Capitol Update Week 10

House Committees Tackle Busy Meat Locker Problem
House File 787 creates a butchery innovation and revitalization fund and program within the Iowa Economic Development Authority. The bill previously passed the House Economic Growth Committee with unanimous support and this week has cleared a House Appropriations subcommittee. The bill is now eligible for a full Appropriations committee hearing.
The fund created in the bill would consist of any appropriations received and any other money available to IEDA for placement in the fund. The fund must be used to provide financial assistance in the form of grants, low-interest loans, and forgivable loans. IEDA will administer the program for the purpose of awarding assistance to eligible businesses for projects that expand or create new small-scale meat processing businesses, licensed custom lockers, or mobile slaughter units. A mobile slaughter unit must operate in compliance with the most current mobile slaughter unit compliance guide issued by the United States department of agriculture food safety and inspection service.
IEDA will also be responsible for establishing eligibility criteria for the program by rule. After reviewing and scoring all applications received during the application period, IEDA will make the awards. IEDA will give priority to eligible businesses whose proposed project will create new jobs; create or expand opportunities for local small-scale farmers to market processed meat under private labels; or provide greater flexibility or convenience for local small-scale farmers to have animals processed. Currently, some local lockers across Iowa are scheduled out as far as 2023. The purpose of this legislation is to allow more facilities to increase their production number.

Iowa’s Unemployment Rate Drops Again
Iowa’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate decreased to 3.5 percent from the revised December rate of 3.7 percent. The state’s jobless rate was 2.8 percent one year ago. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 6.3 percent in January.
“Since last April, 2020, Iowa has grown its workforce by 45,400. In January, Iowa added 8,200 workers, which is a positive sign as we look to get more Iowans back into the workforce,” said Director Beth Townsend, Iowa Workforce Development. “As the weather continues to improve
and our seasonal layoffs come to an end, we are hopeful our unemployment rate will continue to decline and our labor participation rate will improve.”
The number of unemployed Iowans decreased to 57,400 in January from 59,900 in December. The current estimate is 132,800 lower than the COVID-19 revised peak in April of 190,200 and 8,100 higher than the year ago level of 49,300. The total number of working Iowans increased to 1,567,800 in January. This figure was 8,200 higher than December’s number of 1,559,600 and 45,400 higher than April 2020.
If you have interest in any particular bill or would like to know where it is in the process please contact me and I will do my best to try and keep you up to date. You can also follow bills on the legislative website once you know the bill number

Capitol Update Week 9

House Passes Bill to Support Building More Child Care Centers
House File 712 passed the House this week with bipartisan support and provides for a child care incentive for developers (to construct more child care centers). The bill creates a workforce child care facility tax credit for the developer of a new or rehabilitated child care facility. This includes both income tax credits and sales and use tax refunds. The tax credit is not refundable but is transferable. The program cap is $3.0 million annually.
House File 712 provides that to qualify for a tax credit a project must include at least one of the following:
• Construction of a new child care facility or
• Rehabilitation, repair, or redevelopment of an existing structure to be used as a child care facility
The bill provides that a developer seeking a workforce child care facility tax credit must apply to IEDA. IEDA will prescribe the application process by rule however the application must include:
• A resolution in support of the child care facility by the community where it will be located and
• Documentation of local matching funds pledged for the facility equal to at least $50,000, or in the case of a small-city, $25,000 (could be cash, tax abatement, etc)
House File 712 also provides that applications will be reviewed and scored competitively and that an awarded project must be completed within three years. The bill provides that a developer is allowed a tax incentive of up to $200,000 per project. The tax credit amount can be no more than 10 percent of the project cost for big cities and no more than 20 percent for small cities. The tax credit can be carried forward for five years. The overall tax credit program is capped at $3.0 million per fiscal year with at least 60 percent going to small cities. The bill will now move to the Senate for further consideration.

