2023 Legislature Adopts Many of the Governor’s Proposals

(Radio Iowa) Governor Kim Reynolds says the 2023 legislative session has set Iowa on a new path, starting with what she calls transformational education reform. At the end of this month, low-income parents of private school students can start applying for $7,600 in state money to cover tuition and other costs. House Speaker Pat Grassley says Reynolds and Republican candidates for the House promised action on this and other education-related issues.

“We’ve been in the majority now for over 10 years,” Grassley says. “We try to make commitments and follow through with those things that we tell Iowans that we’re going to do.” Another new law will ban classroom discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary grades. Parents are to be notified if their child asks to be known by a different name or pronoun at school. And books with passages or graphic art about sex will be removed from school libraries. Representative Sharon Steckman, a Democrat from Mason City who’s a retired teacher, says educators are worried.

“I haven’t talked to one teacher that’s excited about any of it,” Steckman says. “They feel like they’re under a magnifying glass and not able to do their job.” The 2023 legislative session concluded shortly after 12:30 Thursday afternoon — a day after a property tax reform measure passed the House and Senate with just a single “no” vote. Senate Republican Leader Jack Whitver says the bill is historic.

“It’s putting in place things legislators have looked at for decades…but a perform storm of a focus of the legislature, a desire of Iowans to see this assessment issue fixed led to some of the best policy that we’ve been able to put forward on property taxes that I believe will truly have an impact at the local level for decades to come.” Democrats say they’re thrilled property owners will see relief, but they’ll be monitoring implementation to make sure cities and counties aren’t forced to cut essential services. Another bill that won final legislative approval this week eases some current restrictions on the jobs and hours teenagers may work. Governor Reynolds plans to sign it into law.

“I think it’s wonderful if kids want to try to earn some money while they’re in high school, maybe save for college because we continue to see the cost go up or maybe get a registered apprenticeship program,” Reynolds says. “They start that opportunity in a business and maybe go on not only to be employed there, but to stay in a rural community and raise a family and support our schools.” Democrats in the legislature opposed the bill and argued relying on teenagers to fill jobs isn’t the way to address the state’s workforce crisis. The governor says she’s not hearing concerns.

“I can’t even really understand all the hoopla about it. It doesn’t seem like very much common sense and I hear that when I travel around the state,” Reynolds says. “People are perplexed, I mean literally perplexed at why we would care if kids want to work or not. It’s not a mandate.” Reynolds says the bill will expand opportunities for young Iowans looking for experience in the workforce.