Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
The Dickey Dispatch
By State Sen. Adrian Dickey
May. 9, 2023 10:17 am
Well we finally made it! Thursday, May 4, was the final day of the 2023 session. Most of the time this week was spent debating and passing final legislation out of the chamber. I am pleasantly surprised that with the amount of GREAT legislation we passed this year, that the session ended this early (still, however, a week late). While I believe we did some amazing work during our time at the Capitol this year, the work is never done. Our sights are already set on the next legislative session and figuring out ways that we can help and support Iowans.
Before getting into any legislation, I want to bring attention to an important interaction I had recently. On Thursday, April 27, I was honored to meet Paula Falconer from Oskaloosa. Ms. Falconer was honored by Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and was inducted into the 2023 Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame members and received the Excellence in Mentoring award in a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol.
Being selected for the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame is the most prestigious state-level honor volunteers can receive as recognition of extraordinary donations of volunteer service to their communities. It is because of volunteers like Ms. Falconer, that all of our communities are able to survive and thrive! I want to give another special thank you Paula and all of our GREAT volunteers that serve SD44.
In the last week of session we passed a number of bills. The first I would like to highlight is House File 718. This bill is the solution to skyrocketing assessments and fears of being able to afford the property tax bill. House File 718 automatically reduces tax rates when assessments rise, restores basic levy limitations to control government spending, and eliminates loopholes abused by local governments to exceed limits set by law.
This bill also provides over $100 million in relief to Iowa property taxpayers, including new exemptions for veterans and senior citizens, while also increasing transparency in property taxes and local government spending. Additionally, it moves all elections for bonding to the general election date in November.
HF 430 cracks down on teachers who move from district to district if they were found to have engaged in inappropriate contact with any of their pupils. As heinous as this sounds, these instances do happen. This bill eliminates an exception for certain child abuse reports to not be filed, does not allow a school to enter an agreement where the institution would be unable to accurately describe the behavior of the instructor in question, provides liability protection for the school from employment claims, and requires all school employees 18 and over must be mandatory reporters. This whole point of this bill is to protect our kids, and I believe this bill will aid in doing so. It will also aid in preventing employees with criminal conduct from being hired by other schools.
Another great bill that we passed this week was HF 716. This bill was passed by the Senate to safeguard Iowa's status as the first in the nation during the presidential nomination process. However, earlier this year, the Democratic National Committee made changes to the nomination calendar that would remove Iowa's status as the first state to hold a caucus for Democrats. Instead of fighting to keep Iowa as the first caucus state, Iowa Democrats proposed a mail-in caucus.
New Hampshire views a mail-in caucus as equivalent to a primary (which it is), and New Hampshire state law requires them to hold the first primary in the country. This would break the decades-long agreement between Iowa and New Hampshire to host the opening events in the presidential nomination calendar. As a result, HF 716 was passed to prevent mail-in voting and allow both parties to determine the rules for their caucuses. This would eliminate any conflicts with New Hampshire and protect Iowa's first in the nation status. We have always known how Iowa’s caucuses have played monumental roles in raising the profile of the state and give Iowa an incredibly strong policy voice in both parties. However, since I have been elected to the Iowa Senate, I see how national politics ENVY Iowa’s position at a whole new level! Maintaining this first in the nation status has massive benefits for Republicans, Democrats, and in the end, ALL Iowans.
The piece of legislation that took up most of debate during our last week was in regard to the $8.517 billion budget. During this debate, Democrats claimed that funding for the Area Education Associations (AEA) was going to be cut. Unsurprisingly, this claim was false and just another piece of misinformation spread by Democrats. The budget of the AEA actually increased by $3.1 million from fiscal year 2023-2024.
The funding for AEA is compiled from state aid, property tax levies, and federal funding. The portion from state aid is increased each year at the same rate of growth as SSA. Iowa Code contains a statutory decrease of $7.5 million to the AEAs, yet they still received additional funding after this decrease was taken into account. I think it is important to note that AEAs have an interesting way of spending these funds. In 2020, 42.2% of AEA expenditures were for support services for administration and staff. The AEA chief administrator's average yearly compensation was roughly $291,414 while the average salary for Iowa’s teachers was about $230,000 less.
This year was full of long debates, but a number of triumphs for Iowans. Senate Republicans allocated $8.517 billion for next year’s budget, which is only 88.25% of ongoing revenue. This is just another example of responsible budgeting, which allows us to fund priorities such as an additional $107 million to K-12 schools this year. Senate Republicans hold responsible budgets as a key principle and have demonstrated multiple times since taking the majority in 2017 why it is so vital.
This year saw a heavy focus on education. We passed legislation focusing on parent transparency, providing common sense guidance to ensure males use the male bathrooms and females use the female bathrooms, and giving flexibility to districts to meet their specific needs. We also passed school choice, which ensures all Iowa students have access to the educational institution that best fits them.
Addressing Iowa’s workforce was also a priority this session. It is for this reason that we passed SF 318 which established the Iowa Office of Apprenticeship. This will aid individuals in developing the necessary skills they need to find success in the multiple industries that are facing staffing challenges. Furthermore, we passed legislation to cut down on barriers that prevented teachers from coming to Iowa.
We put a cap on non-economic damages in commercial motor vehicle accident lawsuits to help keep costs down in this important industry as well. Our lives are very reliant upon the trucking industry. Given my occupation, I feel very strongly about this particular bill and see it providing positive outcomes to both trucking industries and Iowans.
Easily the largest piece of legislation I have worked on was this year’s Youth Employment Opportunities bill. As the Chairman of the Senate Workforce committee, this bill was very important to me and put me in the spotlight in several national media outlets. This legislation is providing our youth who aspire and desire to choose to have a part-time job more work opportunities. There is value and dignity in working and this bill provides more flexibility to teenagers to learn the value of work. If a student can be at a basketball game or school event until 11 p.m. (away games often gets the students home much later than that), why shouldn’t their classmates be able to have a job until 9 p.m.? This legislation also requires a lot more parental permission and REMOVES lots of dangerous occupations our teenagers had previously been allowed to work in. This bill was never drafted with the intention of solving Iowa’s workforce shortage, rather it is providing young adults the opportunity to pursue a job and make money to purchase a car, a prom dress, or to even save for college. This bill is something I am very proud of and believe will aid them greatly as they grow up.
The Workforce Committee did an absolutely fantastic job this year, and I want to thank each senator that comprised this committee. It was an honor to be the chair, and I look forward to the next session and strengthening Iowa’s workforce even more.
I appreciate the correspondence from all that reached out during the entirety of this session. I value everyone’s opinions, both positive and negative, on the legislation we passed. I believe it is important to be informed on what your state government is doing and encourage anyone with questions on legislation to reach out to their senator. I will be hosting three end-of-session workshops for anyone that would like to visit with me on legislation from this past session or issues you would like to put on my radar for next year’s session. I will host these at the Packwood Community Center, 122 Main Street, Packwood. These will be Tuesday, May 23 from 7:00- 8 a.m., 12:00 -1 p.m., and 5:00-6:00 p.m.
I am proud of the work Senate Republicans have done this year and know Iowa is heading in the right direction because of it. I absolutely love this GREAT state and will continue to do everything I can to make it a better place for ALL Iowans and their loved ones. We accomplished a lot of wonderful things this year, but I am ready to get home to my family! Thank you for your support, Senate District 44.
Opinion content represents the viewpoint of the author or The Gazette editorial board. You can join the conversation by submitting a letter to the editor or guest column or by suggesting a topic for an editorial to firstname.lastname@example.org