State House Passes Public Charter School Bill
(Des Moines) — The Iowa legislature has now completed its eleventh week of the General Session, and a controversial bill that emerged and passed from the Iowa House chambers deals with the creation of public charter schools.
State House Representative, Dr. Tom Jeneary of Le Mars says it was early Thursday morning before the House had adjourned.
He says debate on the bill started at about 5:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
Jeneary says it was Orange City state representative, Skyler Wheeler who pushed the bill through the Iowa House. Jeneary tells of the components of the bill.
Jeneary says the bill also says the founders and the board members must reside within the area, and be residents of Iowa. He says there are currently only two charter public schools in Iowa. Jeneary says the bill may help parents of minority students.
Jeneary says the bill was passed mainly along party lines, rather than on any bi-partisan effort. He tells of the House Democrats objection points.
That bill passed on a 55 to 40 vote with Republican Representative Gary Mohr of Bettendorf joining the Democrats and voted no. The bill will now be considered in the Iowa Senate.
North West Rural Electric Cooperative To Hold Annual Meeting
(Orange City) — Members of the North West Rural Electric Cooperative are invited to attend the utility cooperative’s annual meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 30th. Lyle Korver is the Executive Director and C-E-O of the power cooperative and says this year’s meeting will take place at Sioux Center.
Korver says there will not be a banquet meal at this meeting, and this year there are no district meetings within the counties that make up North West REC. He says there will be a panel of officials on hand to answer questions from the membership.
The North West REC executive says members will have the opportunity to elect directors in Sioux, Ida, and Plymouth Counties.
Korver says despite the coronavirus pandemic, 2020 was generally considered a good year for the membership power utility cooperative.
The annual meeting of the North West Rural Electric Cooperative will be held at the Terrace View Event Center in Sioux Center and is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. Tuesday evening.
Dordt University Band Is A Semi-finalist For National Contest
(Sioux Center) — The Dordt University Wind Symphony has been selected as a semi-finalist in the college wind band division of The American Prize for the Performing Arts.
The American Prize states that they recognize and reward “the best performances by concert bands and wind ensembles in America, based on submitted recordings.”
Dr. Onsby Rose, director of the ensemble and associate professor of music at Dordt says, “The selection is made from hundreds of college bands across the nation, and it is an honor for our Wind Symphony to have been selected as a semi-finalist.”
Dordt was selected as a semi-finalist alongside 11 other schools, including Illinois State University Wind Symphony, University of North Texas Wind Ensemble, the New England Conservatory of Symphonic Winds, Vanderbilt University Wind Symphony, and other prominent collegiate wind bands.
Megan Meyer, a junior trumpet player from Illinois says, “It’s so exciting to be nominated for this award because it shows all the handwork that the ensemble did over the year, and we get to share that music with the world,”
says “This nomination puts Dordt’s name out there, and it also shows that even a smaller university like Dordt can hold their own with some of the best bands in the United States.”
The Dordt Wind Symphony has 55 students who participate, and the group recently recorded a full-length album titled Music with Friends with Mark Custom Recording, scheduled to release fall 2021.
Museum To Again Hold Good Friday Pilgrimage
(Le Mars) — After a year’s absence due to COVID-19, the “Good Friday Pilgrimage” will return to the Plymouth County Historical Museum in Le Mars from 11 a.m. to noon on Good Friday, April 2.
It was the sudden passing of Pastor Larry Fett of Grace Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in Le Mars that sparked the first pilgrimage to the Museum’s Religious Heritage Room April 10, 2009. The Museum dedicated that first pilgrimage to Pastor Fett.
Through the years, Pastor Fett’s widow, Margaret Fett, and her family have donated rack cards for the Religious Heritage Room.
This year, with Museum personnel encouraging masks and social distancing, the special event will complete its 12th year.
The public is invited to visit the room between 11 a.m. and noon and view “The Morning of the Crucifixion,” a 129-year-old painting of mural proportions.
House Republicans Propose $100 Million For Broadband in Next Year
(Des Moines, IA) — House Republicans are planning to set aside “around 100 million dollars in next year’s state budget to expand broadband service in Iowa. House Speaker Pat Grassley said, “we’re going to have a General Fund appropriation that will make a significant investment in broadband.” In January, Governor Kim Reynolds asked legislators to approve 150 million in incentives to companies that extend broadband in each of the next three years. Reynolds has also been pressing to ensure the communications companies getting broadband grants provide the highest upload and download speeds. Grassley says the House plan would allow slower speeds, so companies like Mediacom that are employing what’s called fixed wireless technology to
extend internet service in sparsely populated rural areas could qualify for the state incentives.
Ex-Secretary of State Pompeo Speaks to Iowa Conservative Club
(Urbandale, IA) — Mike Pompeo is the first potential 2024 presidential candidate to start testing his message in person with audiences in Iowa. The former secretary of state spoke to a crowd of about 200 Iowa Republicans early Friday morning at the Westside Conservative Club in Urbandale.
