We have been very busy during Week 5 of the Iowa Legislative Session. Here are some of the bills we passed and issues that were discussed:
Government Oversight Hearing on Sexually Explicit Material in Schools
- This week, the Government Oversight committee brought in five Iowa moms to share their experience challenging age-inappropriate books in their child’s school library or curriculum.
- These moms gave examples of sexually explicit descriptions and images, and shared stories of retaliation by teachers and administrators for voicing their concern.
- Democrats have been dismissive of the material that has been found in Iowa schools. Let me be clear by providing some examples of the books these mothers challenged. I must warn you that this material is very explicit. Gender Queer, All Boys Aren’t Blue, Push
- It’s shocking that we even have to argue this point with the minority party, but sexually explicit material does NOT belong in schools. If using the moving rating system, these would be rated R.
- This isn’t about the LGBTQ community. This isn’t about banning books. This is to ensure sexually explicit materials isn’t available in public schools without parental knowledge and consent.
- The process to challenge a book is a bureaucratic mess and gives little to no power to parents. One of the moms had to hire a lawyer just to help navigate the one-sided process.
- Government Oversight is working to set up another meeting with the school administrators so they can share their side of the story as well.
House File 171: SSA Funding Increase
- This week, we passed, and the Governor signed, a bill to increase SSA funding by 3%.
- Supplemental State Aid, often called SSA, is the amount of new funding committed by the state to local school districts. Each year, the Legislature is required to set this figure for the next fiscal year within the first 30 days of the legislative session.
- This increase amounts to $106.8 million more than Fiscal Year 2023, and a total of about $3.7 billion to School Foundation Aid. It would bring per pupil funding to $7635 per student, an increase of $222 over FY 2023.
- As they always do, Democrats said Republicans are underfunding public education. But Republicans are responsible for record-high education investments over the last decade. K-12 education funding has increased by almost a billion new dollars over the last 10 years. The last time education funding was actually cut, was when Democrats had the trifecta in 2010.
House File 161: Medical Malpractice Noneconomic Damages
- This week, the Iowa House passed HF 161. This bill limits the amount of noneconomic damages that can be awarded for a medical malpractice claim at $2 million if the incident happened at a hospital and $1 million if it happened somewhere else.
- In a case of medical malpractice that results in loss of a bodily function, substantial disfigurement, or death, there are three types of damages a jury can award:
- Economic damages – quantifiable damages like lost wages, loss of future earning capacity, cost of medical bills. This bill does not limit what can be awarded to the plaintiff in economic damages.
- Punitive damages – Deliberate disregard for the rights or safety of the patient. This bill does not limit what can be awarded to the plaintiff in punitive damages. This bill does make one change to ensure all punitive damages are awarded to the family, rather than a portion being awarded to the state, as is current law.
- Noneconomic damages – mental or emotional anguish or other suffering that can’t be quantified. This bill caps noneconomic damages at $1 million, adjusted for inflation annual beginning in 2028.
- No amount of money can ever make up for the loss of a loved one. But in Iowa, massive noneconomic damage awards have increased exponentially. They drive up liability costs and make the cost of providing care in Iowa less competitive.
- One massive award for noneconomic damages can close a smaller hospital or a physician’s practice, leaving all of those Iowans without access to the care they may need.
- 28 other states currently have a hard cap on noneconomic damages or total damages, including all of our surrounding states. Iowa ranks 44th in the nation for physicians per capita.
- We need to compensate people for medical injuries, but we also need to keep Iowa’s health care industry intact, and make sure health care is there for Iowans when they need it, especially in rural Iowa.
Senate File 181: Property Tax Rollback Calculation Fix
- Without getting too far into the details, an error in the interpretations of past property tax bills resulted in a property tax increase on taxpayers that was not intended.
- This week, the House Ways and Means committee passed a bill to fix the issue so as not to hurt the property taxpayer, however, this has upset local governments who say they have already started setting their budgets for next fiscal year based on that additional revenue.
- To address this concern, the Senate amended the original language of the bill to give local governments an extra month to set their budgets.
- This is not meant to take away money from local governments, because in reality, this is not money they ever should have received.
- We are continuing to listen to our constituents and local government on this topic. However, our priority this session is really the property taxpayer. Not the government.
I look forward to meeting constituents along with Senator Taylor on Saturday, February 11th at 10:00am at the City Hall in Orange City, 9:00am on Saturday, February 18th in Hawarden at the Community Center and 11:00 am at the Old Kissinger School gym in Merrill, also on February 18th.
Fun Fact: Did you know Iowa election officials conduct pre- and post-election audits for every election, to ensure the accuracy of the vote? Every ballot tabulator undergoes a Logic & Accuracy test to ensure it is functioning properly and that each candidate and ballot measure receives the accurate number of votes. These tests take place in view of the public ahead of the election, and both political parties are invited to observe.
Post-election audits take place for a randomly selected precinct in every county following every election. Each vote tabulator in Iowa produces printed results that can be verified with the paper ballots to ensure accuracy. A bipartisan team hand counts the ballots to ensure they match the totals from the voting tabulators.
As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me. I can be reached at my email: firstname.lastname@example.org.