Today is the day—the state legislature gaveled in for a rare day of Friday work, heading toward an early adjournment. Lawmakers rushed through the last few days to finish up a week early. It’s unusual for this to happen, as most sessions end exactly on the expected date or extend out days or even weeks after.
Lawmakers have completed all the required budget bills except for Health and Human Services and Standings. The latter is a “catch all” bill, a place for language and funding that didn’t make it through the regular process or for corrective language to bills passed earlier in the session. As such, it’s sometimes known as the Christmas tree bill or pork bill. (Feel free to insert your own wisecrack here.) Both these bills are still on the debate calendars for today.
Both were held up because the Senate and House had different spending priorities and needed to work out differences to avoid going to conference committee.
Earlier this week the chambers resolved differences to finalize an education budget bill that’s on the way to the Governor’s desk. It includes a $500,000 increase for Early Childhood Iowa. As you might recall, the House included a $1 million increase in its education budget bill, and the Senate included none. The bill also includes $2 million in new funding for mental health training to give educators tools to identify student mental health concerns and connect students to community resources. Following a similar pattern, Gov. Reynolds and the House included $3 million in their budgets and the Senate included none.
We will continue monitoring legislation that comes out of the final hours—including several last-minute Ways and Means (tax) bills, several of which include tax credits—and will have an update in next week’s legislative wrap up and in our bill tracker. We will also continue to monitor bills as they are signed by the Governor and report on any vetoes she issues.
Podcast: Local tax control takes a hit
Early Thursday morning, Iowa lawmakers approved a bill that would limit the ability of city and county governments to fund public services. It’s a scaled-back version of a proposal that faced major backlash from local officials across the state, but there’s still plenty not to like. Anne Discher talks with Iowa Policy project research director Peter Fisher about the ways the bill would enshrine minority rule, punish public-sector employees, penalize economic growth and hamstring cities recovering from natural disaster.
Jill Applegate is the program manager for the Iowa chapter of Every Child Matters, a long-time partner and ally of the Center. She and the Center's Sheila Hansen co-chair the Children's Policy Coalition, a group of advocates working on behalf children and families in Iowa. The coalition is preparing to launch its 'Caucus for Kids' campaign, seeking to elevate kids issues ahead of the 2020 Iowa caucuses. The Center's Stephen Dykstra sat down with Applegate to get the details.
Talk to me about Caucus for Kids and its objective for 2020.
Caucus for Kids is the campaign that we as the Children’s Policy Coalition will be working on throughout the caucus cycle—from now until February 2020. Our goal is to get people involved from across the state, and raise the profile of kids and family issues as presidential campaigns visit Iowa.
Are their specific topics or policies the campaign will champion?
This entire campaign is driven by nonprofit organizations, so we won’t be pushing any specific policy solutions or putting a value on what candidates say. But we do have issue areas we’d like the candidates to talk about—anything they say about kids is great. We also selected some salient topics that represent our coalition’s focus and fit nicely into the campaign framework. Early childhood education is probably the top issue for us based on what is already being talked about on the campaign trail. Anything on health care—particularly Medicaid—is important since a lot of kids across the nation get their needs met through the program. And we’re also focusing on equal opportunity, the idea that every kid in America should have an equal opportunity for success, regardless of their gender, class, ethnicity or background.
Polls consistently show kids issues are popular among voters. Do you think topics from this campaign will be the deciding factor for Iowa voters?
It depends on when you ask voters, in my opinion. For example, right now many of the issues being discussed on the campaign trail are pretty partisan. That can often distract voters from the issues they care about and face on a daily basis, like how their kids are doing and economic stability and opportunity. So, when you poll people, we see that issues we care about are important to voters—and yet the same topics rarely surface to the top of the national conversation. And that’s the goal for this campaign, to empower voters to speak up for issues that they care about. The hope is that campaigns will pay attention.
The coalition took a similar—and successful—approach during the 2016 presidential election. How do you hope to build on that work?
We had great success in getting almost every candidate on the record at least once about an issue in our focus areas. I think our biggest success is when I was able to ask then-GOP primary candidate Donald Trump about child care at a campaign stop in Newton. We had an interesting exchange, which was broadcasted nationally. And we were able to promote that we got a candidate to talk about child care, essentially starting the conversation. We also got a lot of positive feedback from people, saying they appreciated being able to read candidates’ positions on kids and family issues—and we plan to continue that approach this year. Of course, this approach can be hit-and-miss, so we want to see if candidates will meet with the coalition and take a deeper dive on these issues. We’ll be launching a candidate conversation series that’ll feature responses from hopefully every candidate. The whole goal of this campaign is to get this important information into the hands of voters, and we want to do more to make it happen, like Facebook Live and social media tools. We have to opportunity to talk with candidates in Iowa, which means we also have the responsibility to do so.
How can engaged and concerned Iowans get involved with this campaign?
For those on Facebook, join the group ‘We’re caucusing for kids’ to stay informed on upcoming community and candidate events. As coalition members, we plan to engage our various networks as this campaign unfolds. Or simply visit www.childrenspolicycoalition.org.
Want to go deeper? Curious about the status of key bills? The Center maintains a bill tracker to outline the specific legislation we are following this this session.
Find your legislator
Not sure who represents you? With 50 senators and 100 representatives, it can be hard to keep tabs. Visit our Legislator Lookup tool to find out who represents you in the state house and senate, biographical information about each one and a link to their legislative websites, which list contact information and committee membership. All you need to do is enter your home address and zip code.