The 2022 session of the Iowa Legislature had an average streak.
On the first day of the session, Senate Speaker Jake Chapman, a Republican from Adel, said public schools and the media had a “sinister agenda” aimed at harming children. With that began a session where many majority Republicans and GOP Gov. Kim Reynolds attacked public education. Chapman even proposed legislation that would have made teachers and school staff criminals for making books he called obscene available in libraries.
The good news is that this did not happen. The governor also has no plans to withdraw $55 million in state aid to public schools to pay for private scholarships, thanks to rural House Republicans who refused to back him. An onerous, expensive and unnecessary set of “transparency” requirements for public schools has also failed.
With inflation on the rise and the state sitting on a surplus of over a billion dollars, the legislature increased funding for public schools by a meager 2.5%. Regent’s universities and community colleges have once again seen their share of public funding stagnate. On the final night of the session, lawmakers quickly passed a measure that would allow families to use anytime open enrollment to pull their children out of public schools, creating even more budget uncertainty for districts.
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Reynolds signed a law banning transgender girls and women from participating in women’s and women’s sports. Backers claimed they were saving girls’ sport, even though they couldn’t cite any evidence that transgender participation was a problem in Iowa. All they have managed to do is score political points by targeting marginalized children.
The main feature of Republican efforts to address Iowa’s labor shortage was a bill that cut unemployment benefits and pressured Iowa’s unemployed to take lower-paying jobs more quickly. Reynolds pushed for changes, arguing harshly that Iowa’s unemployment safety net has become a “hammock.”
child care shortage in Iowa by a bill that would increase staffing ratios and allow 16-year-olds to care for children without supervision. Another bill would allow child care centers to ask Iowans receiving child care assistance to pay the difference between state assistance and regular tuition. Making child care potentially less secure and more expensive for low-income Iowans doesn’t seem like a solution.
The Legislature has done nothing to clean Iowa’s dirty water, or to stop private carbon pipeline projects poised to grab land through eminent domain. Iowa’s mental health care system remains underfunded and inadequate. But the Legislative Assembly succeeded in reducing personal and corporate income taxes by $2 billion over six years. Wealth Iowans will reap most of the benefits.
It was a disappointing session to say the least. The most welcome action taken by legislators was the adjournment.