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State Government News

Feb. 7: Last week at the Iowa Legislature

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MADELEINE KING
/
IPR File

Iowa Republicans who control the state legislature advanced bills last week that would cut unemployment benefits, cut lots of taxes and bring more ethanol to gas stations in the state. Plus Democrats released a tax proposal of their own, and lawmakers considered several education bills.

Here's what went on at the Capitol last week:

The Iowa House has passed a bill that brings E15 to more fuel pumps
The Iowa House of Representatives has passed a bill with bipartisan support that brings E15 gasoline to more fuel pumps, but allows some gas stations to be granted exemptions. The bill would require gas stations to sell gasoline with 15 percent ethanol from at least half of their pumps. An amendment says gas stations with older infrastructure that can’t accommodate biofuels can get waivers from the state. The ethanol mandate comes from Gov. Kim Reynolds. A proposal from last year allowed only one pump at each site to sell gasoline with no ethanol.

Iowa House Republicans advance bill cutting the max time for unemployment benefits by 10 weeks
The maximum amount of time most Iowans can receive unemployment benefits would be cut from 26 weeks to 16 weeks under a bill advanced Tuesday by House Republicans. The bill also adds a one-week waiting period for benefits, and it requires claimants to accept a lower-paying job more quickly than current law. Gov. Kim Reynolds called for these changes in her Condition of the State address. Several union representatives said the bill would hurt construction and trade workers who typically get laid off once a year because of the weather.

Iowa Senate discusses controversial books, private school scholarships and school funding
Under a bill advancing in the Iowa Senate, high-school students would have to pass a civics test to graduate, and public schools would be required to list all of the books in their libraries online. The bill, which is a priority for Reynolds, would also create state-funded accounts for up to 10,000 students that could help pay for private school. The Iowa Senate is also considering a “Parent Bill of Rights” that would require consent from a parent before a student could borrow a school library book with sexually explicit content. That bill passed through the Senate Education Committee Thursday.

Republicans in Iowa Statehouse raise ideas to recruit teachers. Democrats call for more state aid
Republican proposals in the House and Senate would allow professionals in other industries to move into teaching more quickly. They would also allow schools to offer student loan incentives. But Democratic lawmakers argue that a larger increase in state funding is what would help schools attract more educators.

Reynolds wants to 'keep it simple' on corporate tax cuts and says she's optimistic about negotiations
Reynolds’ plan would gradually cut the top corporate tax rates depending on how much corporate tax revenue the state receives each year. The top 9.8 percent rate would keep shrinking until it hits 5.5 percent, in line with Iowa’s lowest rate. Her plan for corporate tax cuts is estimated to cost the state a total of $300 million over the next five years. House and Senate Republican leaders have said they don’t want to cut corporate tax rates without also phasing out business tax credits.

Democrats want to expand Iowa's child care and earned income tax credits
Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate proposed their own tax plan Thursday that they say will benefit working and middle class Iowans. House Minority Leader Jennifer Konfrst, D-Windsor Heights, said Democrats want to increase the amount of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which is currently available to taxpayers making up to $90,000 a year. They also want to remove the “cliff effect” for the credit, by allowing people to phase out of receiving that credit as their income increases. The second part of their plan would double the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income Iowans. Democrats say they don’t have a cost estimate yet for these changes.

What you need to know about the proposed Iowan flat tax
All three tax change proposals from Iowa Republican leaders involve some form of flat tax. A flat tax would set a single rate of taxation for all income levels. While heralded as a neutral and simple policy for taxation, others are concerned about its impact on lower-income Iowans.

What else we're watching:

Lawmakers advance bill prohibiting COVID-19 vaccine requirements for school and child care enrollment
A House subcommittee has advanced a bill that would prohibit the state’s public universities, schools and licensed child care centers from mandating the COVID-19 vaccine in order for kids to enroll until 2029.

Listen: Here's how Iowa lawmakers are addressing the state's child care crisis
Rep. Ann Meyer and Rep. Tracy Ehlert join River to River to discuss bills addressing Iowa's child care issues. And a Des Moines parent shares her struggles to find affordable child care and how the workforce shortage is connected to these issues.

Iowa to scale back COVID-19 data reporting as Gov. Reynolds ends public health disaster proclamation
State health officials have announced they will scale back the reporting of COVID-19 data this month. Health officials say this means the state’s two public COVID-19 websites that present data and vaccine information will be decommissioned. The change will happen when Gov. Kim Reynolds’ public health disaster emergency proclamation expires, at the end of the day on February 15.

For even more on Iowa politics and legislation, subscribe to the Political Sense weekly newsletter.