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From the Desk of Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer March 18, 2011

The weather we’ve had this week sure makes it seem like spring is here. Before we know it, farmers will be on their way to the fields to get started with their planting. My husband seeded oats on April 1st last year.
|The weather we’ve had this week sure makes it seem like spring is here. Before we know it, farmers will be on their way to the fields to get started with their planting. My husband seeded oats on April 1st last year.

Even though the weather is beautiful outside, legislators are hard at work inside. Over the past week, the conference committee on Senate File 209 met several times to work on a compromise between the House and the Senate. You may recall this bill, which generally deals with federal tax code coupling and supplemental appropriations, was approved by the Senate at the end of February. In the Senate’s version of the bill, they also included $14.7 million for increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit from the current 7 percent to 10 percent.

The House version of this bill was passed on March 1st and took back the coupling an extra year to 2010. It left the Earned Income Tax Credit at 7 percent because House Republicans believe the Earned Income Tax Credit discussion should be a part of a larger discussion on taxes and how to give Iowans broad-based tax relief. The House also included a few other items including the creation of the Tax Relief Fund. This would capture the ending general fund balance and use it for tax relief instead of increased government spending.

When a bill goes through each chamber and ends in a stalemate, it then is sent to a conference committee which is made up of Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate. The conference committee on this bill has met twice last week and four times this week. We will continue to work across the aisle to reach a resolution on this important tax measure.

We spent much of this week considering bills on the floor of the House. On Wednesday the focus was on education. A one-size-fits-all approach to public and private education in the state is not a good approach. With that in mind we passed several bill to increase choice and strengthen local control.

HF 583 ñ Independent Accreditation of Nonpublic Schools. Iowa is the only state in the country requiring state accreditation of nonpublic schools. This bill makes it voluntary like 18 other states, and would allow for a nonpublic school to be accredited by nonpublic accrediting bodies.

HF 584 ñ Driver Education by a Teaching Parent. Allows a parent teaching a student under competent private instruction to teach driver’s education to the student over which they have custody and control. The course of instruction must be approved by the department of transportation and must meet at least the standards taught in public and private schools. Applying for an intermediate license requires a signed form designed by the department showing evidence of completion of the course. Regular requirements apply as far as a driving test for intermediate license and full license are concerned.

HF 585 ñ Charter Schools. HF 585 amends the charter school and innovation zone school chapter of Iowa law. It separates the approval process for the two types of schools by requiring charter schools to be approved by the local school board, as opposed to the state board of education. Innovation zone school applications are still to be approved by the state board. It allows more entities to apply for a charter school, including community colleges, regents universities, nonpublic schools, private colleges, and nonprofits. Current law only allows for a principal, teachers, or parents to apply for converting an existing school into a charter. The bill also allows for the charter to be established in a new building and not just an existing attendance center, as allowed in current law.

HF 588 ñ Independent Private Instruction. Allows for independent private instruction, which is a parent providing home school education to students that are not related. The bill limits enrollment to no more than four unrelated students. Independent Private Instruction is exempt from all school-related statutes and rules except compulsory attendance. Additionally, independent private instruction must provide private or religious based instruction as its primary purpose and must provide enrolled students with instruction in math, reading, language, science, and social studies.

These bills passed the House and are on their way to the Senate for their consideration.

I had some very special visitors this week. Two of my grandsons, Carter and Colin, visited me on Thursday and led the Pledge of Allegiance in the House. It was great to have them up here. I was honored to welcome my pastor, Brian Lund from Zion Evangelical & Reformed, as he opened the day with a beautiful prayer for the House on Monday.

If you are in the area, I would love to have you stop by and visit me too. Feel free to contact me at linda.upmeyer@legis.state.ia.us or my office at (515) 281-4618.

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