This week I had the pleasure to host the 2023 Orange City Tulip Queen and her court at the Capitol. The ladies performed a dance and passed out delicious almond patties. They were able to meet with Governor Reynolds, have a tour of the Capitol, and go to the top of the dome. They were great ambassadors of Orange City and Northwest Iowa.
Here is some of the work done in the House of Representatives this week:
Senate File 496 – Parent Empowerment
- This week, the House passed Senate File 496, which contains many education proposals. The House amended the legislation, sending it back to the Senate for their consideration.
- There’s quite a bit in this bill, so let’s break down the big pieces.
Policy already passed by the House
- Ensures all books in schools are “age appropriate.”
o It explicitly states that age appropriate books do not include books that contain graphic images or descriptions of a sex act.
o Yes, this does seem like it should be a no brainer. Unfortunately, many books of that nature have been found in Iowa schools.
- Prohibits curriculum on gender identity or sexual orientation in K-6th grade.
- Reforms the makeup of the Board of Educational Examiners to 5 parents, 5 licensed practitioners and 1 school board member, ensuring parents are represented.
- Creates new pathways to license teachers to address the teacher shortage.
New policy, not previously passed by the House
- Both the House and Senate want to ensure that schools can’t keep secrets from parents about their child’s gender identity. However, the House amended the bill sent to us by the Senate and passed our language on the matter.
o Our amendment states that if a student requests an accommodation at school for a gender identity that is different than their sex at birth, the teacher must report that information to the administration and the administration must tell the parents.
o We believe our language is a simpler approach to this. There isn’t room for discretion, bias, or an agenda. The trigger for when the parents must be informed is very clear.
o It also removes the teacher from the situation so they can stick to what they really signed up to do – teaching.
- The bill also removes the requirement in code to teach about AIDS and the HPV vaccine. The bill does not prohibit instruction on either of these topics, it just eliminates the requirement.
Senate File 494 – Public Hearing on Government Assistance bill
- This week, the House heard from Iowans in a public hearing on Senate File 494. This bill aims to ensure that the Iowans receiving government assistance for food and health care are those who truly need it.
- We want to make sure that programs like SNAP and Medicaid are there to support the people and families that need it. And, that those who can, reenter the workforce and grow in their careers. For that to be the case, we need to make sure those receiving benefits truly qualify.
- This bill has already changed quite a bit throughout the legislative process and is likely still not in its final form. As always, it was great to get feedback from Iowans on both sides of the issue this week so we can ensure this bill is effective in what we’re setting out to accomplish, without needless, unintended consequences.