Iowa Legislature Continues to Expand Access to Telehealth and Mental Health Care
This week, the Iowa House passed House File 294, which will require health insurers to pay for mental health services delivered through telehealth at the same rate as they pay for in-person mental health treatment. Additionally, the legislature is considering House File 731 which would require insurers to accept out-of-state telehealth providers in their network if they meet all requirements for in-state health care providers. These bills are extremely important as Iowa has a shortage of mental health providers. Iowa ranks 44th in the nation for psychiatrists per capita.
Throughout the public health emergency, Governor Reynolds has included these same telehealth requirements on insurers in her proclamations. This expansion of telehealth during the public health emergency has helped Iowans get the care they need in their communities, where specialty care is often not available, especially in rural areas.
Iowa has seen its Medicaid population reflect that increase in telehealth use with only 9,386 uses of telehealth in the quarter preceding the public health emergency, and 185,205 uses of telehealth in the next quarter (an almost 2000% increase!). DHS has said that the largest increases in telehealth utilization have been in behavioral testing/assessment, alcohol and drug abuse treatment, vision and hearing, and evaluation and management.
If you have interest in any particular bill or would like to know where it is in the process please contact me and I will do my best to try and keep you up to date. You can also follow bills on the legislative website once you know the bill number

Capitol Update Week 8

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.
Also, this week the House passed Senate File 364 that provides three very important pandemic related tax exemptions.
First, Senate File 364 fully conforms with federal law for those fiscal-year filers who previously were excluded from such conformity and allows such filers to take business expense deductions using federal paycheck protection program loan proceeds that were forgiven. With this provision, all businesses who received PPP loans that were forgiven will be able to take expense deductions without regard to whether they are a calendar or fiscal filer.
Second, the bill exempts any qualifying COVID-19 grant issued to an individual by the economic development authority, the Iowa finance authority, or the department of agriculture and land stewardship from income tax. A “qualifying COVID-19 grant” includes any grant identified by the department of revenue by rule that was issued under a grant program administered by the economic development authority, Iowa finance authority, or the department of agriculture and land stewardship to provide financial assistance to individuals or businesses economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, the bill excludes the additional pandemic-related federal unemployment benefits from Iowa taxable income. This is only applicable to the additional $600 in federal unemployment that Americans received. The changes are retroactive to January 1, 2020, and apply to tax year (TY) 2020Al.
The funds to pay for the bill with amendment come from the Taxpayer Relief Fund, which has $90.2 million currently in its account in FY 2021. The additional funds will come from the ending balance. After the December 2020 Revenue Estimating Conference, the FY 21 ending balance was projected to be $443.4 million.
Since it was government that forced shutdowns which led to job and income loss, the I firmly believe that taxing pandemic relief money is not the right thing for Iowa. As your representative I will consistently support measures to help schools, families, and businesses return to normal.
If you have interest in any particular bill or would like to know where it is in the process please contact me and I will do my best to try and keep you up to date. You can also follow bills on the legislative website once you know the bill number

Capitol Update Week 7

House of Representatives Passes Election Integrity Law

This week the Iowa House of Representatives passed a robust election integrity and security bill. The election in 2020 saw record breaking turnout in the State of Iowa and with smooth administration due to Iowa’s strong election system. House File 590 (HF590) builds on Iowa’s strong track record of integrity and security when it comes to elections.

HF590 ensures the integrity of the election in several ways, but one of the most important is confirming that election officials are held to a high standard of performance and establishing recourse for when an elected official defies the laws of the state or does not act in the best interest of the voter. HF590 creates and strengthens election misconduct penalties for any elected official or person who willfully fails to conduct their election duties, fails to perform proper voter registration list maintenance, or interferes with a voter or authorized person at a polling location.

During the pandemic and as more and more Iowans are voting by absentee ballots, it is important that the accuracy and validity of each absentee ballot is secured. Each county auditor’s office will have a secure drop box that will be emptied and recorded at least 4 times a day. The drop boxes will be on county property, video surveillance will monitor all activity at the drop box.

The bill also changes the period for early absentee voting, early satellite voting, and early in person voting to 20 days before election day, giving Iowans 21 days to be able to cast their ballots in elections. With that change, Iowa will still have a longer early voting period than 26 other states. Additionally, the bill will conform poll closing times to 8pm for all elections/previously some elections had a close of 9pm while others had 8pm. Even while closing polls at 8pm, Iowa’s polls will stay open later than the national average of 7:30pm.

