Each year, the governor introduces his agenda at the beginning of the legislative session. He usually focuses on two or three major items each session, along with several other smaller issues. This year, the Governor focused on three major issues: An anti-bullying bill, connecting Iowans by expanding broadband internet coverage, and Home Base Iowa, which provides incentives for veterans to come settle in Iowa after serving our country. These three items followed a successful 2013 session which saw the passage of education reform and property tax reform from the governor’s agenda.
The governor proposed the anti-bullying bill after hosting a bullying summit last year. The bill is an attempt to reduce bullying in our schools, while allowing every child to attend a school in which they feel safe and respected. There are competing bills in the House and Senate related to the anti-bullying campaign. I voted for a version put forth by Senate Republicans that would protect all children. The Senate Democrat proposal only provides for 19 categories of people that are protected under the rules (sexual orientation, race, gender, religious status, political preference, etc.). I voted against this measure because I don’t see a reason to limit it to 19 special categories. It shouldn’t matter why a child is being bullied; if we are going to try to protect children from being bullied, we should protect all kids.
The second item put forth by the governor is a bill to expand broadband access to underserved areas of Iowa. Many Iowans still use dial up technology to connect to the internet. The “Connect Every Iowan” proposal would help to bring faster, more reliable broadband internet to rural Iowa. This is important to many rural businesses and is also important for many farmers who would have better access to new agricultural technology. Additionally, the “Connect Every Iowan” plan has very little cost to the state of Iowa. It is a bill designed to provide incentives to any company who expands into underserved areas. These incentives include property tax abatements and income tax credits to help make these expansions a better investment for internet providers.
The governor’s final major agenda item is a plan called “Home Base Iowa.” This is a plan to provide incentives for military veterans to move and start their careers in Iowa. There are several different components to this proposal, but the two primary provisions would eliminate income tax on military pensions and streamline the process to allow veterans to work in Iowa. I particularly appreciate a proposal which will allow veterans to use their military experience to their benefit when trying to become licensed for various professions. For example, this proposal would allow a veteran who was a medic in a war zone in the Middle East to use that background when training to be an EMT, rather than having to start at square one. Experience gained in different fields within the military should be able to be used in order to save our veterans time and money as they transition back into civilian life, and this bill will go far in drawing our national heroes to the state.
All three bills are still being ironed out between the House and the Senate. Each chamber is working on their own version, so ultimately, the multiple proposals will need to be merged in order to pass the final bill. I am confident we will find common ground on all three proposals so that all three agenda items are able to pass prior to the end of session.