Washington Evening Journal
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A visit to PAWS and another busy week at the Capitol
State Sen. Dawn Driscoll
Feb. 8, 2023 12:15 am
The Driscoll Dispatch
To start out this week’s newsletter, I would like to give a big thank you to Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation. Since 2010, Delta Dental of Iowa Foundation has been sharing smiles with Iowans through toothbrush donations and oral health education programs.
This includes working with legislators every year to send 144 toothbrushes to a school or nonprofit organization in their district. I was happy to participate in this. This year, I chose Mid-Prairie Community Schools to be the recipient of the 144 toothbrushes.
Oral health education components accompany toothbrush donations so children can begin establishing healthy habits and smiles. This is such an easy and great way to provide children with the resources and education to establish healthy dental habits at an early age!
PAWS & More Animal Shelter
Last weekend, Representative Hora and I took a tour at PAWS & More Animal Shelter. PAWS & More Animal Shelter has been caring for the stray animals of southeastern Iowa for more than 40 years. They have outsized their building, which they discovered in 2022 has a crumbling foundation.
To continue to grow and help even more Iowa animals and the larger population they serve, they are undertaking a plan to build a larger and safer facility.
Their new building will offer modern airflow and drainage systems, adequate isolation to prevent and control disease and aid healing, and adequate space for successful operations well into the future. We stopped by their current building and were welcomed by a friendly and hardworking team.
They were excited to share their future vision and we got to snuggle some pretty fluffy puppies and kittens!
If you’d like to learn more about helping them achieve their vision, visit pawsandmorewashington.org.
Now, to discuss what happened this week in the Capitol. The fourth week of the legislative session remained busy as we focused on subcommittees, committees, and even some floor debate.
Funding for K-12 students is one of the first things to be addressed each year during the legislative session.
Education is the largest part of the state budget, and it is an important piece not only to help determine the rest of our budget process, but also help schools set their budgets for the upcoming year. When determining the amount of additional funds K-12 schools will be given, we are focused on providing an amount to not only meet their needs but is also a sustainable part of the entire state budget.
Each year, Iowa spends billions of dollars on K-12 education. State funding alone amounts to $3.8 billion for K-12 education. Combined with local taxes, SAVE funds, federal funds, and other miscellaneous sources, Iowa taxpayers will spend $8.4 billion on K-12 education for Iowa students next year.
The money approved in Senate File 192 this week will dedicate an additional $107 million. Iowa taxpayers spend on average $17,068 per student in our state. $7,635 of that amount comes from the state general fund in SF 192.
Education is a priority for the Senate. It has consistently received increases in funding, totaling over $1.5 billion. While fully funding education has been a priority, giving parents choice and putting students first have also been a major focus.
It is why over the last several years we have expanded open enrollment, dedicated money to transportation and per pupil equity, loosened regulations on schools, and, as of this year, gave more parents choice in their child’s education.
Protecting the Property Taxpayer
An error at the Department of Revenue could have led to a property tax increase of as much as $120 million for Iowa homeowners. Senate File 181, passed by the Senate on Wednesday, fixes the error, protects the property taxpayer, and provides clarity for local governments in future years. It now advances to the Iowa House for their consideration.
The amount of property taxes levied on a homeowner is established by two things. First, the value of the property, defined by state law as its fair market value. That value is determined by the county assessor. Second, schools, cities, counties, community colleges, public transit authorities, hospital boards, and other entities set tax rates as a percentage of the value of the property.
Over the years the legislature has implemented taxpayer friendly policies to be phased-in to reduce the taxable portion of the value of a property. At the end of the phase-in period, some administrative clean up changes created an unintended glitch and could have increased home values. Senate File 181 fixes the glitch and provides certainty in future years. The consequence of the miscalculation could have been as much as $120 million in higher property taxes.
Local governments including cities, counties, and schools must have public hearings and certify their budgets. Because of the error at the Department of Revenue, SF 181 extends that deadlines for local governments to make the necessary budget timeline adjustments, while still maintaining necessary and important transparency for taxpayers in the budget process.
The issues in this bill are complicated. Property tax policies have been developed layer after layer, year after year, decade after decade to govern how local governments levy taxes on property to pay for the services provided to their residents. Later this session the Senate will debut a plan to simplify the number of levies, improve the transparency of how homeowners are taxed on their property, and limit the cost and growth of local government.
Senate File 177
A piece of legislation that I was eager to support this week was SF 177. It is an act relating to school personnel training, emergency care planning, authorizations for assisting, and limitations of liability concerning student with epilepsy or a seizure disorder.
This piece of legislation is close to my heart because my nephew, Wyatt, has epilepsy. I was proud to introduce him and the Epilepsy Foundation of Iowa on the Senate floor Tuesday morning. I also spent some time speaking with the Epilepsy Foundation of Iowa to determine how to ensure this bill continues moving its way through the legislature.
FFA Day on the Hill
FFA Day on the Hill is one of my favorite days while the Senate is in session. As a full-time farmer, I am passionate about FFA and what it teaches young farmers. I enjoyed the conversations I had with the FFA students from District 46. Every year, I host a meeting with all of the FFA schools from our district in order to discuss relevant issues in agriculture.
This year, I was happy to have Rep. Sherman and Representative Hora attend as well. We had great discussions on what agriculture related legislation is moving through the House and the Senate this year and identified what we hoped we can improve in the agriculture industry with our positions at the Capitol.
I was also excited to announce to them that I had a bill introduced into the Senate related to FFA and 4-H. This bill was proposed to me by a constituent from Iowa County. SF 179 is an act requiring boards of directors of school districts, governing boards of charter schools, and authorities in charge of accredited non-public schools to adopt policies related to excusing students absences for 4-H club or Future Farmers of America activities.
As you can see, it was an extremely busy week for me at the Capitol but I enjoyed every minute of it. I am pleased with how this session has been going so far and can’t wait to come back next week for another productive week!
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