Iowa House Republicans seek to protect 1st Amendment on college campuses:
College campuses used to be generally understood as places that welcomed the free exchange of ideas, unfortunately that has significantly changed in the past several years. Free speech zones, arbitrary restrictions on student funded groups, banning of speakers, and the removal of signs have all become common place on college campuses. The House and Senate worked on Senate File 274 in an effort to curb campus policies that unconstitutionally restrict free speech. SF 274 is a straightforward bill that prohibits public universities and community colleges from adopting so-called speech codes that violate the First Amendment. Speech codes often seek to ban speech that some students and school leaders deem unacceptable. Speech codes simply ban free expression from those with which the power brokers on campus disagree. With this bill, public universities and community colleges in Iowa will be required to add policies that acknowledge intellectual freedom and free expression are essential on campus. The bill is in response to an unconstitutional policy at the University of Iowa. As a result, language in the bill explicitly extends First Amendment protections to student groups. The bill also prevents a campus from having limited free speech zones in outdoor areas. Even with the bill, schools can still implement reasonable time, place and manner restrictions to activities, including assemblies, protests, speeches, petitions and recordings.
Iowa’s Unemployment Rate Remains at 2.4%:
Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained at 2.4 percent in January. The state’s jobless rate was 2.8 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 4.0 percent in January. “More Iowans than ever are now employed,” said Beth Townsend, director of Iowa Workforce Development. “This is the fourth straight month for job gains. These positive numbers reflect the efforts we are making through Registered Apprenticeship, Home Base Iowa and Future Ready Iowa. With historically low unemployment continuing, now more than ever, is the right time to invest in Future Ready Iowa to help Iowans improve their lives through good paying jobs and careers by ensuring access to training and education opportunities in high demand careers.” The number of unemployed Iowans increased to 40,600 in January from 40,400 in December. The current estimate is 5,900 lower than the year ago level of 46,500. The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,654,400 in January. This figure was 3,200 higher than December and 22,500 higher than one year ago. Monthly labor force data have been revised for 2014-2018 as required by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Benchmarking is the process of re-estimating statistics as more complete data becomes available. Prior year’s estimates for the Current Employment Statistics (CES) and Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) programs are benchmarked annually. In March, the revised data is incorporated with the January employment statistics.
Agriculture: Weight Limitation for Self-Propelled Implements of Husbandry bill Passes House
Passed in the House this week; HF 669 (The companion to Senate File 555) proposes to establish a 25,000 - pounds maximum for any one axle for self-propelled implement of husbandry. Such self-propelled implement of husbandry must comply with the other Code provisions when operated over bridges.
The bill authorizes local authorities to issue a special permit, based on a statewide standard developed by the Iowa Department of Transportation, allowing the operation over a bridge within the local authority’s jurisdiction of such a self-propelled implement of husbandry with a weight in the excess of the weights allowed. In addition this bill repeals a provision authorizing annual overweight permits for such self-propelled implements of husbandry originally purchased or ordered prior to February 1st, 2007, and strikes the corresponding references to that provision.
Labor: Occupational Licensing Review boards
Passed in the House this week; HF 666 requires the State Government Efficiency Board to review every professional license, certification, and registration and prepare reports for the General Assembly to vote on. This section also allows individuals with a criminal record to request from the board whether or not their criminal record will preclude them from the professional license, certification, or registration.
Environmental Protection: DNR Provides Critical Assistance During Historic Iowa Flooding
On Monday, March 25, 2018, the Iowa Department of Natural Re-sources (DNR) issued a press release in which the state agency noted that DNR conservation officers and park rangers have responded in droves providing crucial equipment and fulfilling extraordinary public safety rescue missions. Since Thursday, March 14, more than 34 DNR conservation officers and two DNR park rangers from across the state have responded to western and southwestern Iowa, working collaboratively in two-officer teams per boat from dawn to dusk. Other critical public safety missions provided so far by the DNR officers include transporting Mid-American Energy officials around towns and areas inundated by flood waters to shut down electricity, transporting other officials with assessing damage to public facilities and water treatment plants, assisting emergency manage-ment officials with assessing damage to levees and other infra-structure, as well as DOT with assessing structural integrity of I-680 bridges.
The DNR will continue to assist officials with equipment and public safety critical missions as well as provide expertise and resources as the focus eventually turns to clean-up and rebuilding.
Capitol Highlights Week 10
HF 546 SAVE Extension and Modifications - This bill makes some modifications to the uses of SAVE (Secure an Advanced Vision for Education) dollars, the distribution of the Property Tax Equity Relief (PTER) fund, and extends the sunset on the statewide penny that funds SAVE by 20 years. It provides for significantly more property tax relief and sets up a fund to help districts establish Career Academies.
