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House Democrats, Republicans spar over education funding impasse

HomeworkBy Bob Eschliman
Editor

 

At the conclusion of regular business on any work day in the Iowa House of Representatives, any member of the chamber may rise and speak about any subject of his or her choosing.

These speeches, called “personal points of privilege,” are often used to publicly lobby fellow legislators on a particular subject or piece of legislation, or to suggest action by taken on a particular issue. Floor debate rules do not allow criticisms or comments about specific bills unless they are currently being considered by the House.

Tuesday, state Rep. Art Staed (D-Cedar Rapids) took up the issue of the impasse between House Republicans and Senate Democrats on state percentage of funding for education aid – still sometimes referred to by its former name: “allowable growth.” He pressed for Republicans to consider moving away from their 1.25-percent position.

Senate Democrats originally pushed for 4 percent, but have since moved to 2.625 percent. Staed then provided a tally of the cuts that some districts have made as a result of not knowing what kind of increase, if any, the state will provide in Fiscal Year 2016, which begins on July 1.

State Rep. Tedd Gassman (R-Scarville), a former educator himself, responded to a mailing he received from unnamed educators – likely the Iowa State Education Association – that threatened retaliation if Republicans don’t vote for higher supplemental state aid. He said the threats were “unbecoming a professional.”

He urged the General Assembly take a serious look at reforming the education funding mechanism. The Iowa Statesman recently explained that process in a three-part series.

Part 1: CLICK HERE

Part 2: CLICK HERE

Part 3: CLICK HERE

State Rep. Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) lamented tax credits that are being considered, including one expected to be adopted Wednesday that would provide – as he put it, “a tax credit for the heat generated from pig manure.” He then said education funding for schools was at “pig manure” levels.

State Rep. Mike Sexton (R-Rockwell City), a former school board member, read a letter from a school board member in his district that was written in response to a letter from state Rep. Patti Ruff (D-McGregor). In the letter, the unnamed school board member talks about the 5-percent pay increase the teachers in that district have requested, which will result in staffing losses.

Funding isn’t the issue, the letter writer said, but rather how the money is spent. The collective bargaining process was hamstringing districts, he or she said, adding, “The entire process needs to be addressed.”

 

CLICK HERE to see video of the speeches (advance to 3:22:30 mark).

 

Earlier in the day, the House approved House File 643, which requires a study of a potential bicycle hub and spoke recycling program for the state. The measure was adopted on a 79-16 vote.

Representatives also adopted the following bills on unanimous, or nearly unanimous votes:

  • Senate File 75 – an act to add snowplows to the state’s “move over” law.
  • Senate File 366 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to disability retirement benefits paid from the Public Safety Peace Officers’ Retirement, Accident, and Disability System.
  • House File 637 – the Fiscal Year 2016 transportation appropriations bill.
  • House File 624 – an act to increase the number of years a taxpayer may claim custom farming contract tax credit for a contract involving a qualified beginning farmer.
  • House File 632 – the Iowa Insurance Division Omnibus Bill.
  • House File 634 – the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship Omnibus Bill.
  • House File 638 – an act to amend Iowa Code as it relates to the levying of the state’s wine gallonage tax.
  • Senate File 487 – a substitute bill for House File 639 – an act to regulate the sale of insurance on portable electronic devices.
  • House File 641 – the governor’s broadband expansion bill.

 

The House also concurred with Senate amendments on the following bills:

  • House File 548 – an act to require electrical disconnects for alternative home energy sources.
  • House File 585 – an act to establish a address information protection program administered by the Office of Secretary of State for victims of violence.