The following is a legislative update from State Senator Waylon Brown, representing Iowa Senate District 26 which includes portions of Cerro Gordo, Mitchell, Worth, Floyd, Howard, Chickasaw and Howard counties:
This week we experienced another legislative deadline – our second funnel week. While last week was dedicated to floor debate, this week we were back to full committee meetings – working through bills which have passed the House and been sent to the Senate for consideration and passage. This sets the stage for next week to be full of floor debate.
In regard to workforce in Iowa, this month we have approved a bill which removes the requirement of primary source verification for certain licensing boards, meaning an applicant can upload a copy of their transcript or diploma rather than requesting an official transcript or diploma be mailed from an institution. This change brings efficiency to state government and reduces barriers to licensure. By implementing this recommendation by the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), we can improve timely reviews and eliminate a barrier to licensure for some applicants.
The Senate recently approved two bills related to the dairy production and marketing in Iowa. The first bill, SF 2309 legalized the sale of fresh milk for very small producers, 10 animals or less, to sell directly to the consumer. This bill ensures clear labeling so consumers know they are buying an unpasteurized product. It maintains strong consumer protections and is similar to laws in adjacent states governing the sale of fresh milk. These very small producers can now access a new business opportunity to sell a niche product directly to consumers. Fresh milk, and cheeses made from it, are growing in popularity and SF 2309 provides an opportunity for small producers to capitalize on that popularity safely.
The Senate also ran SF 2290 to foster and develop innovation in the traditional dairy industry. Last year the Legislature passed, and the governor signed, a bill commonly referred as the Butcher Bill to address the overwhelming demand for meat processing in Iowa exacerbated by the pandemic. SF 2290 applies a number of those policy initiatives to the dairy industry as well. It creates a Dairy Processing and Milk Production Innovation and Revitalization program in the Iowa Economic Development Authority in coordination with the Iowa Department of Agriculture. An artisanal dairy study is also created to explore establishing an artisanal dairy processing program at a community college or university. The goal of this bill is to help create new career opportunities in the dairy industry and expand economic development in rural Iowa.
Tax relief has always been a priority for Senate Republicans. The new tax policy represents months of hard work to make Iowa a better place to live, work, and make home. It is a policy that encourages work and rewards success, makes Iowa more competitive with other states and helps our state grow.
A recent Iowa Poll by the Des Moines Register indicates Iowans support of the tax relief bill signed by Governor Reynolds a few weeks ago. Most Iowans support the 3.9 flat tax meant to provide a simpler and fairer system for Iowa taxpayers. Since passing the bill, we have heard a lot of feedback about it. We have heard from retired Iowans who are thrilled about the income tax exemption on retirement income. We have heard from small business owners happy to have a lower rate so they can put more money into their business or hire more workers.
Last year the Iowa Legislature passed a number of bills to address the need for access to affordable child care. One of those bills established a task force to study the issue. The task force recommended making changes to the number of children an adult can watch in a child care facility.
We recently passed Senate File 2268 to address the accessibility and availability of child care and implement some changes recommended by the task force. It eases the regulations on child care centers and allows them more flexibility on how many children they can accept per adult. Also, young adults – sixteen years old and up – can now provide full-time care in child care centers in an effort to ease the staffing burden in child care centers.
As we see a shortage in educators in Iowa, especially substitute educators, the newest legislation addresses this concern by providing that a certified paraeducator with a substitute authorization may substitute in any PK-12 classroom (except driver’s education) for the 2021-2022 school year. The school must make a good-faith effort to employ a substitute teacher who is not a para before using the para as a sub and must pay the para the same rate as a non-para for the work or the para’s regular rate, whichever is higher.
As many students across Iowa enjoyed spring break I took the opportunity to have my daughter, Elyse, join me at the Capitol for a few days. We enjoyed our father-daughter time together and hopefully she was able to see what I do while away from home and working in the Iowa Senate.