HF 420 - Financial Literacy Implementation - Amends language passed last year by the legislature regarding financial literacy. The legislation last year required all students pass a half-unit of financial literacy as a condition of graduation. It was effective immediately. This bill delays implementation, applying it to next year's incoming freshman class. It is eligible for House Floor debate.
Agriculture: Protecting Iowa Agriculture
Agriculture is the backbone of Iowa’s economy. More importantly, Iowa’s agriculture industry doesn’t just consist of crop farmers and livestock producers. This wide-ranging industry includes small businesses, manufacturers, and financial services.
Due to an all-encompassing nature of the agriculture sector, it is critical that we do all we can to protect it from hostile individuals, organizations, and other countries who wish to cause significant harm. Any attack on Iowa’s agriculture sector could damage our economy, threaten thousands of jobs, and shut down family farms.
These threats are what made Senate File 519 necessary, which was passed and signed into law this last week. This legislation will protect Iowa’s agriculture industry from foreign agents or extreme environmental activists who wish to do harm. It specifically would penalize an individual that uses deception to gain access to agriculture production facilities with the intent to cause physical or economic harm.
Iowa is a national leader in agricultural production and we have already witnessed many of these threats first hand.
House Republicans will always make Iowa’s farmers and agriculture industry a priority while fighting back attempts to harm a critical piece of our state, culture, and economy.
Restoring Second Amendment Freedoms:
Last week the Iowa House took the first step to ensure Iowans’ Second Amendment freedoms are enshrined in the state Constitution for future generations. House Republicans believe it is long overdue that Iowa joins the other 44 states with this language in the Constitution. The proposed amendment is simple and easy to understand. It reads:
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”
This amendment recognizes that Iowans have a fundamental, individual right to protect themselves, their families, and their liberty. It requires that the highest level of judicial review be applied to any government restriction on that right, just like other fundamental rights.
Contrary to Democrat arguments, this amendment would not nullify existing firearms laws that are already on the books.
Ultimately, Iowa voters will have the final say on the topic.
Ensuring a Reliable, Efficient Power Grid
Iowans understand the importance of investing in infrastructure. Iowans also understand that the people who use infrastructure should help pay for it. However, Iowa consumers who generate electricity using solar technology are utilizing the power grid but not paying for it’s costs.
That cost is passed onto every other consumer without solar. HF 669 would update how rate-regulated utilities bill for grid costs so that every consumer who benefits from the grid would help pay for it. HF 669 is a simple concept - Those who use the electric grid should also help maintain the grid.
What doesn’t HF 669 do?
- It doesn’t create a new tax on solar energy.
- It doesn’t force customers who already have private generation to installed to pay anything additional.
- It doesn’t charge a fee to install solar panels.
- It doesn’t end net-metering.
- It doesn’t change or eliminate any sort of solar/renewable energy incentives.
- It doesn’t hurt the growth of solar industry or other renewable energies.
This is a simple, common sense bill that is about basic fairness.
Capitol Highlights Week 9
Greetings from Capitol Hill!
Education: Home School Families May Now Enroll in Iowa Learning Online
Home-schooling families may now directly enroll in Iowa Learning Online (ILO) courses. This is the result of legislation passed and signed last year allowing this access. SF 2131 not only provided a new option for quality education for homeschool families, but also provided opportunities for those students to interact with other students and Iowa-licensed teachers through ILO. ILO is a program run through the Department of Education. It provides an ala carte style menu of courses to public and private schools. If a district in rural Iowa wants to provide a course on Mandarin Chinese but can’t hire a teacher for the course, they can access this content through ILO. Until last year Iowa law did not allow home school students to access this same course catalog. With the change in law, now any Iowa resident family participating in full or partial Independent Private Instruction, Competent Private Instruction, or Private Instruction may choose to enroll in ILO courses. Families participating in dual-enrollment have options. Option one is to enroll the student directly in an ILO course as part of their home-school instruction and assume the tuition costs. Option two is to request that the local district enroll the student in an ILO course, assume the tuition costs and provide district credit (the local district has the right to decline). To enroll, contact the ILO registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for more information, visit: http://iowalearningonline.org/home-school-enrollment
Homeschool Iowa Day at the Capitol
Representative Gassman was excited to welcome Homeschool Iowa: Network of Iowa Christian Educators to the Iowa state Capitol. The discussions with parents was refreshing as they spoke of their concerns with legislation in the House. A very lively group of children of all ages brought the Capitol to life with laughter.
