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DES MOINES — Majority Republicans in the Iowa Senate are proposing a state budget of just more than $8.2 billion, they announced Tuesday.
That overall number matches the one from Gov. Kim Reynolds’ budget proposal, although the two proposals are not a dollar-for-dollar match.
Senate Republicans said their budget proposal would increase new state spending by 3.5 percent, or $283 million. Of that new spending, more than half — $159 million — would be new funding for K-12 public education, they said.
The proposal also contains a $71 million increase in mental health care funding, Senate Republicans said.
“As the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, my goal is to put together a budget that funds the priorities of Iowans, and is sustainable and responsible,” Tim Kraayenbrink, R-Fort Dodge and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said in a news release.
“Years of conservative budgeting have put the state in a position to continue to provide reliable increases to public safety, education, and health care.”
Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R- Ankeny, said the budget sets up lawmakers to pass state income tax cuts.
Senate Republicans have proposed a five-year gradual reduction to a flat, 3.6 percent state income tax. The proposal would, by full implementation in 2028, reduce Iowa workers’ taxes by $1.9 billion and reduce state revenue by $2.2 billion.
EMINENT DOMAIN: A ban on the use of eminent domain — the practice of the government claiming private land for private business projects — passed the first step of the legislative process, but with hesitant support.
Sen. Jeff Taylor, R-Sioux Center, said he proposed Senate File 2160 not because of the three carbon pipelines that are making plans to run through Iowa but because of an “age-old respect for private property” and because “the profits for the few should not outweigh the rights of the many.”
“This bill addresses a real problem and, if left unaddressed, it will continue to be a problem,” Taylor said.
Taylor conceded his legislation faces a tenuous future, and the subcommittee hearing supported that feeling.
All three legislators on the panel signed off on advancing the bill to the Senate’s Commerce Committee, but Republican Sens. Mike Klimesh, R-Spillville, and Craig Williams, R-Manning, did so while also expressing reservations.
In order to remain eligible for consideration for the rest of this year’s session, the bill will have to pass the full Senate Commerce Committee by the end of this week.
REYNOLDS TOUTS TUITION ASSISTANCE: At a news conference she hosted at a Des Moines-area Catholic school, Gov. Kim Reynolds highlighted her proposal for taxpayer-funded private school tuition assistance for some families.
Reynolds’ proposed legislation, Senate Study Bill 3080, would allow K-12 public school students to receive $5,300 in state-funded assistance to use toward a private school education. The funding would come out of the per-pupil state funding that goes to that student’s public school.
The program would be available to up to 10,000 students from families at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level, which is, for example, $92,120 for a family of three or $111,000 for a family of four.
Reynolds said she believes her proposal is the right thing to do because it makes private school more accessible and affordable for any Iowa parents who wants it for their student.
“We need to make sure that we’re giving every parent that choice, not just those that can afford it,” Reynolds said. “We need to be empowering parents to do what’s best for the children.”
A similar proposal from Reynolds passed the Senate last year, but not the House. She tweaked her proposal this year in hopes of getting it through the House as well.
RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: House Study Bill 677 — to prohibit government entities from “burdening” a person’s free expression of religion by treating conduct more restrictively than secular conduct — was approved, 21-0, by the House Judiciary Committee.
Although there hasn’t been a problem in Iowa, Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Orange City, said governors in other states prohibited or restricted worship gatherings during the pandemic.
A similar bill, Senate File 2170, was approved by the Senate Local Government Committee on Tuesday.
SERVICE ANIMALS: A bill establishing penalties for misrepresenting the use of service or assistance animals to avoid paying fees normally required for the pets was approved, 16-5, by the House Judiciary Committee.
House File 2068 makes the misrepresentation a simple misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $105 to $855 and imprisonment not to exceed 30 days.
An amendment to make violation a $300 civil penalty failed, but bill manager Rep. Brian Lohse, R-Bondurant, said he would consider the change once he has time to consider it. “I appreciate where you’re going, I think,” he said.
The bill was amended to align with Senate File 2093, which Lohse said would codify federal law.
The bill would allow a landlord to prohibit a service animal if the animal poses a direct threat to the safety, health or property of others and to request written documentation the person has a disability.
Current law provides that a landlord may deny a request for an exception to a pet policy if a person, who does not have a readily apparent disability or a disability known to the landlord, fails to provide documentation.
SAFE HAVEN: House File 2267 to expand Iowa’s Safe Haven procedure was approved by the House Human Resource Committee.
Through Iowa’s Safe Haven law, parents or their authorized representative can leave infants age 30 days or younger at a hospital or health care facility without fear of prosecution for abandonment. The bill would extend that age to 60 days.
In June 2021, the Department of Human Services said the procedure had been used for the 48th time since the law was enacted more than 20 years ago.
Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, was in the Legislature when the law was approved. She estimated more than 50 children had been saved in Iowa and thousands across the country.
Some states’ safe haven programs accept infants up to a year old, which may be something the Legislature might consider, Mascher said.
The Safe Haven procedure prioritizes the health and physical safety of the infant, as well as the anonymity of the parent or authorized individual who relinquishes custody of the child. The law was approved in the wake of a high-profile case in 2001 involving a teen mother in Eastern Iowa who killed her home-delivered newborn.
Infants who are Safe Haven babies are placed with foster or adoptive families.
VOLUNTEERS SOUGHT: Volunteer Iowa is now accepting nominations for the 2022 Governor’s Volunteer Awards until April 15. The program, established in 1982, provides for organizations to honor their volunteers with state-level recognition in three categories are available — individual, group and length of service.
Award recipient information can be submitted online at https://appengine.egov.com/apps/ia/icvs_award.
To learn more, visit Volunteer Iowa online.
Gazette Des Moines Bureau