The Schultz Perspective
Floor action will begin soon in the Iowa Senate as we finish Week 4. One of the first bills to pass next week will satisfy an annual deadline involving school funding. Iowa law requires that the Iowa Legislature passes the next year’s supplemental state aid (SSA) number within 30 days after the governor releases her budget. SSA is the percent increase from this year’s spending.
The reason this requirement exists is due to Iowa law also requiring local school boards to certify a budget in March. We are required to give those school boards time to develop their budget, set wages, and make plans for future actions that are based on the amount of tax dollars available. Some years the legislature has failed to pass SSA until later in the session. This causes problems for school districts that often are forced to make personnel cuts or other serious action, only to find out later that those actions were unnecessary.
Iowa taxpayers invest over $7 billion in K-12 education each year. The largest portion of this funding comes from sales and income taxes collected and appropriated from the General Fund. The next largest amount comes from local property taxes. This coming week, both Senate and House will pass a SSA increase of 2.06% over the current year. This equates to over $81 million new tax dollars going to cover public education in K-12. When you count all funding sources, Iowa schools are receiving $14,600 per student.
The funding package also includes $7.8 million in transportation equity spending to bring the total in new money for K-12 education to $89.3 million. Senate Republicans started last year insisting on finding a way to help our rural schools with student bussing expenses, eventually leading to an equal amount of funding for each student, rural or urban, once they enter the school door. This is the equity I am seeking for western Iowa schools. Our intent is that this isn’t additional spending but a formula within the education package, tailoring our appropriation to the needs of each district.
To put this number in historical perspective, since Fiscal Year 2011 funding for kindergarten through 12th grade has increased $845 million. To be fair, schools see increases in expenses every year. Wages, supplies, equipment, and vehicles are all subject to inflation. So in making these decisions it is helpful to see what other states are doing. It turns out that we are ranked highly compared to other states in appropriation increases to K-12 spending.
This amounts to an incredible amount of money. There will always be a need to find ways to cut and find efficiencies. Also, this much of your money cannot be spent without expecting results. Recent national headlines show Iowa to be leading the way. We rank #1 in graduation rates. More importantly to me, Iowa ranks #1 in concurrent enrollment, in which students take college credit courses while still in high school. I believe this will become one of the most important characteristics of successful states in the future.
I appreciate being able to report back to the district on issues that impact your daily lives. If you need to contact me, email email@example.com or call the switchboard at 515-281-3371.
I am the chair of the Labor & Business Relations Committee, as well as serve on the Judiciary, State Government, and Ways & Means committees. Please feel free to contact me at (515) 281-3371 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Schultz Perspective
An issue that has gained traction in recent years has now become part of the political discussion in Iowa. Restoration of voting rights for convicted felons has become a hot button issue among the many states. In her Condition of the State address, Governor Kim Reynolds broached the subject, placing this on the Legislature’s list of issues to consider.
Since the individual states have the responsibility to run their own elections, they have the ability to decide who votes. I’ve looked at how the 50 states handle this. The following information comes from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL):
In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated.
In 14 states and the District of Columbia, felons lose their voting rights only while incarcerated, and receive automatic restoration upon release.
In 22 states, felons lose their voting rights during incarceration, and for a period of time after, typically while on parole and/or probation. Voting rights are automatically restored after this time period. Former felons may also have to pay any outstanding fines, fees or restitution before their rights are restored as well.
In 12 states felons lose their voting rights indefinitely for some crimes, require a governor’s pardon in order for voting rights to be restored, or face an additional waiting period after completion of their sentence (including parole and probation) before voting rights can be restored.
I oppose changing Iowa’s policy of restoring rights on a case by case basis. As the idea moves forward, I’ll be working to make a few points. First, nothing should happen until the victim is restored as far as possible. If the damage is financial, every penny should be returned before restitution is complete. I do not like the phrase “repaid their debt to society”. Society did not have their car, money, or property stolen. The victim did. How do you make a victim of assault, rape, or murder whole? We should have that conversation before restoring felons’ rights.
Why should a criminal be turned back into a participating citizen before the victim can close the books on what they lost?
Secondly, I believe all rights are equally important. Having the right to vote as a citizen comes along with the right to own/carry a gun, to go where you like in public (think sex offenders and schools), or employment in some restricted occupations. It isn’t appropriate to restore one right and not the others. If you can’t have your right to keep and bear arms restored because of your history of violence, then why would we allow them to vote? Citizens’ rights are a package deal in a free Republic, not ala carte.
There is a pattern of putting the law abiding, tax paying citizens last. It seems felons, illegal aliens, drug users, and people who feel they are owed something always get the most attention. I’m working to give those who mind their own business and pay their own bills a level playing field. That’s how I will look at restoring voting rights to convicted felons. Do not expect to see this solved this session, as this is the first year the subject has been brought up. We will probably examine the issue through the committee system in both chambers and look at it again next year.
Thank you electing me to serve as your state senator in Des Moines. Comments or questions can be emailed to email@example.com or call 515-281-3371.
The Schultz Perspective
The Iowa Senate is now operating at full speed. Those who moved bills out of subcommittee during week one had the opportunity to move their bills out of committee and make them ready for floor debate. I was proud to manage two of these bills.
The first bill I ran out of the Judiciary Committee this year was Senate Study Bill 1011. This bill addresses a long standing problem faced by law enforcement and county prosecutors. Currently, speed alone is not grounds to charge a serious crime in the event of a vehicular death. This means if a vehicle is moving 25 mph over the posted speed limit and kills someone, there is no opportunity to file vehicular manslaughter charges against the driver. Imagine losing a family member, neighbor or friend and watching the driver of the vehicle get a speeding ticket. SSB 1011 makes causing the death of a person while speeding 25 or more MPH over the speed limit vehicular homicide. This bill only addresses causing death, so current penalties for driving 25 mph or more over the limit would remain the same.
The next bill, SSB 1017 allows a person with a non-professional permit to carry weapons to continue to keep their weapon on their body while on a school parking lot or driveway while taking a person or item to school or picking up a person or item. Iowa now has nearly 300,000 concealed weapon permit holders. Many of these are parents of school age children who drive their kids to school, bring a forgotten instrument, lunch box, or project to school. Currently, non-professional permit holders are forbidden from carrying on all school grounds. In fact, it is a felony to do so. I have found carriers fall into a few categories. Some do not realize it is illegal and keep their weapon on them. Some take the time to un-holster, unload the weapon and put it where you can legally transport it, and then go get their child. They then stop and re-holster their weapon. Some know it is illegal and drive onto the parking lot anyways. The worst is when a law abiding citizen leaves their personal protection weapon at home all day because they don’t want the risk or hassle.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and if you are knowingly doing this please do not brag or talk about it. Felonies are serious and you will lose the gun you are talking about. On the other hand it is not the purpose of state government to make a criminal out of an honest man or woman. Especially when there is no public policy reason to do so.
The few opponents I have spoken to claim that student safety will be impaired. Looking at crime and safety statistics shows that not to be the case. As a group, Iowa weapon permit holders are probably the most law abiding group of citizens. Studies show they at least match law enforcement, which are currently allowed to carry on duty. In fact there is another bill moved out of Judiciary to allow off duty police officers to carry on school grounds. I will be floor managing this bill in the full Senate soon.
I appreciate the opportunity to work in Des Moines for a better Iowa, and enjoy reading feedback on this column. If you would like to contact me, please firstname.lastname@example.org or call 515-281-3371 and leave a message.
I currently serve as the chair of the Labor and Business Relations Committee, and serve on the Judiciary, State Government, and Ways and Means Committees.