State Senator James Hahn
Negotiations slow dramatically as big issues remain on the table for discussion
You might describe an Iowa legislative session as one giant foot race and as this year’s runner is rounding the corner on the final lap, it seems to be limping toward the finish.
But there is some good news! That runner can still be a winner. Here’s why: There is still time to enact legislation that can bring about true reform, measurable results and real progress for hardworking Iowa taxpayers. It starts with three big issues: the budget, property tax relief and education reform.
Senate Republicans made it clear from the start of the session that Iowa’s budget should:
· Not spend more dollars than our state takes in
· Be balanced without raising taxes
· Be free of the use of one-time dollars for ongoing expenses
· Be transparent and should have money set aside for future needs
As negotiations continue on these important budget bills, expected to total over $6.2 billion dollars, Senate Republicans remain committed to standing up for the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa.
Property Tax Relief
Iowa has some of the highest property taxes in the nation.
Without significant, authentic and aggressive property tax relief for all classes of property, Iowans will only continue to see substantial job-killing property tax increases over the next decade. Passing authentic property tax reform will send a distinct message to our current and prospective job creators that Iowa is the place to do business and invest in our people.
· We need property tax reform for all classes of property
· We need relief that limits the shift from one class of property to another
In order to create more jobs in Iowa, we need property tax relief and Senate Republicans stand ready to help pass authentic reform.
Governor Branstad and Senate Republicans have made it a top priority to get Iowa education back on the right track.
Over the past decade, Iowa’s standing in education has stagnated significantly compared to the rest of the country. Simultaneously, we have spent billions of dollars on an annual basis and yet have not achieved the results our students deserve and parents and taxpayers expect.
- Education should be about preparing our students to achieve success and be productive citizens.
- Education should be about achievement and teaching our children the necessary skills they need to successfully compete in the global marketplace.
- Let’s get back to setting high standards and expectations for our students and challenge them to reach their fullest potential.
- Students will rise to the challenge if we provide them with world-class standards, ambitious benchmarks and a rigorous curriculum grounded in the fundamentals of reading, writing, math, science, history and civics.
Senate Republicans remain hopeful that we will have meaningful education reform this session but a lot of work remains.
There are two outcomes that can happen in the days or weeks that lie ahead. That runner can stumble and fall and not bring about the measurable results Iowans deserve or he can run through the tape with a victory.
EDUCATION REFORM CONFERENCE COMMITTEE UPDATE
This week, it appears there are now only two highly publicized pieces of education legislation remaining. Last week, there were three. The bills and their new statuses are:
· Education Reform (SF 2284) – in conference committee
· Education Appropriations (SF 2321) – in conference committee
· School Start Date (HF 2462) – likely dead
While all three bills are technically alive, the school start date bill has shown no signs of life since making its way to the Senate and it is likely done for this session. The education appropriations bill is currently in conference committee, but as of publication, there have been no discussions about how this bill will be resolved. Lastly, education reform is in conference committee and has met regularly since being assigned. As a result, there have been a number of points on the progress that has been made, but the bill still faces an uphill battle.
So far, there have been a number of pieces of SF 2284 and amendment S-5216 that have been agreed upon. Under the rules of the conference committee, any language that is the same in both the bill and the amendment is agreed upon and is not up for discussion during the conference committee. Some of these previously approved issues include:
· National Board Certification for teachers
· Expanding Project Lead the Way
· Expanding competency based learning
· Expanding the Department of Education’s Iowa Learning Online Initiative
There are some other issues that have also been agreed upon during the conference committee discussions. While these are only tentative agreements and are subject to a final vote of the conference committee, they do indicate progress. At this point, some of these agreed to issues include:
· Allowing the governor to appoint and the Senate to confirm the Director of the Board of Educational Examiners
· Expanding student teaching from 12 to 14 weeks
· Extending the Early Intervention Block Grant, K-3 class size reduction money - until 2016; this program is currently set to expire on June 30th
· Striking unnecessary language in several portions of SF 2284 that was not included in S-5216
· Partial expansion of the Iowa Core, in principle
It is important to point out that despite the agreements that were previously passed in both the House and Senate versions of the bill and the agreements that have been reached on portions in conference committee, there are several aspects that are not agreed to. These will be the sticking points for the remainder of the conference committee. These issues may be so substantial that the conference committee fails to reach an agreement. Some of these issues are:
· Establishing alternative licensure for teachers
· Establishing a religious exemption for portions of the Iowa Core that violate the bona fide tenants of faith for religious schools
· Establishing a student growth model to evaluate student and teacher performance
· Implementing greater regulations for online learning
· Determining what assessments will be required of students
There is always a possibility that all of the disagreements will be worked out, the conference committee will approve the report, and both chambers will move forward. However, if the bill moves forward, it is much more likely that the points of disagreement will be left out of the bill and only the agreed upon portion will pass into law. The other option that remains is that the bill could die in conference committee, despite the months of planning, discussion, and debate that have already occurred. Hopefully, some compromise can be reached, and education reform, while not the bold initiative originally proposed by Governor Branstad, can become law to improve education in Iowa.
I always appreciate hearing from constituents. You may contact me at email@example.com or by calling my home phone at 1-563-263-1208.