The Legislature’s first funnel was this week, which means our focus has been narrowed to bills that have a better chance of being debated on the floor and signed into law.
What is the funnel? It’s a deadline when House bills are required to pass at least one House committee to remain eligible for discussion and vice versa for the Senate. If a bill fails to advance through a committee, it is considered “dead” for the session and is tabled. Oftentimes, a bill is not moved forward because it lacks support or needs improvement over the interim. The funnel does not apply to Appropriations or Ways & Means bills.
I have chosen a couple of legislative priorities that remain alive following the first funnel.
Child Care Access and Affordability
(House Files 2041, 2083, 2171, 2175, 2270, 2271, and 2424)
The House has introduced a wide-ranging package of legislation this session to improve access to affordable child care for families. Several committees have advanced common sense solutions to make child care more affordable for families, increase access to providers, incentivize employers to offer and expand child care to their employees, and address the “cliff effect” by easing Iowans off of government child care assistance programs. House leadership is also continuing to work with the Senate to expand eligibility of the child care tax credit program by doubling the household income threshold.
(House File 2243 and 2245 and House Study Bill 598)
In addition to providing Iowa’s K-12 schools with record investment this year, the House has been looking for additional ways to make our schools better for students, teachers, and parents. Building on previous efforts, lawmakers continued to bring down rural school transportation costs and reduce per pupil inequity by an additional $10 per student this session. Members from both parties have also worked together on legislation to help educators deal with disruptive behavior in the classroom to keep students and staff safe as well as get students the support they need. We look forward to working with Governor Reynolds on her school safety initiative jointly headed by the Departments of Public Safety and Education.
Access to Affordable Health Care
(House Files 2192, 2197, 2253, 2383, 2463 and House Study Bill 685)
The House has also been looking for ways increase access to high quality and affordable health care. Committees have advanced several pieces of legislation that provide more transparency and reduce the cost of prescription drugs, increase access to health services, and attract and retain more health care professionals to our state.
Rural Emergency Medical Services
(House Files 2224, 2280, and 2434)
One of the most basic functions of government is ensuring citizens have the ability to call for help when its necessary. This includes police and fire, but often forgotten are Emergency Medical Services (EMS) like paramedics, EMTs, and first responders. The legislature is committed to assisting local governments offer these services to their residents. Legislation passed through committee this year gives counties the ability to make long-term investment in EMS programs and infrastructure while also proposing additional funding to local EMS. Additionally, with many towns relying on volunteer fire and EMS departments, the House wants to ensure that small communities are able to attract qualified individuals. That’s why we are working to double the volunteer EMS tax credit and show our support to individuals who put their lives on the line to protect us and keep us safe when it counts most.
Expanding High-Speed Internet to Underserved Areas
(House Files 2023, 2107, 2213, 2242, and 2459)
The legislature also made the expansion of high-speed broadband to underserved parts of the state a top priority this session. Reliable internet has become a necessity in today’s economy and both employers and workers are depending on a steady connection to conduct business online or work from home. To help expedite this expansion, the Commerce committee has passed multiple bills to improve internet access and bring faster speeds to Iowa’s rural communities.