Future Ready Iowa internships
The Future Ready Iowa Internship Pilot Program is a funding opportunity that targets organizations who can provide high school students with internship opportunities to allow them to explore and prepare for high-demand careers. The focused audiences are youth at risk for not graduating high school, from low-income households, and are underrepresented populations in Iowa's workforce, such as minorities and youth with disabilities.
How to apply: Learn more about the Future Ready Iowa Internship Pilot Program and submit a plan on how your organization will effectively offer internships and possible employment services for at least a six week period to a minimum of 10 youth. Programs must serve high school students who would otherwise face barriers to success and gainful employment, and focus on giving them experience in high demand career fields. $250,000 is available and applications are due by March 20th.
HF594: The Iowa House saw the passing of HF594 on Tuesday. This is a great victory for the Iowa House in defending parental rights. This legislation known as “Alfies Law” addresses parents choice over court ruling or medical professional choice to keep a minor child on life support.
SF237: (HSB 110) Passed the Senate on Tuesday amid strong debate, the House looks forward to debating the same bill (HSB 110) soon.
When looking forward to the Judicial Reform legislation, there are a few pros to keep in mind: 1. The system being suggested would improve the quality of associate justices in the district courts. 2. It would also improve geographical diversity in selecting justices. 3. The amending of the commision includes the option to pick the nominating commission chair.
Capitol Highlights Week 8
Greetings from Capitol Hill:
First Funnel for the Iowa Legislature:
A very busy week in the Iowa Legislature as we complete the first funnel of the 88th General Assembly.
The Iowa House works to get their non-budget bills through committees to keep them alive this session. The first funnel deadline for the 2019 legislative session is Friday. After this deadline, the bills will go to a debate on the House floor. A few bills are stalled in committee right now.
Economic Growth; February Economic Development Awards Supports $125 Million Capital Investment in Iowa.
Forest City—Winnebago Founded in Forest City, Winnebago Industries, Inc. manufactures outdoor lifestyle products under the Winnebago, Grand Design, and Chris-Craft brands. The company builds motorhomes, travel trailers, and fifth wheel products and has recently entered the marine market with the acquisition of Chris-Craft boats. Winnebago plans to expand its current manufacturing footprint in Forest City, converting existing warehouse space to make room for a production line previously manufactured in Oregon. This $5.3 million capital investment consolidates product development, supply chain, and assembly operations for its diesel motorhome business in a single location and is expected to create 148 jobs, of which 23 are incented at a qualifying wage of $21.79 per hour.
Education; Helping the Teacher Shortage in Rural Iowa.
The legislature took steps last week to help rural districts, particularly border communities, attract and retain newly qualified teachers, a difficult task in some areas. There are definitely problems with finding qualified teachers in areas with a smaller population from which to draw, due to many factors. One in particular that was addressed, deals with the test teacher candidates have to take to finish their course of study. The most common one is called the Praxis exam, although there are others. The legislature in 2013 set a minimum bar for this test that in order to finish a teacher preparation program and enter the teaching workforce, candidates must pass with a score in the top 75% nationally. This isn’t always a problem for Iowa students, as around 95% of our teacher candidates meet this standard. But there are instances where a teacher candidate shines in all aspects of their training, receives glowing praise during their student teaching period, and despite being offered a job enthusiastically by a district, if they can’t pass the Praxis, they can’t teach. This is a barrier to entry that numerous superintendents have asked that the legislature fix. They argue that they know best who is most qualified for the job opening and they have watched the candidate complete a successful student teaching experience in the district. There were efforts last year to get rid of this 75% bar altogether (actually written in statute as passing above the 25% percentile nationally). But that would leave Iowa as the only state in the nation with no standard for teacher candidates. So the compromise made this year came in the form of two companion bills, one in the House and one in the Senate. The compromise is to allow the Department of Education to set passing scores that are more in line with what other states are doing. They are to consider not only the passing scores set in our surrounding states, but also the particular high-needs teaching areas in Iowa, and set Iowa’s scores accordingly. Additionally a one year temporary license is created to give those teacher candidates additional time to pass the test, which is sometimes only offered in limited windows that may not line up with the end of their program and the beginning of their teaching. The compromise bill received bipartisan praise as it passed through the House Education committee, with many comments thanking those who worked on it for finding a positive middle ground that will help rural and border communities find and retain quality teachers for their students. This bill is now ready for floor consideration in the chamber as House File 513.
