The 11th week of the legislative session is in the books. On Wednesday, the Senate confirmed Jerry Foxhoven as director of the Department of Human Services. The confirmation was previously deferred, as Democrats—voicing concerns around DHS’s handling of Medicaid managed care and recent deaths of children from the foster/adoption system—wanted more time to discuss this confirmation within their caucus. He was ultimately confirmed by a vote of 38-11, with 9 of 20 Democrats, 28 of 28 Republicans and Independent Sen. David Johnson (Ocheyedan) voting in favor. Confirmation votes require a two-thirds majority for passage. Director Foxhoven was appointed to the position by Gov. Reynolds last June, following the retirement of Chuck Palmer. 

Next week both chambers will concentrate on floor debate. The Appropriations and Ways and Means committees will continue to meet and budget subcommittees are on call. This means they can meet anytime without a lot (or any) notice to introduce and debate budget bills.

Speaking of which, we have yet to see any budget targets for FY 19, which starts July 1. These targets, released by majority party leaders, are used by budget subcommittees to know their spending limits for the year. Their release is usually a sign we’re entering the final weeks of session. 

We’ll continue to monitor the budget process; here are three things for you to know right now. 

Early Childhood Day on the Hill

On Monday, we were proud to participate with many of our partners in the Early Childhood Day on the Hill. The focus of the day was promoting investment in a two-generation approach to supporting families with young children. A two-generation approach focuses on creating opportunities for and addressing the needs of both children and the adults in their lives together. It recognizes that families come in all different shapes and sizes and that families define themselves. 

In addition to the Center, sponsors included all five of Iowa's Child Care Resource & Referral agencies, Every Child Matters in Iowa, Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, Reach Out and Read Iowa and Save the Children Action Network.  

Here are some of the sights from the day. Note the giant Chutes and Ladders game, which helps illustrate how experiences children face in the early years can support or hinder healthy development.  



A new bill under consideration in the Iowa Senate would divert already scarce public funds away from Iowa school districts and send them to private schools. SSB 3206 would establish annual education savings grants of about $4,000 per student that a family could use to pay private school tuition. Because children using the grants would no longer be enrolled in their local public schools, those districts would no longer receive per-pupil state funds for those students. Vouchers often leave districts with the same overall operating costs but fewer dollars to pay for them. 

That’s only one of their problems. Supporters argue that Iowa’s education savings grant is about giving families “choice.” But lessons from other states that have used school vouchers have found that it is not a choice everyone can make. Voucher payments often do not cover the entire cost of tuition or mandatory fees at private schools. Thus, families with the money to cover the rest of the cost are most likely to use them, leaving out low-income families. What’s more, 76,000 Iowa students live in counties where no private schools exist. 

Finally, unlike public schools that are required to educate all students, private schools have the option of deciding what type of student they serve. A private school could take taxpayer money and also deny admission to almost any student it chooses based on gender, disability, religion, national origin, economic background, English proficiency, failure to test at grade level or history of behavior problems.

We believe that the purpose of public funds is to support public institutions that are accessible to all Iowans. 

The full impact of the bill is unclear because there is currently no fiscal note available. Regardless, a Senate subcommittee moved the bill forward to the full Appropriations Committee Thursday, despite numerous advocate speaking out against it. 

If you will be at or near the Capitol next Monday, March 26, please join advocates at the next Moral Mondays Iowa event to learn more. It’s at noon in Room 304 of the Iowa Capitol. Speakers are Sen. Jeff Danielson (Waterloo) and Melissa Peterson with the Iowa State Education Association.

This is what it looked like at Thursday's subcommittee on vouchers. 

Which bills still have a chance?

With the second legislative funnel behind us, we have a better idea of which bills still have a chance to make it to the Governor's desk. Consequently, CFPC staff have assembled a status report providing important updates regarding many of the bills we've highlighted over the past few months. For a quick overview of this report, visit our blog. Or, visit our bill tracker for an in-depth, detailed assessment of legislation. 


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. 

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Des Moines, IA 50309
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