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Sen. Jason Schultz

 

Sen. Jason Schultz

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

As I wrote in Part 1 of the Education bill newsletter, the controversial provision that brings this bill to the end of session negotiations is the issue of School Choice.  SF 2369 creates a Student First Scholarship program for students at or below 400% Federal Poverty Level or students with an Individualized Educational Program with a cap of 10,000 total scholarships to be divided half and half between the 400% FPL applicants and students with an IEP.

These scholarships, or Educational Savings Accounts are a mechanism that changes the way we look at state funding of education.  Iowa is currently appropriating money to public schools, who get over $7,600 per student each year.  The way we should be looking at this is to fund the students’ themselves, not the system and wait to see how many students show up each year.

The traditional argument for school choice is that currently the public-school system has a monopoly, and introducing competition will make every school better, as they work to attract new students or not lose those who are already attending a school.  The counter argument is that public tax dollars should fund only public schools.  There is also an argument that private schools should have the same regulations as public if we are going to send tax dollars to private schools.

I believe we should be funding the student and give the parent the ability to choose the education that best fits their child.  I am also aware of many public programs where tax dollars go to a private entity for services.  Think Medicare or Medicaid, where the patient is able to go to their choice of doctor or nursing home.  But mostly I know that a one-size-fits-all system can never fit every child, even as hard as public schools and AEAs try.  There must be an exit ramp for those who need something different.

So while the old debate still exists and the players remain the same, the issue of parents’ choice in education is suddenly so much more important.  We should recognize that these positions still exist, but the issue is much deeper than that.  The discovery of toxic, progressive ideology curriculum that rejects our traditional, common values has been discovered to be more aggressive and further entrenched than anyone wanted to believe.

The Covid lockdowns, as wrong as they were, gave us an insight into parts of our public-school system that shocked many parents, policymakers, and Iowans in general.  Parents who trusted that their children were being taught in an environment that roughly paralleled the values or worldview taught at home were shocked to find that some assigned books contained illustrated child pornography and incest.  Imagine the parents’ surprise when they brought the issue to the school administrators and Board only to find it was either intentional or minimized and the offending books would remain accessibly by children.

Some Iowa schools started running whole curriculums taught through the perspective of the Black Lives Matter movement.  These racist programs identify and value people specifically by the color of our skin, teach our children that America is a horrible place and that the guiltiest group of people who must be punished are white families and their children. Those children must be programmed to apologize and stand last in line, no matter how hard they work.  I’d ask parents in western Iowa to research the 1619 project.  It seems too many are trying to teach our children much more than reading, writing, and ‘rithmatic.

After I supported the scholarship program to help lower-income parents choose how their child is educated, I was challenged to point out these problems in western Iowa.  There is a two-point answer to this question.  First, it is true that this is mostly an Iowa metro problem.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t creeping into our rural schools.  Local parents have found some of the books I mentioned in our local school libraries.  I’m still waiting to see how that issue is resolved.  But the larger issue is that this progressive ideology is firmly entrenched in our cities and it affects a huge percentage of our current and future students.  In much less than a generation, this toxic worldview may be normalized through our Iowa Department of Education and Area Education Agencies, and local schools.  While your Iowa Senate Republicans continue to fight this anti-American movement, the best, long-lasting remedy is to open the range of choices to parents, regardless of income.

Public educators, including school boards, administrators, teachers, and para-educators who are doing a great job teaching children without trying to indoctrinate can best defend our public schools by cleaning up their own industry.  Call out the left-wing agitators who have taken over in the metro schools.  They can side with parents who object to obscene material being assigned or available in some schools.  When they attend continuing education or administrative group meetings, call out their troublemaking colleagues who are giving public education a black eye.  This is how you convince parents and taxpayers you are on their side.

To get a sense of how bad this problem is, go to YouTube and find the video by Accuracy in Media titled “Iowa Administrators Brag About Skirting Critical Race Theory Laws”.  Similar videos exist for most states.  The ugly secret is that many in the highest levels of public education are trying to take your children from you.  The Senate and the governor are trying to stand up for Iowa parents.  The Iowa House needs to pass our limited school choice bill.  We need your help, along with our local school employees, to win.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, April 22, 2022

The end of session usually includes a collection of important, but controversial bills that have passed in one chamber but not the other. This leads to either the House or the Senate holding the position that any action to finish session must include their priority policy bill. Among these this year are the governor’s E-15 standard bill passed by the House to sell more ethanol. The Senate has passed new re-employment language to get those laid off back into a new job more quickly.