To ensure uniformity throughout Iowa, this bill will apply in law that only absentee ballots received by the county auditor before 8pm on election night will be counted. This will not affect military absentee ballots, anyone oversees, or who participates in the Secretary of State’s Safe at Home program.

If a voter arrives to a polling location after polls are closed they are not allowed to vote, this bill applies the same to absentee voters. There are plenty of ways for a voter to plan to deliver their ballot with 21 days to vote and a multitude of options of for returning an absentee ballot. By enforcing a strict deadline for the absentee ballots, it guarantees that every county has the same standard for counting ballots. This policy is not unique, in fact 3 states who do mail voting only (Colorado, Hawaii, and Oregon) use this standard for counting ballots.

The 2020 elections were extremely successful and saw record turnout, but that doesn’t mean that the Iowa Legislature should not continue to work hard to ensure that every Iowan’s vote counts in a fair and uniformed matter. This bill goes a long way to put best election practices into law to ensure the integrity of future elections.

House Unanimously Passes Emergency Medical Services Funding

On Tuesday of this week the House passed out HF 562. This bill is another tool that will allow our local governments to fund emergency medical services. Currently EMS district trustees are permitted to levy taxes based on the assessed value of all taxable land. The tax must be voted on and passed with a 60% majority. HF 562 will allow underfunded EMS districts to increase the amount leveed beyond what is currently allowed to better serve the community. The increase must be passed by a majority vote of the public. This legislation also requires that If the EMS district trustees are going to ask for additional tax they must create a district advisory council to assist in researching and assessing the service needs of the district. I think that this bill will be able to provide some much-needed financial relief for our local EMS.

 If you have further interest in these or any other bill in the House please contact me and I will do my best to try and keep you up to date. You can also follow bills on the legislative website once you know the bill number
Jones County Economic Development will be hosting a forum on Friday, February 26th at 12pm in the Anamosa Library. If you are interested in attending in person or online please reach out to Derek Lumsden at:

Capitol Update Week 6

COVID-19 Vaccine Update

Recently the state launched updates to Iowa’s coronavirus dashboard to include information on COVID-19 vaccine administration and locations eligible Iowans can receive the vaccine. The vaccine information can be found at the link below. On the dashboard, you can pull up each county and see the vaccine distribution and locations where you can get the vaccine in your area.

Even as demand has far exceeded supply, Iowa continues to vaccinate at record rates. Iowa should be receiving a 5% increase from the federal government, meaning now 49,900 doses of vaccine are being delivered to Iowa each week. As of Wednesday, 496,981 doses have been administered. This includes 125,558 Iowans that have completed both doses of the vaccine, and 245,865 Iowans that have received their first dose.

As a State, we have focused on protecting vulnerable Iowans and maintaining important societal needs throughout the pandemic.  This has continued with the rollout of eligible populations receiving the vaccine. Iowa’s nursing homes have been hit hardest by COVID and within the first 1.5 months of vaccines being available, Iowa’s nursing home residents have already been vaccinated.

Current Legislation

This week we passed over 50 bills out of the Iowa House. Often times when the legislature makes the news it is over issues that are partisan in nature. In reality, a majority of the bills that pass through our state government are common sense and often times make me wonder how they did not already exist. These bills are just good policy and usually pass unanimously through the House. Here are a few such bills that if passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor will become law.

-HF 435 will allow people to provide emergency contact information when applying for or renewing their driver’s license or non-operator identification. This will allow law enforcement to reach family members more quickly in case of a serious accident.

-HF 313 also known as the Lemonade Stand Bill, will prohibit cities and counties from requiring minors from obtaining licenses, permits or paying fees is cases such as lemonade stands. This has actually been a problem in some areas which has triggered a bill to not allow this to occur.

-HF 499 which will allow students participating in the All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship Program to suspend participation in the program for up to two years if the are called up for military service. I am glad this issue was brought to our attention. Many of our friends and neighbors have served this country, and it is a great mistake to punish them for their service by revoking their scholarships.

