Week fourteen of the 2022 legislative session included time on the Senate floor celebrating the service of the many retiring senators in the Iowa Senate. Because of the redistricting, the number of senators retiring is higher than usual, with some retirees leaving after more than 20 years and some only after 2 years. It was good to hear both parties review fond memories of work we have done together.
The 2022 session has been a great success from passing historic tax relief to protecting girls’ sports, but we have some items hung up between the Senate and the House. One of those issues would address the workforce shortage by seeking to reduce the number of people using unemployment. This bill would include a one-week waiting period before benefits are awarded. This waiting period helps combat fraud, is consistent with policies used by labor unions during strikes, and is the law in 40 other states. Last summer media reports noted an estimated $87 billion in fraud occurred across the country in 2021 in the enhanced unemployment programs initiated during the pandemic. This idea has not received enough support in the House for it to be brought up for a vote.
Because of schools doing more education online during Covid, parents have learned more about how their child is being educated. They have seen suspect curriculum and want a clear and consistent path to engage with their school on the concerns they have. If those concerns cannot be addressed, then parents deserve to have choice in their children’s education. The Senate passed a bill making 10,000 scholarships available to students. The balance of the state per pupil funding not included in the scholarship would be allocated to operation sharing functions commonly used in rural schools. The Senate passed these reforms, but it has not yet been acted on in the House.
The main item left to be accomplished this year is passing budget bills. The Iowa House has passed all of their budgets, but they spent $72 million more than the Governor and the Senate set as a target. I want to make the tax cuts work long term and would like to see the House lower their budgets to something very close to the Governor’s original targets. Resolution of this issue is what keeps us in session.
As reckless policies continue to flourish in Washington, D.C., Iowans and their families face constant uncertainty, especially when it comes to the grocery store and gas pump. Just this week it was reported inflation hit a record 8.5 percent, with everything from meat and fish to dairy and produce rising in price. These rising prices are hard for Iowa families and cause problems when it comes to the household budget, making planning and saving more and more difficult. While Iowa can’t change how the federal government acts, we will do what we can to keep Iowa’s spending in check.
In order to keep that spending in check, the Senate passed Senate Joint Resolution 2006. This is a proposal for a constitutional amendment requiring a super majority to implement new taxes or increasing the income tax rate for Iowans. The requirement for a super majority would mean any bill to raise income tax rates on Iowans would likely require bipartisan support and show a compelling need for such an increase.
Constitutional amendments are required to pass two consecutive general assemblies. If passed by the House this year, this bill would need to pass with the same language again in the next general assembly in order to go to the people of Iowa for a vote.