Pompeo was pressed by a man to address the last presidential election and whether President Donald Trump should have left the White House. Pompeo said, “I did believe firmly that the president had a responsibility and an obligation that he lived up to fight this as far as he could and as hard as he could in every single material way and he did that. He did his best to
litigate.” Pompeo criticized the Biden Administration for what he described as its “willy-nilly” approach to security at the country’s southern border.
And Pompeo said the Trump Administration’s “America First” foreign policy was “a fundamentally different approach” that worked with Mexico, North Korea and Iran.
Three Arrests Made in July 2020 Death of Infant in Sheldon
(Sheldon, IA) — Three northwest Iowans are charged in connection with the death of a five-month-old child last summer in Sheldon. Police arrested 20-year-old Lawrence Ruotolo and 21-year-old Brittanee Baker Thursday for child endangerment in the death of their daughter. Forty-nine-year-old Stacie Hurlburt was arrested on Friday for being an accessory after the fact. The
complaint says the child was found unresponsive last July and later died in a Sioux Falls, South Dakota hospital. Investigators say all three suspects fabricated a story about the child being injured by a lamp that was knocked over by their cats. The preliminary court hearing for Ruotolo is April 5th in O’Brien County.
Northeast Iowa Teacher Charged With Assaulting Student
(West Union, IA) — An employee of the Starmont Community School District in northeast Iowa is charged with assaulting a student. The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office says they investigated a report by school officials of an alleged assault by a teacher against a student on March 16th. The criminal complaint says 49-year old Anita Smith of Edgewood grabbed a 16-year-old student’s arm during class and bit it. The bite left a red mark, some bruising, and teeth marks. Smith told investigators that she was role-playing when the incident occurred. Smith had been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. She will appear in court on the assault charge at a later date.
The Taylor Times by Senator Jeff Taylor 3-26-21
This week I was busy at the Capitol with subcommittee work on House bills. An interesting proposal we approved, on a bipartisan basis in a Labor & Business subcommittee, protects employees from implantation or attachment of microchips or other tracking devices by employers (HF 259). Unfortunately, society’s development of technology has sometimes overridden concern for ethics and liberty.
On Thursday, I chaired a Judiciary subcommittee for a bill that allows a prosecution witness who is a minor to testify in interviews and depositions remotely, separate from the defendant (HF 709). This is Rep. Skyler Wheeler’s bill, created partly to protect children who are victims of sexual abuse from further trauma during pre-trial legal proceedings. I strongly support it and I’m grateful to be able to run the bill on the Senate side.
I enjoyed participating in a teleconference with the Sioux County Farm Bureau this week. In addition to other legislators, Farm Bureau members from O’Brien and Cherokee counties were also on the line.
This week was the eleventh week of the legislative session. Senate Republicans released their Fiscal Year 2022 budget targets and they include a total budget of $7.999 billion. It is an increase of $195 million from the previous year.
This amount represents 94 percent of available revenue and includes the elimination of the triggers passed in the 2018 tax bill, the phasing out of the inheritance tax, and over $100 million in significant property tax relief. Tax relief remains a priority for Senate Republicans because Iowa has relatively high income taxes and property taxes. This budget incorporates relief for both types of taxes, keeping another promise Senate Republicans have made to Iowans.
The main areas of increases for FY 2022 in our budget targets are an $80 million increase in education funding, including an increase of $55.3 million for K-12 education and an increase of $25 million for higher education (including additional dollars for Last Dollar Scholarships). Health care funding rises by $98.1 million, including increases of $15 million for nursing homes and home- and community-based service providers, and an increase of $60 million for mental health services.
Public safety funding also goes up by $13 million, including an increase of almost $5 million for the Department of Public Safety and just over $4 million for the Department of Corrections. Broadband funding, since it is not a recurring expense, was not included in this announcement but a significant investment will be made in improving that service.
Over the last several years, Senate Republicans have passed responsible, conservative budgets while continuing to fund priority areas like education, health care, and public safety. This conservative budgeting has earned Iowa the ranking of the most fiscally sound, most resilient state in the nation in a July 2020 study by the Council of State Governments. This budget continues that trend and continues dedicating funds to the areas most important to Iowans.
Cutting Property Taxes and Funding Mental Health
This week the Senate advanced Senate Study Bill 1253, which cuts property taxes for Iowans and allocates additional funding for mental health in Iowa. Providing property tax relief for Iowans, along with finding sustainable and affordable solutions for mental health, have been priorities for Senate Republicans for several years. This last year has shown us just how important it is to bring real relief and changes to both of these systems. Homeowners have watched their valuations rise over the years, and more and more Iowans have struggled with their mental health while dealing with challenges during the pandemic.
Senate Study Bill 1253 provides more state funding for mental health, simplifies the tax code and cuts property taxes for Iowans by over $100 million. In the first year, the bill provides $60 million in state funding for mental health and $125 million in the second year, while ensuring additional funding moving forward.
Additionally, this bill eliminates property tax levies to ensure real property tax relief for Iowans, removes triggers from the 2018 tax bill, provides tax relief for middle-income Iowans, and puts more money back in the pockets of Iowans.
