We’re approaching what’s called the “first funnel” date at the legislature, and that means that the list of bills that are being considered for passage will shrink dramatically. While there is a lot of sub-committee and committee work being done, some bills are moving through the House and Senate chambers that will have large implications for Iowans going forward.
The Iowa House and Senate both began by proposing a 1% increase in school aid, or roughly a $32 million increase in state aid to K-12 schools. This is even less than the 1.5% increase recommended by the Governor. The House approved their version on Wednesday, as did the Senate. The Senate version was also a 1% increase but differed in that it added an amendment that increased transportation equity funding by $14 million. After inflation is added in, as well as the many years of underfunding SSA, 1% is not enough.
Representative Steckman pointed out that the state has increased tax breaks for businesses from $75 million to 295 million since 2007, and that if the majority party is prioritizing corporations over our kids. The Iowa Federation of Labor strongly supports a review of all corporate tax breaks and to understand if the state is benefiting from these in any way. As of the end of this week, the House and Senate have refused to agree on a version of school aid, with the Iowa House rejecting the transportation equity funding at this time.
At the same time the state is underfunding our public K-12 schools, House Republicans released a bill calling for “Educational Savings Accounts,” which would divert money to private schools. Last year a similar plan that was far too expensive died, coming with at $240 million price tag on it. This proposal is aimed at children starting Kindergarten or a new student who switches from a public school to a private one. This is clearly a foot in the door for a full-blown school voucher system and could be greatly expanded in future years at the expense of public education.
Instead of calling for a special session earlier this year to deal with declining revenues, Governor Reynolds punted on the issue and illegally transferred funds. This week, the Iowa Senate passed SF 2117, which made $32 million in cuts with the brunt of these cuts aimed at community colleges and Iowa’s universities. The Iowa House bill, HSB 648, which also calls for deep cuts has not been taken up yet by legislators. Higher education is simply not a priority for House and Senate Republicans.
On the labor front, 2017 was a terrible year for collective bargaining and workers compensation, and 2018 has seen a host of harmful proposals to the Unemployment Insurance program. SF 2110 seems to be the most egregious of all these proposals, defining misconduct so broadly that it completely undermines the goal of the program to help workers who lost employment “through no fault of their own.” Our reading of this bill is that it would likely give employers any reason to deny unemployment benefits to just about anyone except for a layoff situation. This bill completely ignores situations where a rule, order, or instruction by an employer is unlawful or unethical, it does not take into account if has the rule been clearly communicated, or even communicated at all to the employee, if the issue was nothing more than simple negligence rather than an intentional or deliberate act against the employer, if the order is in conflict with an inability to comply or even if it causes concern for one’s safety or another worker’s safety. The IFL is working hard to make changes to this bill, but we need your help. Contact your Senator now to let them know how unfair these changes are here. https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find
Please also attend legislative forums in your area. It is vital that legislators know where you stand and that you will hold them accountable. You can find a list here.
There are many issues of importance still being debated and considered, and we will let you know as the session continues as to what bills make it through the first funnel and what ones do not.
Charlie Wishman, Secretary/Treasurer Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO