State Lawmakers Poised to Vote on K-12 Public Education Funding

Feb 11, 2019

State lawmakers are expected to vote on K-12 public education funding this week. It’s less than Governor Kim Reynolds requested, but it’s more than the last couple of years. This bill gives a 2.06 percent increase in base funding, or about $79 million. Morning Edition Host Clay Masters checked in with IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric. Here’s what to know about education funding and other issues going on at the capitol.

The funding plan has passed the first legislative hurdles. The funding will “likely be debated this week, so it could be approved by the end of the week,” IPR state government reporter Katarina Sostaric says. Lawmakers are also considering additional funding to reduce historical inequities in per-student funding and transportation costs. That brings the total funding package this week up to nearly $90 million. Some Democrats and education advocates say it’s not enough. Some advocates say schools will be able to afford the necessities if both pieces are approved and it’s better than the past two years with about 1 percent increases.

There’s not much consensus yet on a bill to legalize sports betting. There were four bills debated last week regarding legalizing sports betting in the state. Various industries, from casinos to the Iowa lottery, were at the statehouse with competing interests. There might be some consensus on having a state tax rate of 6.75 percent on sports betting revenue, Sostaric reports. Other states have much higher rates, but one of the lead lawmakers on this issue says if you make the tax too high, people won’t leave their illegal sports betting methods to come into a legal market.

Republicans unveiled a proposal to change how judges are chosen in the state. Leaders in both the House and Senate, as well as Governor Reynolds support a proposal that has passed the first legislative hurdles in both chambers. Some Republicans say the changes will increase transparency and accountability to voters because it puts elected officials in charge of all the appointments to nominating commissions. “I’ve heard another lead lawmaker on the issue say he thinks this will result in judges who don’t inject their personal opinions into their work,” Sostaric reports. Some supporters say they’re unhappy with decisions by the Iowa Supreme Court they say are “liberal” and that the courts are political.

Opponents, like Democrats and the Iowa State Bar Association, say the courts currently have a minimal amount of politics involved and that this will politicize Iowa’s merit-based judiciary.

A labor bill flew under the radar last week. There was a lot of major news going on at the statehouse last week and House Republicans moved a bill last week that would delay paying the first week of unemployment benefits by six months. The majority of Iowans who file for unemployment benefits never reach that six-month mark, so under the bill they would never receive the first weeks’ worth of benefits. Supporters say it’ll prevent what they say is the construction industry’s abuse of the system. Opponents say it blocks people from getting benefits that they need to pay their bills.