-HF 490 will apply the same regulations on placement of campaign signs to federal campaign signs as are already in place for state campaign signs. There were no existing rules regarding federal election signs prior to this.

These are just a few of the many issues we deal with at the State House. If you have further interest in these or any other bill in the House please contact me and I will do my best to try and keep you up to date. You can also follow bills on the legislative website once you know the bill number

Jones County Economic Development will be hosting a forum on Friday, February 26th at 12pm in the Anamosa Library. If you are interested in attending in person or online please reach out to Derek Lumsden at:

Capitol Update Week 5

This week in the Iowa House we voted to advance multiple pieces of legislation that aim to address Iowa’s current child care crisis. I am particularly familiar with this issue due to the fact that several of these bills passed through my Ways and Means committee prior to coming to the floor.  The recent pandemic has exposed the importance of accessible affordable quality child care here in Iowa. Access to affordable child care is an issue many of us heard about repeatedly on the campaign trail and it has been a priority of the Governor’s for several years. Now is the time to take action, and that is exactly what the House did this week.  
Aside from a general lack of child care providers in Iowa, another childcare hurdle that the legislature has aimed to address is something called the cliff effect. This occurs when families are receiving financial assistance for child care and their income increases beyond the income threshold for assistance causing them lose all child care assistance. House File 302 aims to provide an “off-ramp” from Child Care Assistance, which will allow state assistance to taper off rather than dropping off at a specific income level. The goal of this legislation is to allow parents to grow in their career without losing their childcare assistance all at once.
The bills in the childcare package passed this week aim to:  
– Increase the income threshold for a Child Care Tax Credit from $45,000 to $90,000.
– Create an incentive for employers to provide child care for their employees by providing a tax credit up to $150,000.  
– Allow individuals providing child care in their homes to take care of 6 or fewer children, an increase from 5 or fewer.  
– Raise Iowa’s child care rates to the 50th percentile according to the Market Rate Survey. – Create an “off-ramp” from Child Care Assistance program so parents can continue to grow in their career without losing their all of their child care assistance at once.
– Create a fund to provide child care workforce grants on a dollar for dollar matching basis from communities. These programs will help move child care providers up the pay scale and the education pathway.
As we all know every Iowan has unique needs when it comes to child care. This package of bills aims to address as many of those needs as possible. This childcare package will now move to the Senate for their approval. Please contact the Senate if you would like to see these issues move to the Governor’s desk.  
If you have interest in any particular bill or would like to know where it is in the process please contact me and I will do my best to try to keep you up to date. You can also follow bills on the legislative website once you know the bill number

Capitol Update Week 4

Back in December I came down with a very mild case of COVID and a positive test.  So, this week I took some time to visit the LifeServe Blood Center here in Des Moines. While there I had the opportunity to discuss with the CEO Stacy Sime about Iowa’s unique COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma program. She also provided me with the following information to share with you.

At this time the State of Iowa is the only state that is using COVID-19 antibodies to track the pandemic. The use of healthy blood donors has helped the state public health department to understand past infection rates of individuals that were likely not seriously ill, and may have gone undetected. Iowa began COVID-19 antibody testing in August of 2020, and at that time 2.1% of healthy blood donors had antibodies to COVID-19.

In January 2021 21.2% of healthy blood donors have antibodies to COVID-19. It has been found that infection rates in donors age 16-24 is significantly higher. Back in August, 7.1% of healthy blood donors age 16-24 had antibodies to COVID-19.  In January 2021, 31.5% of healthy blood donors age 16-24 had antibodies to COVID-19. Iowa’s antibody testing program has helped ensure that Iowan’s in need have access to COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma.

The plasma is collected from individuals who have antibodies to COVID-19. It is then transfused to hospitalized patients with more severe cases of COVID-19 to help the patient’s immune system to fight off the virus. Iowa currently has three blood centers in Iowa that are collecting COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma: DeGowin Blood Center in Iowa City as well as Mississippi Valley Blood Center and LifeServe Blood Center.

As the pandemic infection rates in Iowa have improved in the months of December and January, the Iowa Blood Centers are playing a major role in ensuring patients across the United States have access to COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma.

