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Legislative Report (Vol XXIV No 16) May 2, 2005 ...And it Still Goes On

May 9, 2005

Having now passed the official adjournment date by one week the Iowa Legislature still has work to do and are still uncertain of when adjournment will take place. In what has already been a session far from the ordinary the Iowa House did not even meet this week except to gavel in and gavel out as required by law. They did so because they had determined that they had finished their work and had nothing to do until the Senate came to a compromise on the budget.

On Tuesday of this week the Senate did reach a budget compromise. The main component of the deal that was struck was to raise the cigarette tax by 36 cents which is expected to raise an approximate $65 million. However they also raised the school foundation level by 2.1% which shifts from property tax to state aid the amount of approximately $65 million. In essence all of the increase in the cigarette tax goes to property tax relief. The bill to accomplish this, SF 414, passed on Thursday evening

The also agreed, as part of the compromise to appropriate $25 million above the House passed budget. Within the $25 million there was an additional $3 million for teacher compensation and $3 million for early childhood legislation. The senate provided no reduction in the continuation of the AEA cut.

With that compromise in place and the acceptance and endorsement of the Governor the Senate finally got to work and began passing budget bills, increasing optimism of a potential adjournment in the near future. However, shortly after they announced their agreement Speaker of the House Christopher Rants announced that the Senate compromise was "unacceptable." Minority democrats in the House also endorsed the compromise. The cigarette tax and

All of this sets the stage for next week and it is anybody’s guess what will transpire.

School Sharing Study Bill "Dead"

We made attempts this week to find additional funding for the sharing study required by HF 873. Instead the Senate has, at least for now, determined that they will not take up the bill for debate.

Early Childhood

The Senate passed their version of the Early Childhood bill by striking the House version and writing a new one. The House version had the co-location language mandating that state level EC programs would be under one umbrella. The Senate version does not provide for co-location. It does have the following:

  • Tax Credit: Authorizes an early childhood tax credit for 25% of the first 1,000 spent on early childhood development expenses for children between the ages of 3-5, under the current tuition credit. Defines early childhood development expenses and caps the total credit at $5 million.
  • Community Empowerment: Gives the Empowerment Board and the Community Empowerment Office in the DOM the authority to work to facilitate early childhood care. Requires community empowerment areas, in assistance with the Empowerment Board and Empowerment Office, to take steps to report directly to the public. Requires the Empowerment Board to develop an internet system for distributing information, including early learning standards. Requires schools to test kindergartners for basic early literacy skills. Requires the appointment of an early child care coordinator and establishes duties for the coordinator.
  • Child Care: Establishes a voluntary child care rating system, with related provisions. Requires the new system to initially have five levels. Ends the current rating system but allows Gold Seal providers to continue to use that designation as long as the accreditation period lasts. Requires DHS to work on the system with the Community Empowerment Office.

Up To the Minute

The Senate today passed their version of the Education Appropriations Bill. Two items related to AEAs remained the same as in the House version:

  • It provides that the empowerment zones must expend $1 million of their appropriation in cooperation with AEAs and C.C. to provide for staff development for child care and preschool providers, and
  • AEA membership on the "Institute for Tomorrow’s Workforce" was maintained.

As this is being written the Senate is preparing to take up HF 882 the standings bill, which unfortunately still contains the continuation of the AEA funding reduction.

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