The House has sent us a good Pharmacy Benefits Manager bill that the Senate is still working on, and the Senate has passed a huge Education bill that includes school choice provisions for families. These issues will be most likely be negotiated until the end, with a flurry of compromise and bill passage leading us to the end of the 2022 session.

The education bill, SF 2369, will probably be the most difficult. It is made up mostly of agreed-to language. Here is a quick break-down to fit the space available:

  • Creates a parent and guardian bill of rights relating to having access to information about their child’s education
  • Adds federal pupil’s rights language to Iowa Code
  • Creates a Student First Scholarship program for students at or below 400% FPL or students with an Individualized Educational Program with a cap of 10,000 total scholarships to be divided half and half between the 400% FPL applicants and students with an IEP
  • Extends operational sharing until 2034 and adds school resources officers to the eligible shared functions
  • Allows schools to appeal to the School Budget Review Committee to go over the cap of 21 up to 24 for the purpose of operational sharing. The SBRC may grant a supplemental amount from the Student First Operational Sharing Fund. This fund receives a funding from the student first scholarship program.
  • Requires students to pass a civics test as a condition of graduation
  • Strikes the requirement that the director of special education at the AEA of the child’s district of enrollment approve placement under competent private instruction
  • Changes code to allow the siblings or stepsiblings to open enroll together if one of the siblings is open enrolling under good cause
  • Eliminates the Praxis exam requirement for graduation from a teacher prep program
  • Allows educators with advanced degrees to have their district professional development verified by their administrator, and this would serve as their renewal requirement for licensure
  • Requires mandatory reporters to report child abuse, even if the child is over age 12
  • Makes all school employees over 18 mandatory reporters
  • Requires that if a licensed school employee reports child abuse and believes another licensed school employee is responsible, the name of the licensed school employee being accused will be in the report

As I said, this is a large bill. The House has passed much of this language. The hold-up for the end of session is the school choice language. In part 2 of this legislative report I will focus in on that section of the bill.

I predicted that we will finish early this year, and I have been proven wrong. There are still some large bills plus the budget being negotiated. We hit our 100th day this week, and on that day the House and Senate pages are sent home, our individual clerks end their work and legislator expense payments ended. This usually helps move things along.

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, April 15, 2022

The late emergence of the Bottle Bill this session sparked hope among myself and others that we could make an effort to save the remaining redemption centers and even expand the locations to return cans on which you have paid the deposit. The Senate bill brought all the industry groups together and addressed the handling fee, got dirty cans out of our food retailers, and modernized language to allow mobile redemption systems to make it even easier and less expensive for redemption centers to expand.

We had a few setbacks this week. After the Senate sent our bill over to the House I began speaking to the House members about differences of opinion in how to best save the bottle bill. Different sections of the bill would be compared, and we were starting to understand the other chamber’s perspective. That changed when something changed in the House and suddenly they had decided to run their version without an agreement that we would accept the more complicated ideas.

The Senate bill was designed to be as simple and clear as possible. This was both to make it easy to explain and administer. We streamlined who would enforce provisions and provide specific computer support. We set a simple standard as to when retailers would be required to take cans and when they could stop. We made it easy to set up a mobile redemption system and get more locations quickly.

The now-passed House bill takes a few points, such as a three-cent handling fee and mobile redemption language, but it complicates the retail redemption by retaining the old system of a retail store having to take cans unless they are within a number of miles of a redemption center. Iowa counties are divided between large and small counties, making a difference in stores having to be either ten or fifteen miles from a redemption center to be excluded from redeeming cans.

Worse, other retailers are exempted if they have a certified “Certified Food Safety Specialist.” It is another complicated system the private sector and Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources will have to work through.

The worst part of the process is, that while talks were progressing, suddenly a deadline was imposed by the House. In the course of an afternoon, an amendment replacing the language in the Senate bill was offered and adopted.

Procedurally, I’m afraid this action may lock everyone into difficult-to-bridge positions. I’m guessing this decision was made in the Speaker’s office, as the House bill manager had been open to conversation.

It is common for one chamber to want to put their fingerprints on a popular subject when a bill is received from the other chamber, but adding complications and short-circuiting productive negotiations is rare. As we move toward the last weeks of session, the bottle bill will be added to the list of end-of-session bills that often get tabled and must be refiled next year. If so, I would pursue a different strategy to try to keep the whole bill from being held hostage for one or two sections.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Thursday, March 31, 2022

The surprise late session issue of reviving Iowa’s popular bottle bill caused quite a bit of attention last week. For years we have been waiting for a solution that could bring all parties together. Years of disappointment and frustrated Iowans seemed to come to an end as the Iowa Senate took a core plan from the stakeholders and expanded it to include modern ideas. This bill, SF 2378, was passed out of the Senate on March 29. This bill was based on our current system, but increased funding where it was needed. Our goal was to meet the three goals we believed Iowans wanted. Those are to keep the deposit at 5 cents, get dirty cans and bottles out of food retailers’ businesses, and provided easy redemption opportunities.

The central point of the bill was to increase the handling fee paid to redemption centers from the current one cent per can to three cents. This would have an immediate effect as redemption centers would suddenly have triple the cash flow to pay employees and purchase machinery for efficiency. Along with this change was language to define and allow Mobile Redemption Systems, which would be a place you could throw your bags full of cans after affixing an identification sticker. You would be paid in an account that you could transfer to yourself at any time.

One item that grocers supported was allowing food retailers to opt-out of the redemption requirement. For years, grocers and convenience stores have complained that unsanitary cans are being carried back into clean food retail environments. With the Legislature unable to move a bill, the requirement remained. It wasn’t until the Covid emergency orders that recognized the health risk of bringing used, dirty cans into the same place while clean food was being carried out at the same time. Additionally, food retailers have been redeeming about $11 million in cans annually. This volume and revenue can be tripled and run through the redemption centers, further accelerating the expansion and new openings of redemption centers.

To put together a bill that could make it all the way to the governor, we reduced regulations on redemption centers and gave them two more cents per can. Grocers got cans out of their stores and did not have to add their money to help increase the handling fee. This had been looked at and it was difficult in the current system anyway. The whole increase would fall on the pop and beer wholesalers and in return we lowered the beer excise tax by $4 million and recognized they could keep the deposits from unredeemed cans. This is current practice under the original legislation that we are living under now.

Even with the industry players all on board it was still a very difficult sell to get the Senate on board. There were several disagreements over individual policy points. The winning argument of the day was a reminder that polling as recent as February indicated 83% of Iowans wanted the bottle bill saved or even expanded. Senate Republicans are here at the will of the people of Iowa and we wanted to find a way to end this frustrating wait. This bill satisfied the wishes of Iowans. It was passed on a party-line vote and sent to the House. I look forward to working with them to modernize and save the bottle bill.

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, March 25, 2022

The largest bill to move out of each chamber this week was HF 2355, the Unemployment Insurance reform bill. There has long been a need to reform Iowa’s Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund (UITF) laws in order to balance the need for those terminated through no fault of their own, against the need for the fund to grow during the good times of low unemployment.

The UITF is an account employers are taxed to fund according to state law in order to help unemployed Iowans between jobs. It is regulated by the state to keep the fund balance healthy during times of both high and low unemployment. During historically low unemployment, as we saw during the great economic times of the Trump Administration, the fund should have moved to the lowest tax bracket. Due to fraud and improper claims, this didn’t happen.

During the late pandemic, Iowa’s trust fund was pummeled by a massive number of unemployment claims from the early business shutdowns. Along with this legitimate use of the fund, there was a growing and sophisticated fraud effort ranging from individuals filing single fraudulent claims to multi-state operations using computers to steal identities and addresses to file thousands of claims automatically. We obviously must address this issue for both good times and bad.

HF 2355 has several sections, indicating just how far behind the modern market environment we are currently.

The bill changes the length of assistance from six months of coverage to four months. Iowa Workforce Development shows over 80,000 jobs open across the state. It should not take anyone half a year of benefits to find a job in this environment. States that are ahead of ours show a history of job seekers becoming employed in less than half the time as we shift the benefit by two months. Iowa’s data shows an average of twelve weeks of benefits before employment, a whole month shorter than the sixteen weeks we have set.

Next is the addition of a one-week period from filing a claim to the start of assistance. This is the most necessary but controversial part of the bill. Waiting one week before starting a payment gives Workforce Development time to do verification of eligibility, notify the employer, and check the claim for fraud. This policy is big. The amount of fraud nationwide has been conservatively estimated by the US Labor Bureau to be over $87 billion during the Covid extended unemployment benefit period. Iowa has reported over $5 million in fraud losses in each of 2019 and 2020. That was only what was identified. In today’s system, Iowa starts processing the first payment before all of the checks can be finished. It is practically impossible to claw back the money once it is disbursed. The department needs a week head start. Forty other states have this provision including all the states that surround Iowa. Even the United Auto Workers union recognizes this policy as necessary as they also wait one week before starting strike pay.

Improper use during the first week includes businesses shutting down for a week for regularly scheduled maintenance. They tell their employees to stay home and have them file unemployment when they know those same employees will be hired back the next Monday. Unions will also play the game, as they pull their apprentices off jobs to attend regular training. The apprentice is told to apply for jobless benefits, but they know they will be back on the job in a week as they weren’t actually laid off. Each of these examples are costs that should be born by the business or union, not the business taxes that sustain the fund for real unemployment.

HF 2355 also puts into code definitions of misconduct to guide the department and judges as they decide contested cases. Currently, the department can make a ruling, and it can be appealed to an administrative law judge. This judge can make essentially any ruling and not have a written guideline to which to refer. Defining misconduct offers consistency and predictability as all parties and judges can refer to the same definitions. The bill also allows parties to go straight to District Court instead of having to stop at the Employment Appeals Board.

The message I constantly receive from home is that all those who can work, need to work and that programs still pay people to stay home. The House has almost identical language passed out of their chamber. It should not take long to negotiate and strike a deal. I am sure the governor will sign it as this was originally her idea, and she presented this policy during her annual Condition of the State address in January.

In other news, it appears that the session may be wrapping up a week or two before the April 19 scheduled close. We are still working on the budget, but the House has passed us a few budget bills already. Large issues still to resolve include E-15, pharmacy benefit manager regulation, school choice, and the bottle bill. Other good bills will pass, but these seem to take the largest portion of my time at the Capitol and at forums.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, March 18, 2022

Iowans’ support for the bottle bill is incredibly strong. A poll taken in February of this year by Seltzer & Company found that 83% of Iowans polled supported keeping the current bottle bill or even expanding it. I would call that a mandate.

Over the last several years I have filed bills to try to start discussions but it was difficult to get traction. Each year the demand from constituents to save the bottle bill grew louder. Each year the situation for redemption centers became more desperate and many would close or reduce hours. I believe we finally have a consensus that we must act.

The solution we have sought for many years has been to work with representatives from the redemption centers, the pop and beer distributors, and the retailers. They each have very different interests. It was believed without all parties agreeing we couldn’t get the support to put the bill on the governor’s desk. That sentiment changed in the Senate this year. I was asked to run a bill we believe could create a thriving redemption industry and open new centers around the state. We took the needs of redemption centers to heart and built SF 2122. This bill would have the distributors add two pennies to the current one cent handling fee paid to redemption centers. Tripling the handling fee will allow redemption centers to hire more employees and clear out the huge backlog of cans that have been stored. Once this happens, I believe we will see more locations pop up as redemption companies now have a solid profit motive to get their hands on as many cans as possible.

Technology will be more affordable as cash flow increases, allowing efficiencies to further strengthen the redemption industry. To assist this goal, language in the bill will enable remote drop-off locations to be set up for Iowans. I hosted a tour of this idea a few years back in Shelby, Crawford, and Ida counties. The idea is that a specially modified trailer will have a customer interface where a customer can create an account, have a sticker printed to attach the bag of cans, and have payment digitally sent to an account. It seemed to impress the citizens who came to look at it, especially the charitable organizations. You could enter the account number for Kiwanis, or Boy Scouts, or a local fundraiser. The cans would be picked up by the redemption center servicing the trailer and the money sent to your choice of charity.

One of the agreements we find among many Iowans is that grocery stores, convenience stores, and other retailers are not suitable places to bring dirty, sometimes disgusting, empty cans. That thought was included in SF 2122. Retailers will be required to take cans for one more year at one penny handling fee, then they may opt out. We are working to move cans to the growing number of redemption centers so they can more reliably succeed.

I am confident we can move this simple modernization of the bottle bill out of the Senate and over to the House. They have a bill in consideration as well. Finally, both chambers are motivated to address the most common complaint I receive from western Iowa.

It appears to me we may finish the session a bit early, so this will have to be addressed quickly. With the huge tax relief bill signed by the governor, the appropriations segment of session is upon us. Once we pass a budget that falls in line with conservative principles and supports Iowa’s growth, we will see the end of session come quickly.

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Monday, March 14, 2022

The longest-lasting legislative project of my career crossed a major milestone this week. Twelve years ago, I began working to provide access to farm-fresh milk from local farms. I was contacted by a constituent whose family drank milk from their own cow. They couldn’t drink all the milk from one cow and wanted to be able to sell excess milk from their cow to their neighbor. I told him that wasn’t a problem, and then I was informed of the serious penalty for the harmless act of selling milk. I vowed to change the law, but I had no idea how hard it would be to convince legislators to vote for freedom.

Senate File 2309 is my latest attempt to let small dairy farms sell fresh milk from their cows. Current Iowa law requires all milk sold or distributed be pasteurized by a processor before sale. The Iowans looking for unpasteurized raw milk have chosen not to buy the commercial milk from grocery stores for various reasons. They are forbidden from buying fresh milk from their neighbors. I do not think that is right and see this as a consumer freedom issue.

Since beginning this effort in 2010, I have learned of the differences of small, old-fashioned milk cow herds of a few healthy animals in a pasture and barn and the modern, larger herds of dozens or hundreds or even thousands of cows well-cared for in large modern buildings. Each style of dairy should be able to exist. Large dairy milk should be pasteurized to kill bacteria, as it is handled by individuals who aren’t accountable to either the consumer or the farmer. This ensures safety for the general public. I like this product and it is in my refrigerator.

This isn’t a case with the old-fashioned farmers who milk their cow or cows one at a time and will often keep the milk of different cows separate. The raw milk dairy farmer will be doing the milking along with their family. This family will be drinking the same milk as they sell in face-to-face transactions. I do not believe the state should stand between this willing seller or informed buyer, just as farmers sell farm fresh eggs from their chickens without state interference.

The dairy industry has opposed my efforts for a few general reasons. They fear if someone gets sick on raw milk the general public will back off milk consumption in response. This hasn’t happened in the 44 states who have legal access to fresh milk. There is also industry concern that unpasteurized milk can contain dangerous bacteria that is usually killed in the pasteurization process, which heats milk to 160 degrees, similar to a well-done steak, then quickly chills the milk for storage. I suppose this can happen, but as Radio Iowa reported from our debate, from 1993 to 2012 only 144 people were hospitalized from drinking fresh, raw milk. The level of risk is tiny, and only for those who knowingly choose to take on that risk.

I’ve built in several limitations in order to increase the sense of consumer safety for my colleagues. These restrictions also safeguard Iowans who do not want to accidentally buy fresh, raw milk that has not been pasteurized. It limits a farmer to 10 lactating animals or less in order to separate this cottage industry from the standard commercialized dairy farm. Senate File 2309 also allows sales only on the farm or delivered to the customer by the producer. It requires a label to be fixed to the container that warns the consumer the milk is not inspected and not pasteurized.

In addition, bacterial testing of the milk will be done by the producer monthly and records kept for any customer who asks. I even added an annual vet inspection of each animal to ensure proper care and health practices. Fresh milk will not be able to be sold or delivered to a customer at any food establishment. This includes farmer’s markets. Sellers at farmer’s markets will not be able to offer, advertise, sell or sample fresh, raw milk. This is to satisfy the dairy industry’s concerns that uneducated consumers might buy fresh milk thinking it had been pasteurized. For the same reason, the law says fresh, raw milk must be used for the consumer’s family and nonpaying guests, so unsuspecting people will not be exposed.

These restrictions may seem extreme, and they are. It seems like common sense to me that an Iowans should be able to drive down a gravel road and buy a gallon of milk from a farmer, just like a dozen eggs, or fruits, or vegetables. In my opinion fears about illness are overblown, but I added those restrictions to find agreement and I succeeded by gaining bipartisan support for this bill in the Senate.

There is a segment of Iowans who want access to this product. There are families with a cow or goat or sheep who would like to sell this product, and 44 states in the country allow access to fresh milk. Some states have retail sales. Most have farm-to-consumer, like this bill in Iowa. My hope is the Iowa House will see this bill as the freedom effort I mean it to be, and send this one to the governor.

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, February 25, 2022

It is becoming common to expect the Republican majorities to cut income taxes every year or two. Combined with conservative budgeting principles, this pattern has served Iowa well. The 2022 session will continue the practice of returning tax dollars to citizens, but this year will be historic.

As I have reported in earlier newsletters, the governor made historic tax cuts the centerpiece of her agenda. The Senate tax team had been working on a broad proposal for a year, and even the House helped by taking the governor’s plan, downsizing it, and filing it as an official bill.

I was looking forward to the three-party negotiations as the Senate and governor’s plan had a lot of overlap, but many good ideas independently from which we could choose. This was looking very good for Iowa. The news broke on February 22 that our very own Governor Kim Reynolds was chosen to deliver the Republican response to the State of the Union address on March 2. This speech is an opportunity to showcase Iowa to a national audience with a popular governor and a conservative record that has Iowa at the top of most state lists of freedom and prosperity.

With the tax cut agreement done and passed in both chambers, it gives the governor yet another achievement to show America that there is a better way than the way just offered by the White House.

A tax omnibus bill was agreed to that incorporated the strongest components of the three bills that had been filed. Amendments were drafted to change one bill into the final version. I’d like to describe the final tax agreement. HF 2317 is mostly an individual income tax reduction bill. We will move from the 40th highest tax rate to the fourth lowest over four years. The rates will ratchet down as follows:

The important takeaway is that any state who successfully ended their income tax first transitioned to a flat tax to remove the class warfare arguments and give everyone an interest in lowering taxes further.

Another huge component was the governor’s idea to end income taxes on retirement income. Tax year ’23 will have a 100 percent exclusion of retirement income as currently defined in law. For the first time, retired farmers will have the opportunity to exempt income from cash rent or crop share income. See your tax preparer for details. This option won’t always be better than the current capital gains exemption, and you have to choose one or the other.

Corporate income tax will be addressed in a smaller way. We have among the highest business tax rates in the country. I have always argued corporations don’t pay taxes, as they have to pass this additional cost down to their customers. Customer uses after-tax dollars to buy the product or service. This amounts to a double tax, and it should be fixed. Unfortunately, Iowa also has among the most generous tax credit system, put in place to make up for a high tax system that scares businesses away. We will continue to work on this starting next week. This tax bill will knock one percent off the highest rate, but until we can address the tax credit system, not much more should be done.

I’m proud that Governor Reynolds will be in the national spotlight. Iowa has five years of conservative action that will be a great counterpoint to President Biden’s flawed solutions. I hope citizens and businesses hear our governor respond, see the great things we’ve done, and put Iowa on their list of places to live, raise a family, and have a business.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, February 11, 2022

The Governor’s annual address to Iowa on January 11 contained two central agenda items: lower taxes for Iowans and get anyone who can work back on the job. Let’s talk taxes next week. Today I’m focused on her workforce bill as we are moving it out of committee and I will be presenting it to the entire Senate for passage.

Iowa has gone through a tough spell reacting to a break-away virus, but most of the damage was actually government inflicted. Mistakes were made, but corrections were implemented much faster in Iowa than in most states. That allowed our economy to recover faster and to a higher degree than most other places. As business and industry ramped up, they found themselves competing against an East and West Coast that were still not free to work. Our governor used hundreds of millions of federal Covid dollars to prop up our Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. This kept employment taxes lower than they would have been, as there is a formula that balances business taxes per employee against withdrawals made to unemployed Iowans. Businesses found themselves able to hire to full capacity and then expand to create new job openings. This is usually a dream come true for a state economy and everyone wins.

In Iowa this worked so well we swung into an usual balance. We now have over 80,000 job openings for 57,000 Iowans looking for work. We need to attract legal residents to Iowa, and there are plans in place to do that, but we also need to turn working Iowans back into a new job if they find themselves jobless.  There are strategies that have worked elsewhere we can implement.

