Editor's note: Every other Sunday through the conclusion of this year's session of the Iowa Legislature, our five local lawmakers will share their Statehouse views.
Sen. Rick Bertrand, R-Sioux City
Week 6, known as the funnel week, is in the books. This week is considered the cutoff week where decisions on what issues will be debated and considered for new law during the second half of this session are made.
I have mixed feelings as we move past this very intense week. Overall I feel very comfortable and confident with our Sioux City agenda, and the game starts now.
I still firmly believe that state tax reform will happen this year. This will bring home more money to our individual paychecks and, simply put, make it more profitable for our job creators to succeed in Iowa.
I am happy to report that a school funding mechanism known as the SAVE penny is a live round and has a good shot at being extended. This is so critical for Sioux City as we continue to rebuild our aging school infrastructure. I continue to believe that Education Savings Accounts will pass this year and that a path to school choice will finally become a reality.
The sleeper bill of the session deals with health care coverage for farmers, independent business owners, subcontractors and individuals who fall outside of employer and ACA exchange health care coverage. This bill will allow Iowans to join with others in a co-op form and purchase affordable health care that suits our individual needs. As I voted this out of committee, I am surprised this has been so quiet, as it is so real-time and relevant for working Iowans. Keep an eye on this legislation as it makes its way to the Senate floor.
As I have stated in weeks past, Medicaid fixes, mental health, life, targeted jobs and traffic cameras will all see heated debate over the next few weeks. Overall I feel a bit beat up, but positive and confident for a strong Northwest Iowa finish. Again, I can always be reached on my cell at 712-253-7096.
Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City
Greetings from the Capitol.
It’s been a hectic week, with legislators holding committee meetings in order to move as many bills as possible before the funnel deadline. I have a number of bills that will receive further consideration from my colleagues.
The tragic loss of life in the shooting tragedy in Parkland, Florida, was a very painful reminder that we are living in a different day. I submitted a school security bill at the start of the session that has passed through the education committee and will be on the floor for debate shortly. All Iowa schools will be required to have active shooter security protocols. It does not mandate any particular template or amount of spending; the bill solely requires that school districts have some plan predetermined in order to respond effectively to such an event. The concern stemmed from the discovery that a significant percentage of Iowa school districts currently don’t have such a plan. This bill is a good first step.
The chairman of Ways and Means, Sen. Randy Feenstra, will be chairing my senior property tax freeze bill subcommittee. Under the bill, fixed-income seniors who have reached the age of 65 and those on disability will receive a tax credit to offset rising property tax valuations. I am optimistic that it will make it out of committee and to the floor.
In addition, I have a bill to increase the penalty for sex trafficking of minors. It is currently charged as a Class C felony with a 10-year sentence. The penalty would be increased to a Class B felony with a 25-year term of incarceration.
Governor Kim Reynolds has now submitted her tax reform proposal. Negotiations over the amount of cuts will begin soon.
Please feel free to contact me with your questions at (712) 253-4270 and jim.carlin@legis.Iowa.gov.
Rep. Jacob Bossman, R-Sioux City
It’s an honor to serve the people of House District 6 in Des Moines. While I have only been here a short time, I have already had the opportunity to work on many issues important to our area. One of those issues is the extension of the SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) Fund, which provides funding for school districts to address infrastructure needs. Our schools must be able to provide facilities for our students that best allow them to learn and become the future leaders of our state. SAVE currently collects a penny of sales tax and distributes the revenue to school districts across the state to use on buildings and other infrastructure needs. However, it is set to expire in 2029. I served on the subcommittee for HSB 647 which extends SAVE through 2049. This extension provides certainty and stability for our schools, allowing them to plan for the future. I was excited to support this bill, and I look forward to seeing the impact this extension will have on our local schools.
HSB 647 also provides another important benefit to our area by increasing the portion of funds directed to the PTER (Property Tax Equity Relief) Fund from 2.1 percent to 10 percent. Sioux City’s property tax rates are among the highest in the state, placing an unfair burden on our residents and taxpayers. The PTER fund aims to “buy down” the highest rate to the state average. For example, residents of the Sioux City Community School District currently received $5.38 million in real property tax relief. HSB 647 will increase that amount to $6.65 million. HSB 647 provides certainty for schools and relief for our taxpayers. I believe that is good public policy.
Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City
I appreciate The Journal’s Feb. 4 editorial, “Breathe new life into bullying discussion,” both for the recent conversations I’ve had with parents about cyber-bullying and for my memory of working on the issue a few years ago. For those keeping track, the Legislature was forward thinking in 2007 when it passed a law requiring all public school districts and most private schools to have anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies.
Within a few short years, the law was in need of updates as students began to use cell phones, social media and online apps to bully one another. In 2015, leadership from then-Gov. Terry Branstad and Senate Democrats provided a bipartisan opportunity to make those updates to law, and a bill passed out of the Senate 43-7, only to arrive in the Republican House and fall short due to the objections of now-Speaker of the House Linda Upmeyer.
Had the law passed, it would have allowed (but not mandated) schools to enforce cyber-bullying when such acts affected the learning environment for a student. Recent events in Sioux City and many other communities prove the issue, and need for a legislative fix, remain serious. Every child deserves to feel safe, supported and free from harassment when dropped off at school in the morning.
To show support for The Journal’s editorial and hopefully revive the conversation on behalf of our school district and parents, I introduced House File 2361 this week. It is verbatim the same bipartisan language voted on by the Senate 43-7 in 2015. Procedural deadlines make its future uncertain, but I have begun reaching out to Republican leadership one by one to remind them of its importance and ask for its consideration. I encourage you to do the same.
Rep. Tim Kacena, D-Sioux City
Thursday concluded the first funnel week at the state Capitol. Decisions are made on whether bills that do not deal with the budget either make it through committee or do not. One such bill is HF2118, a bill that would ban local authorities from using automated traffic cameras. Supporters of this bill claim that speed cameras are in use for the purposes of gaining more money from its citizens. While I do understand that getting a ticket in the mail can be very frustrating, I refuse to believe that they are there for monetary gain. The fact is that you violated the speed limit and a lot of times are putting other people’s lives in danger. A lot of the speed camera locations are in places that have high traffic accidents and injuries. Cameras are about safety. They are not only about the safety of our citizens, but also the safety of law enforcement. One must understand that just because speed cameras go away, law enforcement will not. Their job will just become more dangerous than it has to be because they will have to be on site. Having speed cameras will keep law enforcement officers out of possible dangerous situations.
Speed camera tickets also do not have an adverse effect on car insurance rates in Iowa. According to a 2015 study conducted by nerdwallet.com drivers in Iowa pay $168 in fines and court costs for speeding 11 to 15 mph over the posted speed. On average, car insurance premiums for Sioux City drivers is $881.69; after a 15 mph speeding ticket, drivers will spend $127.91 more on car insurance. After three years - the typical amount of time a speeding violation stays on your record in Iowa - drivers in Sioux City will have paid $383.73, making the true cost of the speeding ticket $551.73. Currently, the civil violation associated with a speeding ticket 11 to 15 mph over is $100 with no change in insurance rates.
Cameras are good for our city by making it safer for our law enforcement personnel to do their job, safer for our citizens by slowing down traffic and better for the bottom line by not increasing insurance rates that will be affected by the amount of tickets being written.