Improving Gun Policy for Law-Abiding Iowans
Removing restrictions to the Second Amendment rights of Iowans has been a priority for Senate Republicans not only this year but since we took the majority in 2017. This week the Senate advanced another bill aimed at protecting an important constitutional right. House File 756 eases restrictions for law-abiding gun owners in Iowa. This bill makes a number of changes to firearms laws in the state and, as with many issues, also comes with much misinformation about what the bill does.
The most common misrepresentation implies this bill eliminates or reduces the amount of background checks for Iowans. This claim is the direct opposite of the reality of the bill. HF 756 increases the amount of possible background checks because it permits Iowans to acquire a gun with either a permit to acquire, a permit to carry, or a national instant background check. Current law only uses either a permit to acquire or a permit to carry and these cards are valid for five years. An Iowan can purchase a weapon any time during this period without an update. The national instant background check process quickly identifies any change to the eligibility of someone to purchase a firearm—for example, criminal activity or determination by a court of mental illness. The permits to carry and acquire are not updated with the same frequency.
This bill also puts more guardrails around private sales of guns by stating that sellers break the law if they know, or should have known, that the person to whom they sell the gun is ineligible to purchase a firearm. It also creates a crime of having a firearm on school grounds unless the person is a member of law enforcement or the firearm is unloaded or inaccessible.
HF 756 eliminates the requirement for lawful gun owners to seek a permission slip from the government to carry a firearm. As was sadly demonstrated this week in Colorado—a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the country—criminals do not care about gun laws and they will not follow them. Consequently, excessive gun laws only inhibit the law-abiding from exercising their constitutional rights and HF 756 protects these rights.
Greetings from the Statehouse,
First off, I would like to thank all of you that attended my townhalls throughout the session this year. I gained more insight to issues and was more than happy to connect with those who didn’t wish to travel to Des Moines this year. This week is when the budget starts to come together and we begin to have an idea of what monies that we will have available for FY 2022.
Budget Discussions Begin
Thanks to responsible budgeting by the Legislature, Iowa was proud to be ranked number one most prepared to withstand the financial challenges of COVID-19 in the nation according to the nonpartisan Council of State Governments. Budgets rotate year to year for starting between the House and the Senate. This year the House of Representatives will submit the Ag & Natural Resources, Education, Justice Systems & Judicial Branch, Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund, and Federal Block Grants for consideration.
Iowa House Passes HF 756 – Firearm Omnibus Bill
Last week, I supported HF 756. The bill addressed many areas of gun law but the part that caught the most attention ended the requirement that a person have a permit to carry or purchase a firearm. Many have been spreading misinformation about the bill even though it passed with bi-partisan support. The misinformation spread is based on anti-2nd Amendment politics not on the actual language in the bill. With this bill, background checks are still required for long gun or handgun purchases at a retailer. These will be run through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NCIC). It should be noted that HF 756 will keep the permit option in place, but does not require a permit if a law-abiding Iowan wants to carry their firearm. However, in order to carry outside of Iowa, Iowans will still require a permit. HF 756 will also make it more difficult for felons and domestic abusers to subject to a background check for every firearms purchase. Current law only requires showing a permit issued in the last five years. The NCIC is updated immediately by state and federal agencies to have the most accurate information available regarding who can and cannot possess a firearm.
House to Consider Bills in Relation to the Missouri River
Senate File 184 and 185 are two pieces of legislation that repeal sections of Iowa Code concerning Missouri River compact authorities. Senate File 184, repeals the State Interagency Missouri River Authority which was established in 2002. As a result, Iowa became members in the Missouri River Association of States and Tribes (MoRAST), an organization of states to represent the interest of the states and tribes in the Missouri River Basin. However, in 2011 Iowa and Nebraska withdrew from MoRAST and it eventually disbanded. Similarly, Senate File 185, repeals the Missouri River Preservation and Land Use Authority. Originally, enacted to create and engage in planning for the preservation and beautification of the land adjacent to the Missouri River. However, the Authority hasn’t met since 1991. Iowa currently collaborates with the States of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and the Army Corps of Engineer’s Kansas City and Omaha Offices to prepare and plan for floods and the land adjacent to the Missouri River. Both these bills eliminate unnecessary Iowa Code that have become outdated.
Iowa Likely to Extend Tax Return Deadline
The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced last week that the federal income tax filing due date for individuals will be automatically extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021. The IRS will be providing formal guidance soon. Individual taxpayers can also postpone federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed.
Additionally, the Iowa Department of Revenue is likely to extend its income tax filing deadline again this year as a result of the pandemic. Iowa’s state income tax filing deadline is traditionally April 30. Iowa Department of Revenue has publicly confirmed that the state is likely to change that date but is waiting on more details from the IRS before finalizing its decision. Stay tuned to the Department’s website for details forthcoming.
As always if you have any questions, comments or concerns please reach out to me. Also, if you are in Des Moines during the session, please email me and I will try my best to meet with you as time allows.
Representative Tom Jeneary
Serving the Citizens of House District Five