To donate COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma, a donor should contact the blood center that serves their local hospital. In order to qualify to be a convalescent plasma, you must be more than 28 days recovered from COVID-19. Typically, the first donation is a regular blood donation. This allows the blood center to confirm that your COVID-19 antibodies are high enough. From your first donation one dose of COVID-19 Plasma is made. You can then return after they determine your antibodies are good, to donate four doses of plasma per donation.

Donors can then continue to donate until your antibody level is too low. On average, that takes 4-6 months from when you recovered from COVID-19. As with many things in regards to COVID-19 it affects different people differently and it has been found that not everyone who has had COVID-19 has developed antibodies.

Last week, more than 25,000 of convalescent plasma doses were transfused to severely ill patients. Nationally COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma is in alarmingly low supply. If you have tested positive, or believe that you may have had COVID-19. I personally would like to encourage you to go to your local blood center and find out if you have the antibodies to donate.

If you would like more information regarding convalescent plasma, or if you are interested in other issues here at the Capitol you can reach me at

News from District 96

This was a busy week at the Capitol.  Lots of subcommittee, committee meetings and floor debate throughout the week.  Even 12 inches of snow did not stop the work here in Des Moines.

The House Human Resources Committee passed four bipartisan bills related to child care. These bills are part of a legislative package brought forward by House Republicans to increase child care workforce, increase provider rates to maintain existing child care facilities, provide incentives to develop new child care facilities, and support hard-working families afford the high cost of child care.

Now, more than ever, child care is a key factor in getting Iowans back to work throughout this public health emergency.

In the Ways & Means committee we passed out HF1 that doubles the threshold on income from $45,000 to $90,000 giving young families a tax credit to help pay for child care expenses.  In total, this child care legislative package will take significant steps to address child care access and affordability throughout the state.

This week we dealt with two constitutional amendments. The life amendment and the 2nd amendment which deals with the right to bear arms.  An amendment has a longer process than normal legislation.  In the beginning, they start out the same.  There is a subcommittee, committee and then a debate on the floor.  Upon passage in the House, the amendment must go through the same process in the Senate.  After reaching this point things change.

A constitutional amendment then must sit until a new General Assembly is elected.  It then goes through the same process all over again. Only this time there needs to be no changes or amendments to the amendment for it to proceed.  If it is amended in the second Assembly, the process is basically started over and will need to be approved in another General Assembly.

The Governor does not sign the amendment and has no official say in the passage of the amendment.  If it passes through the process without amendments in the second meeting of the General Assembly then the final step before it can be added to the constitution is it must be voted on and approved by the majority of Iowans.  Then and only then it can become a part of the constitution.

The wording of an amendment is very important.  Just a couple of words can change the action of the amendment.  Once part of the constitution, the words will be scrutinized by judges, attorneys and groups who want the constitution to allow or stop the actions of others.

I take amending the Iowa Constitution very seriously as you should when you have the opportunity to be part of this process.  Amending the constitution is not an easy thing.  The process takes years to complete. So, if you put something that could be too restrictive into the constitution, it could take years if not decades to remove.

We passed a bill out of the House that gives parents choice by requiring schools to have as one of their modes of education 100% in school in person education. This bill gives the parents the decision making regarding their children’s education back in the parents’ hands.  Parents have said from the beginning, that there needs to be an option for in-person, full-time instruction. The majority of schools have provided in-person, full-time instruction, as the legislature intended. To be clear, it does not eliminate online or hybrid options for parents, it simply states that schools must provide in-person as an option to the families that prefer it.

As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts and concerns on any issue with me.  Please contact me by email at

Capitol Update Week 2

This week we introduced several bills in to Ways and Means committee, two of which aim to increase the availability and affordability child care in the state of Iowa. Here is the process that bills go through to become law.

