Jacoby introduces flurry of new bills

ClassroomBy Bob Eschliman


State Rep. Dave Jacoby (D-Coralville) has introduced five new bills this week in the Iowa House of Representatives.

Because they did not make it through the first legislative funnel deadline, they’re unlikely to advance this session. But, they can be brought up during next year’s session, or taken up by a committee.

His bills are:

  • House File 608 – an act to establish a statewide class-size goal for public school districts.
  • House File 609 – an act to establish a Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics categorical funding supplement for public school districts.
  • House File 610 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to the membership and election of members to the Iowa Board of Regents.
  • House File 611 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to the individual income tax, by modifying the income brackets and tax rates.
  • House File 612 – an act to modify the property tax assessment limitations for residential and agricultural property.

Class Sizes

HF 608 provides that the board of directors of a school district shall determine class sizes and pupil-teacher ratios, but shall set a maximum class size goal for grades 4 through 12 of not more than 22 students for every teacher.

Iowa currently ranks among the lowest in student-to-teacher ratio, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Currently, Iowa’s student-to-teacher ratio, in all grade levels and all schools, is 14.25-to-1.

The national average is 16-to-1.


High School STEM

HF 609 establishes a STEM supplement state cost per pupil, as well as a STEM supplement district cost per pupil, each in the amount of $25, for the budget year beginning July 1, 2016. For succeeding budget years, they will increase according to the increase in allowable growth.

Under the bill, the STEM supplement district cost is applied to each school district’s budget enrollment for grades 9 through 12. It also specifies the funds must be used to provide “rigorous and innovative classes and instruction” in the STEM fields for high school students.


Board of Regents

HF 610 would completely overhaul the manner in which the Iowa Board of Regents is composed. Eight of the members would be elected by the voters of Iowa, while the remaining member would be a graduate or undergraduate student of one of the three Regents institutions – the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, and the University of Northern Iowa – who is selected by the other eight members.

Six of the board members would be elected, two each, by the voters of the First, Second, and Fourth congressional districts, which each have Regents institutions. One would be elected by the voters of the Third Congressional District, and one would be elected by all of the voters of Iowa.

They would be elected at the school elections, held in October of the odd-numbered years. Elected regents would serve six-year staggered terms. HF 610 provides the manner in which their terms would be staggered to allow for transition to the new arrangement.

Currently, the nine members of the Board of Regents, including the student member, are nominated by the governor and confirmed by two-thirds votes of the Iowa Senate.

HF 610 would require that individual members be eligible voters who reside within the congressional districts to which they seek to represent. It also specifies that vacancies within the board shall be filled in accordance with Iowa Code 69.12.


Income Taxes

HF 611 would effectively narrow the existing individual income tax brackets downward while also reducing their rates. However, it also would create two additional tax brackets with a new maximum rate of 8.89 percent for all income greater than $250,000 per year.

The current top-end income tax rate in Iowa was established as part of a tax-cut plan in 1999. By state law, it is 8.98 percent for all income greater than $45,000, which was indexed (it is $51,660 for 2014).


Property Valuations

HF 612 would remove current limitations on the annual increase in statewide actual value of residential and agricultural property due to revaluation Iowa Code 441.21 imposes.

Currently, the assessed value subject to taxation is a percentage of the assessed value as a result of those statewide limitations on annual growth. As part of the assessment limitation calculation for residential and agricultural property, Iowa Code 441.21 provides that if the increase due to revaluation for either class of property is less than 3 percent, the annual increase in each class of property is limited to the smaller of the two increases in either class of property.