Week 11 Legislative Update

March 15, 2024

This Week, both the House and Senate held floor debate throughout the week, focusing primarily on non-controversial bills.  Governor Reynolds released four budget proposals for agriculture and natural resources, economic development, justice systems, and the judicial branch.

Work-based Learning

Senate File 2260 advanced out of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday. The legislation expands the definition of work-based learning to include programs that occur in the summer months and creates a workforce opportunity fund to assist in training and costs associated with successful work-based learning programs. The committee adopted an amendment to the legislation to address concerns from stakeholders regarding the funding source. The amendment allocates $30 million from the Unemployment Compensation Reserve Fund to the newly formed Workforce Opportunity Fund, and moves any remaining funds to the Unemployment Trust Fund. The amendment also eliminates the Unemployment Compensation Reserve Fund and the tax on employers to replenish the fund.

Area Education Agency Reform

Both the House and Senate considered versions of House File 2612 this week. On Monday, the Senate passed a strike-after amendment to HF 2612 that passed 28-22. The amendment made substantial changes to the original language passed by the House on February 29th. The legislation as amended was sent back to the House for consideration. On Thursday, the House filed a new strike-after amendment to the bill that ultimately passed 51-43. Legislators and the Governor have been meeting throughout the legislative session working to reach an agreement on Area Education Agency reform, originally proposed in the Governor’s Condition of the State address the first week of session.

The latest version passed by the House makes the following changes:

  • Districts will receive 10% of special education funding from the state and AEA’s will receive 90% of funding effective after the 2024-25 school year
  • In school year 2024-25, school districts will receive 60% of state funding for general education and media services while AEA’s will retain 40% of funding. School districts will have the option to contract with the AEA for services or use a private provider
  • Following the 2024-25 school year, school districts will receive 100% of state funding for general education and media services
  • Creates a task force to study and make recommendations on the AEA system
  • Creates a special education services division within the Department of Education and provides the department with additional oversight over AEA’s.

In addition to making changes to Iowa’s AEA’s, the bill also included Governor Reynolds priority to raise minimum teacher pay. The minimum wage for beginning teachers is currently $33,500 per year. The bill raises the minimum wage to $50,000 by school year 2025-26 and appropriates $22 million for schools to use to increase existing teacher pay and $14 million to increase pay for non-salaried school staff.

Finally, the bill sets the state per-pupil aid, also known as supplemental state aid. The bill increases the per-pupil funding by 2.5%, approximately $82.4 million in new funding. The House previously approved a 3% increase.

Governor Reynolds released the following statement yesterday evening. “Today’s vote by the House paves a path forward to further strengthen Iowa’s education system in meaningful ways. Every student deserves a quality education that helps them reach their potential. By reforming the AEA system, empowering school districts, and improving oversight and transparency, we are committing to better outcomes and brighter futures for Iowa’s students with disabilities. They deserve nothing less. 

“Equally important is ensuring our ability to attract and retain talented teachers for schools across our state. Raising minimum salaries for new and experienced teachers sends a strong message that Iowans value education and those who dedicate their careers to serving students. 

“I want to thank Speaker Grassley, the House education committee, and legislative members who remained committed to the intent of this bill and to working together to reach a compromise that honors it.” 

The bill now goes back to the Senate where the same language must be adopted before it is sent to the Governor to be signed into law.

Retail Theft

On Wednesday, the Senate approved House File 2594 and sent the bill to the Governor. HF 2594 establishes organized retail theft as a criminal offense. Organized retail theft occurs when all of the following occur:

  • an individual is employed or associated with a retail theft enterprise
  • has previously engaged in a pattern of retail theft
  • sells or intends to sell the stolen retail merchandise, advertises or displays any item of the stolen merchandise for sale, or returns any of the stolen merchandise to a retailer for anything of value

Both the House and Senate unanimously approved the legislation.

Other Bills of Interest: 

Constitutional Amendment (SJR 2004): On Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced a second constitutional amendment proposal. SJR 2004 establishes a single rate for individual income taxes within the constitution. Both the House and Senate previously advanced a proposed constitutional amendment out of committee that would require a 2/3 majority vote to raise individual incomes taxes. The proposals must pass both chambers this legislative session and next session before being placed on the ballot in 2025 for voters to approve.

Childcare Property Tax Assessments (HF 2655): Excludes property that is primarily used as a child care center from the calculation of the actual value of the property, and specifies the property is taxed as a residential property rather than commercial. The House advanced the bill with a bi-partisan 94-1 vote and was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee.

Film Production Incentive Program (HF 2662): Establishes a fund within IEDA to provide rebates to qualified production facilities for expenditures incurred to produce qualified productions within the state. The bill advanced out of subcommittee and committee in the House.

Land Redevelopment Trusts (SF 182): Authorizes one or more municipalities to establish a land redevelopment trust as a method to return dilapidated, abandoned, blighted, and tax-delinquent properties to economically productive status as a economic development tool for communities.

Immigration (SF 2340): creates a new code chapter related to illegal reentry into the state by immigrants who commit a Class D felony or a Class C felony, who were previously removed after conviction. The bill passed the Senate with a 34-16 vote and the House with a 64-30 vote.   

Next week, the Senate is expected to consider the amended AEA proposal and both chambers will continue to hold floor debate.