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Legislative session comes to an end, April 21, 2024

The 2024 session of the 90th General Assembly adjourned for the year “sine die” (without a day) early Saturday morning. Here’s what happened on the legislative front last week from the Iowa Catholic Conference (ICC) perspective:

 

The “standing” appropriations bill is generally the last one of the session. As it has for many years, SF 2443 limits the amount of money going to public schools to provide transportation services for nonpublic school students. The total appropriation is about $9 million. If this limitation was not present, the funding would be about 25% higher.

 

SF 2443 also allocates $2 million in new money for the Department of Public Safety for 12 jobs “to address the rise in illegal immigration and related criminal conduct such as drug trafficking and human trafficking, or as assigned by the commissioner of public safety."

 

SJR 2004 passed the House. It is a constitutional amendment proposal that passed both chambers this year and will be eligible for consideration next session before it would go to a vote of the people. SJR 2004 would require a flat income tax. HJR 2006, passed earlier in the session, is a constitutional amendment requiring a two-thirds vote of the legislature to raise the income or corporate tax. The ICC has opposed both proposals.

 

A new part of SF 2435, the education appropriations bill, allocates $2.1 million in new money to the Department of Education for providing professional development for teachers in public and nonpublic schools. The legislation also contains the funding for a person at the department to help nonpublic parents and schools with special education issues. These are positive developments.

 

SF 2368, supported by the ICC, requires public schools to give charter and nonpublic schools the right to match the top offer when selling public school buildings. SF 2368 was passed by both chambers and goes to the governor for her signature.

 

Opposed by the ICC, HF 2319 was passed by the Senate and heads to the governor for her signature. It forbids local governments from participating in projects where individuals are provided with periodic cash payments that are unearned and that may be used for any purpose. The concern among legislators supporting the bill is that people will not work if they receive money with few obligations attached to it. In a Polk County UBI program being tested, more than two-thirds of the people have a job. About 30% are unpaid caregivers.

 

HF 2672, eliminating the tax credit for forests, was not taken up by the Senate for debate. A Senate amendment would have significantly improved HF 2672 by requiring local landowners to only pay a little bit. The ICC opposed the bill as drafted and we’ll likely see a new version next year.

 

The Iowa House did not take up HF 2690, which was supported by the ICC. It related to the "Medicaid for employed people with disabilities" (MEPD) program and would allow employed people with disabilities who are married to retain more monetary resources (up to $21,000) before going over the limit and losing coverage.

 

In other news, HF 2586 was signed by the governor last week. It allows school staff to get a professional permit to carry guns at school. HF 2652 also passed the chambers and will go to the governor. It provides funding for public schools for weapons detection systems, weapons and stipends for personnel who get one of the professional permits. It also requires all schools to have access to a public safety answering point (radio), which will be paid for by pandemic funds. These proposals were a top priority of the legislature.

 

Education Savings Accounts applications are open for Fall 2024

 

The application period for Iowa’s Education Savings Account program is open until June 30. If your family received an ESA this school year, you still must reapply. For this fall, Students First ESAs are awarded based on the following eligibility:

 

  • A student that was approved and used an ESA in the 2023-24 school year

  • A student entering kindergarten at an Iowa accredited nonpublic school

  • A student that attended an Iowa public school in the prior year

  • A student enrolled in an accredited nonpublic school with a household income at or below 400% of the 2024 Federal Poverty Guidelines, $124,800 for a family of four

 

For the fall of 2025, all students will be eligible.

 

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