 When bills are first introduced on the house floor they are assigned to a committee that best fits their subject matter. When a bill comes to Ways and Means it is then my responsibility as a committee chair to assign the bill to a 3-person. The purpose of a subcommittee is to take public comments, weigh the pros and cons and try to fully understand the scope of the bill and who it will impact. The subcommittee then holds a meeting and votes 1 of 3 ways. Either to pass the bill as is, pass the bill as amended, or to indefinitely postpone the bill which means the bill will not move forward in this legislative session. In a typical year these subcommittees are open to the public, but due to COVID-19 precautions the number of people has been limited. The meetings are instead live streamed via the legislative website. If the bill passes it is then debated during the full committee which is also live streamed. At this point all members of the committee are able to debate the bill. Once it passes through its respective committee, the bill is then eligible for debate on the floor. Bills can be amended in committee and/or during floor debate. If bills pass through the House they then must be put through the same process on the Senate side and vice versa before going to the governor’s desk to be signed in to law. As you can see there are many steps that a bill must go through before it becomes law. Some bills even take multiple years to make it through the legislative process.

As we have entered in to week 2 of legislative session, it has become quite apparent that this session will be different from all of the rest. With many clerks and several legislators working remotely, the hustle and bustle of the chamber is much quieter this year. The evening events are not happening as they have in previous years. Typically, the larger associations bring many constituents and members to Des Moines to visit with us on issues important to them. These events give us the opportunity to learn about various issues impacting people across the state of Iowa. In an average year the Capitol rotunda is packed shoulder to shoulder with constituents lobbying legislators on various issues. I as many other legislators miss the public interaction and face to face discussions. This is obviously not something that can happen while maintaining social distance guidelines. We would still like to hear from our constituents this session. If there is a bill or an issue that you feel strongly about please feel free to email me at

Upcoming Forum

January, 29 @ 12pm

Monticello City Council Chambers (masks requested)

If you are interested in attending in person or via Zoom please contact Derek Lumsden with Jones Co. Economic Development via email, or by phone at 319-480-7446.

First Week of Session

          This week marked the beginning of the 89th General Assembly of the Iowa House. With a new GA comes a fresh start; there are new members, new seats and a whole lot of new ideas to be scrutinized through the legislative process. As many workplaces currently do, the Capitol looks a little different this year. For the time being clerks have been moved off of the House floor in order to social distance. Committee meetings have also been moved to larger meeting spaces and are also being streamed via the legislative website (

COVID-19 Vaccine Update
       I would like to provided much anticipated information on the roll-out of the vaccine in Jones county. I have received this information from the Jones County Public Health Department. It is planned that Jones County will be administering the vaccine manufactured by Moderna, with exception to long-term care and assisted living facilities who will be receiving the Pzifer vaccine. The Monticello and Anamosa facilities have already received their first dose. Those in the general public that are interested in being vaccinated should fill out the vaccine interest form at ( You may also call (319-465-6945) for assistance, though they ask for patience in responding to voicemails. I would encourage anyone that is 75 or older to get their name on the list as soon as possible. Filling out this form will both help the public health department to plan vaccination clinics as well as to notify people as to when they are eligible to receive the vaccine. The vaccine will be administered in 2 doses which will be given >28 days apart.

Condition of the State Address
        This week the Governor delivered her annual Condition of the State address to a joint session of congress where she laid out her legislative priorities for this session. She began her speech by laying out the financial condition of the state. She stated,
“When I stood here last year, our fiscal health was strong. We had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, incomes were going up and our economy was roaring. Then 2020 happened. We took a hit like everyone else, but we didn’t falter long. Because of our conservative budget practices, Iowa’s diverse economy, and the decision to keep 80% of our businesses open, and the tenacity of the Iowa people, Iowa isn’t facing a massive budget shortfall like many states.”
        The Governor spoke on how the pandemic has made it apparent that we need to heavily invest in broadband in our state. She also called on the legislature to get all of Iowa’s children back to in-person learning as soon as possible.
Governor Reynolds also highlighted a bill that I have been working on that will help to fund rural EMS responders. The proposed bill would allow supervisors, cities or EMS districts to apply a property tax, or income tax surcharge, dependent on a 50% voter approval by the general public. The revenue generated by this tax would help fund equipment and training for our first responders. This has been one of my top priorities of the past couple years to help out Iowa’s rural first responders.
        As session begins to pick up speed I look forward to providing the people of District 96 with a weekly legislative update. If you would like to discuss an issue feel free to email me at