116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
The 2022 session of the Iowa Legislature had a mean streak.
On the session’s first day, Senate President Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, declared that public schools and the media have a “sinister agenda” aimed at harming children. With that began a session where many majority Republicans and GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds assailed public education. Chapman even proposed legislation that would have made teachers and school staff into criminals for making books he dubbed obscene available in libraries.
The good news is that didn’t happen. Neither did the governor’s plan to pull $55 million from state aid to public schools to pay for private school scholarships, thanks to rural House Republicans who refused to back it. An onerous, costly and unnecessary set of “transparency” requirements for public schools also failed to pass.
With inflation rising and the state sitting on a more than $1 billion surplus, the Legislature increased public school funding by a paltry 2.5 percent. Regent’s universities and community colleges once again saw their share of state funding stagnate. On the last night of the session, lawmakers swiftly passed a measure that would allow families to use open enrollment at any time to pull their kids from public schools, creating even more budget uncertainty for districts.
Reynolds signed legislation banning transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s sports. Backers claimed they were saving girls’ sports, even though they couldn’t cite a shred of evidence that transgender participation is a problem in Iowa. All they succeeded in doing is scoring political points by targeting marginalized kids.
The main feature of Republican efforts to address Iowa’s workforce shortage was a bill that cuts unemployment benefits and pushes unemployed Iowans to take lower paying jobs more quickly. Reynolds pushed for the changes, callously arguing that Iowa’s unemployment safety net has become a “hammock.”
Iowa’s child care shortage by a bill that would increase staffing ratios and allow 16-year-olds to care for children unsupervised. Another bill would allow child care centers to ask Iowans receiving child care assistance to pay the difference between state help and regular tuition. Making child care potentially less safe and more expensive for low-income Iowans don’t sound like solutions.
The Legislature did nothing to clean up Iowa’s dirty water, or to stop private carbon pipeline projects poised to grab land through eminent domain. Iowa’s mental health care system remains underfunded and inadequate. But the Legislature did manage to cut personal and corporate income taxes by $2 billion, phased in over six years. Wealth Iowans will reap most of the benefits.
It was a disappointing session to say the least. The most welcome action taken by lawmakers was adjournment.
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