M. on May 2. On May 4, Governor Reynolds signed the bill into law.
The Heartbeat Bill takes effect on July 1, 2018 and should prohibit at least 90% of the abortions done in Iowa. I expect it will be challenged in court and eventually make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. There I hope it will be used to challenge Roe v. Wade.
As I said, this was an exciting year in the Iowa Senate. I count it a great honor to represent District 4 and hope to hear from many of you during the rest of 2018.