An Effort to Lower the Cost of Teacher Licensing Fees
The House Education committee is considering taking action on a bill next week that will lower the fees for licensing for teachers and other professionals in our state’s K-12 education system. The licensing body in Iowa, the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE), is funded entirely with fees from licensing. However, the Board is required to deposit 25% of the revenue it generates from fees into the state’s General Fund. This equates, in the most recent fiscal year, to about $650,000. The bill under consideration, House File 256, would eliminate this transfer. The practical effect is that the Board would lower their fees as they are allowed to only generate enough revenue for operation. The trickle down effect would likely be a reduction in fees that school professionals pay for initial and recurring licensing, possibly by up to 25%. While not necessarily a large sum, it is certainly a welcome move to remove this tax on teacher and administrator licensing.
Capitol Highlights Week 7 03/01/2019
Greetings from Capitol Hill:
Firearms Legislation in the Iowa House:
Various firearms bills have been proposed this year, some to strengthen Iowans freedoms, some to take them away. It’s easy to lose track of the bills with funnel quickly approaching. Below are several bills being under consideration in the House.
House Joint Resolution 3- Freedom Amendment: House Joint Resolution 3 would add firearms rights to the Iowa Constitution. The Federal Constitution has the 2nd Amendment (A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.), but Iowa’s Constitution is silent on this right. The proposed language recognizes the right of the people to keep and bear arms and subject any infringement on this right to a strict scrutiny review by the Courts. This amendment does not invalidate any current firearms laws, but instead preserves the right for law abiding Iowans to keep and bear arms, even if there are challenges in the federal courts. This bill has passed subcommittee in House Public Safety by a vote of (2-1).
House File 259- Family Defense Act: HF 259 proposes changes to the laws regarding where a person can carry their legally owned firearm. There are four separate changes addressed in the bill. First, a person, with a valid permit to carry, who has passed all necessary background checks, may bring their legal firearm on limited areas of school property. This includes the driveway, parking lot or sidewalk of a school. The second portion of the bill allows a person who legally possesses firearms to leave the firearm in their vehicle at work as long it is securely locked in their vehicle. This bill does not allow an employee to carry while at work if their employer prohibits firearms on the premises. The third part of this bill applies firearms laws equally across the state and prevents cities and other municipalities from enacting ordinances that differ from the state. This prevents legal confusion for law enforcement officers and legal gun owners. Language in HF 259 also protects concert goers by ensuring political subdivisions who own or operate entertainment venues provide armed security and metal detectors for all attendees if firearms are not allowed on the property. The fourth and final part of the bill limits where firearms can be in a courthouse. Firearms would be banned in courtrooms controlled by the Judicial Branch.
HF259 passed from subcommittee to the house floor for action last week (2/1).
House File 385- Constitutional Carry: HF 385 would require federally licensed firearms dealers to use the National Instant Criminal Background Checks when selling firearms unless the buyer has an optional permit to purchase or carry a weapon. If a person is prohibited from legally purchasing a firearm they can be charged with an aggravated misdemeanor. A person who privately sells a firearm must also ensure the purchaser has passed a background check with NICS. Selling a firearm to a prohibited person is a class “D” felony. HF 385 also increases penalties on people who give a false name or information in order to illegally obtain a firearm. In this case, the penalty is being raised form a class “D” to a class “C.”
Responsible Budget Plan for FY2020 Announced:
This week House Republicans announced targets for the FY20 budget. The House Budget plan for FY 2020 spends $7.668 billion, accounting for 97.45% of ongoing revenue. This is $9.5 million higher than Governor Reynolds’ FY 2020 budget proposal of $7.658 billion. The House budget plan increases spending .63% compared to the adjusted FY 2019 budget. Additionally, the budget fills all reserve accounts to the statutory requirements and leaves a healthy ending balance of $298.6 million.
Since House Republicans have been in the majority, we have brought common sense budgeting back to the Statehouse. However, the strong condition of our budget didn’t happen overnight. It took years of hard work, planning, and smart management to reach this point. In difficult budget years, we controlled growth, made tough decisions, and protected key investments - like K-12 education - from harmful cuts.
House Republicans have a strong, proven record of success when it comes to effectively managing the state’s budget. This year will be no different.
Forums this month;
Please join Representative Gassman for legislative forums in District 7:
Friday, March 15th. :
Thompson Forum, at 9 a.m.
Lake Mills Theater 216 W Main St, at 11 a.m.
Waldorf College, Forest City, at 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 16:
Algona Public Library, at 10 a.m.
*Please check your local paper for times*
Please contact Representative Gassman with questions @ 515.538.0117 or by email: