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Sunday Talk: Stone on the Legislative Week

This week, week eight of session, was truly monumental!  Monday after legislative business had adjourned for the day, I had to opportunity to watch some girls state basketball including a team from my district! I watched the Estherville Lincoln Central girls defeat Sergeant Bluff-Luton 49-34 and went on to beat Unity Christian 57-44 in the semifinal round.  They will now face Ballard for the state championship!  On Tuesday, Governor Reynolds signed our historic tax cut bill into law at a local business in Des Moines. Later that night, she gave the Republican rebuttal to the president’s state of the union address.  I was proud to listen to our governor explain some of the great legislation that has recently been implemented in Iowa to the rest of the nation.  And then we wrapped up the week with a bill signing that protects girls sports.

It was an honor to be able to have our Governor sign into law a bill that protects girls sports and allow them to compete fairly in the sports they love.

On Wednesday, the house held floor debate for nearly five hours. We passed twenty-nine bills in total, most of which were noncontroversial and had bipartisan support. The most controversial bills were HF 22032198, and 2127 which are all described below.
House Republicans Support Iowans Right to Try

This week, the Iowa House passed House File 2203 to ensure that Iowans can seek care for their loved ones. In 2017, the legislature unanimously passed the Right to Try law to allow terminally ill individuals to access investigational drugs that have not been fully approved by the FDA. This bill expands the Right to Try to also include off-label drugs and for individuals on life support.

This bill also clarifies liability protections the legislature passed in 2020 for health care providers related to COVID. The bill expands those protections for health care providers to also ensure that they cannot be disciplined by their licensing board for those same protections, including prescribing and dispensing off-label drugs for the treatment of COVID.
House Republicans Prioritize Child Care for Working Families

Recently, the Governor’s Child Care Task Force released its report of recommendations to improve access to child care in Iowa. Based on the report, the Governor announced the following actions in her condition of the state address:

• $200 million for funding stabilization grants for daycares

• $10 million in additional funding for the Child Care Challenge Grant Program

• Implementation of a child care management system – this website will enable daycares to collectively share administrative functions, group purchasing, and professional development.

• Create a “Best Place for Working Parents” designation – the state will recognize employers to go above and beyond to accommodate their employees with children.

• $100,000 for grants to integrate child care with preschool

Additionally, this week the House passed two bills off the floor based on the report to improve access to child care for working families. Many of these recommendations look to provide flexibilities to parents and providers that reduce regulations and align Iowa’s child care regulations with the majority of other states.

House File 2198 allows 16 and 17-year-olds to provide child care in a center for school-aged children without supervision. 16-year-olds can be lifeguards and CNAs but were unable to work in a child care center without direct supervision from an adult.

House File 2127 allows parents to pay the difference between Child Care Assistance rates and rates to charge to families who do not receive assistance. The task force report states that by not allowing this flexibility, there “can be a disincentive for child care providers to accept children receiving CCA.”

Additionally, last year the governor signed legislation to address the cliff effect in child care assistance, double the income eligibility for the child care tax credit for families, increase child care assistance rates by $13.4 million, and expand options for families through non-registered homes.

Introducing our former district representative, Tedd Gassman, was the highlight of my day on Tuesday!

Tax Cuts for Every Single Iowan

This week House File 2317 was signed into law. It is the largest tax cut ever passed in Iowa. Who does the bill help? Everyone!

Retired Farmer Lease Income Exclusion
Provides that a retired farmer’s income from the rental of their property is exempt from tax. The farmer must be 55/farmed for at least 10 years. If the farmer chooses this exemption, they are not eligible for the capital gains exclusion. This change begins in the tax year 2023.

Who does this help?
Famers do not always have access to traditional retirement vehicles and accounts. They have been investing their entire lives in their “retirement account”—their land! This exclusion will allow a farmer to rent their land to the next generation and not pay taxes on that “retirement” income.

Individual Income Tax Rates—Tax Years 2023-2025
Provides a flat tax of 3.9 percent on all taxable income. This begins in the tax year 2026.

Who does this help?
This provision helps the single mom with two kids and Iowa taxable income of $25,000. That mom would pay $714 in Iowa taxes under our current law but will only pay $521 in 2026 because of this bill. That is a 27 percent reduction in her taxes.

This provision also helps the family of four with two working parents who have an Iowa taxable income of $50,000. That family would pay $1,918 under our current law but have that number cut to $1,520 because of this tax cut. That’s more than a 20 percent tax cut for that middle-class, working family.

Retirement Income Exemption
Currently, Iowa Code provides for an income tax exclusion for the first $6,000 of retirement income. This provides that all retirement income would be excluded from tax. The change begins in the tax year 2023.

Who does this help?
Retired teachers, nurses, and police officers. Any kind of qualified retirement plan would be tax-free. This includes IPERS, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs, etc. We want people who grew up, worked and raised families in Iowa to keep Iowa as their home in their golden years. This provision will make that dream a reality.

So who does House File 2317 help?
Everyone who pays taxes in Iowa. Democrats whine that two-thirds of Iowans making less than $10,000 see no change. There is no tax cut the Legislature can pass that will cut the taxes of people who pay no taxes, who are below the filing threshold, and who just file a return to get a refund. The tax code already benefits them. With House File 2317, not one person sees their taxes go up. The average tax cut for a taxpayer will be over $1,000. That is a real cut that puts more money in the pockets of hard-working Iowans and more money in Iowa’s economy.

 

Iowa Ranks Second in Most Job Opportunities Per Person

The Lensa Index recently issued a report titled “What’s Happening in the US Job Market in 2022.” Within this report, Lensa analyzed the American job market to see how the job landscape has changed going into 2022 and what the recent trends are in the US job market. In their words “…we wanted to provide a fresh update looking at the latter half of 2021. With the Great Resignation seeing huge numbers of people ditching their jobs to pursue different careers and vaccine mandates adding fuel to the fire, 2021 has been a tumultuous period for the American jobs market.”

The report breaks down which states have the most job opportunities, which states have the most job opportunities per person, which industries are hiring the most in every state, the 50 most sought-after job opportunities in the USA, states with the most job clicks, cities with the most job clicks, the most popular companies for applicants, and the most attractive industries in 2021.

Not surprisingly, the three states with the most job opportunities directly related to the population. But, the states with the most job opportunities per person, the top three are Vermont, Iowa, and Wyoming. Iowa has 41,664 unique job listings per 100,000 people. Broken down further, this means Iowa has 1,319,901 unique job listings, a population of 3,167,974, therefore 41,664 job listings per 100,000 people. When looking at which industry is hiring the most in Iowa, transportation, and material moving occupations top the list as it does in essentially all of the midwestern states. At the time of the report, Iowa had 227,603 job openings in this field.

Iowa ranks 34th in states with the most job clicks. Lensa states that “the number of job advert clicks that an area records could indicate a higher number of jobseekers. It can also be a measure of how difficult it is to get a job in different parts of the country.”

Iowa Workforce Development states that Iowa’s most recent unemployment rate is 3.5%. The U.S. unemployment rate is 4%. The top five jobs in Iowa right now are registered nurses, heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, customer service representatives, and retail salespersons
Anti-Israel Efforts Opposed by Iowa House 

In 2016, Iowa enacted a law to prohibit the investment of public funds or entering into public contracts with companies that refused to engage in commerce with Israel, boycott Israel, or territories controlled by Israel. The law was passed by the General Assembly because of the growing trend known as the “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign” (BDS Movement). The goal of these tactics is to wage an economic war to threaten the sovereignty and security of Israel through the economic policies of companies. 35 states have similar anti-boycott laws or regulations.

Since the enactment of the law, issues have developed raising questions about the original definition of “companies”. Most notable is the 2021 decision by Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to discontinue the sales and manufacturing of its ice cream in the West Bank of Israel. Ben & Jerry’s is wholly owned by London-based Unilever but maintains an independent board allowed to make its own decisions on its social mission. The decision to discontinue the sale and manufacturing in the West Bank is a boycott of Israeli territory and a threat to the economic stability and peace of the territory. Arizona, Illinois, New York, Texas, Florida, and New Jersey have all divested public funds from Unilever in response to Ben & Jerry’s boycott of the West Bank. However, the language in Iowa’s law is vague about the definition of a company.

House File 2373, passed by the Iowa House of Representatives would amend Iowa Code to clarify that the definition of a company includes subsidiaries, majority-owned subsidies, parent companies, and business affiliates of publicly traded businesses. If enacted, this change would allow Iowa to join the growing number of states who are standing with Israel and divesting their public funds from Ben & Jerry’s parent company, Unilever. The Iowa Public Employees Retirement System (IPERS) has identified $2.7 million in investments that would need to be divested from companies that would be included in the new law. The $2.7 million would be sold from those investments and reinvested in different avenues. The amount of the fund that would need to be reallocated is equal to only 0.006% of the total IPERS investment portfolio. This update to the current law would continue and strengthen Iowa’s economic support of its trade partner Israel.

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