SSB 3093 is a bill I am managing in the Senate for the governor. It modernizes the unemployment system in ways that change the purpose from UN-employment to RE-employment. It starts with changing the legislative intent language in Iowa Code. The original language was written in the Depression era of the 1930s when there seemed no hope and there were no jobs, training, or safety net. The new language will focus on job training, matching employers and job seekers, and economic development programs. This serves as a guide for judges as they interpret unemployment law in court decisions.

The bill recognizes that the half-year of unemployment assistance allowed is not good for Iowans or their families. There is a large number of good jobs waiting for applicants, and it is unreasonable to wait six months to re-enter the workforce. The bill lowers the assistance period to four months, which is similar to several other states. States that have reduced the months of assistance from 6 months to 4 have found workers finding jobs in half the time. This is better for everyone.

The bill also places into law a one week waiting period for assistance. Iowa is one of a few states to cover the first week after a lost job. 39 states have a waiting period and it is a better practice than our current policy. Many people find a new job within that first week after filing an unemployment claim. The one-week period also gives time for Iowa Workforce Development to ensure the worker’s identity, verify qualifications, and complete to process of paying claims and lining up job searches and training program opportunities.

The other provisions are smaller, but important updates to Iowa Code. We will put a definition of “misconduct” into code to replace a long history of administrative law judges’ decisions, which now define misconduct. We want the rules to stay the same from case to case. We will compress the “suitable work” timeline down to fit the four-month window. The current provision allows a job seeker to turn down a job if it doesn’t pay the same as the last job. I’d point out anyone can look for their next better paying job while holding a job. We will also allow either employer or employee to skip the Employment Appeals Board and go to District Court if they choose, offering flexibility.

Governor Reynolds put it best in the most important line I have heard from the podium, “There is dignity in work; it gives us meaning and purpose. So when it’s degraded, when idleness is rewarded with enhanced unemployment and stimulus checks, when work begins to seem optional rather than fundamental, then society begins to decay.”

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Thursday, February 3, 2022

One of the secrets to Iowa’s fiscal success story in the face all our modern challenges is the complete integration of the taxation (Ways and Means) committee and the spending (Appropriations) teams.  The staff and legislators have worked together, creating plans that have been reviewed, tested, and ready for the final touches when we arrive in Des Moines for session.

All that is needed is a team that can say “No” to spending and yearn for tax cuts at the same time.  Iowa Senate Republicans have that team and that discipline.  The formula isn’t a secret.  You need to know how much revenue you have available to spend.  Then budget much less than that amount so you can guarantee what you promise to deliver.  If you hold spending down below the growth rate of the private sector, revenues increase in relation to expenditures.  Then, when the next year’s revenues come in much higher than needed, you can cut taxes, which lead to more economic growth.  Repeat this process, always with a conservative 5-year look forward to protect yourself and Iowa.

The largest tax expenditure Iowa has each year is education, and K-12 spending is most of that amount.  Last year we as a state spent $3.38 BILLION in school aid.  This number must be determined first because it is that largest portion of a General Fund budget that must be responsible. Secondly, local school boards must get their state aid number so they can build, approve, and certify their budgets on time.  But like most segments of our lives, Chinese Covid made this complicated this year.

Our K-12 state supplemental aid is calculated on how much money per student we will spend. Covid threw a wrench into the works when it hit.  When schools counted students on the designated day, which becomes their certified enrollment, about 6000 students were missing.  They could have been kept home for schooling, or their parents found them a private school to continue in-person learning.  Based on this count, a 2.4 percent increase in spending amounted to just over $30 million in additional new spending.

This year around 1500 of those students have returned and been added to the certified enrollment in the budget we are building.  When you add these new students to the count, a 0 percent increase in per-student aid means would be a $34.4 million increase just to meet the formula requirements.  The costs go up from there.  If we match last year’s 2.4 percent increase, the new total is $137.6 million in new spending.  You can see the difficulty, but we have to recognize that schools are dealing with inflation in their inputs as well.

The Governor is proposing a 2.5 percent increase and again the House of Representatives is offering more than that.  The Senate will be working to balance the need for responsible budgeting against the schools’ higher costs and need to certify their budgets.  And underlying all of this discussion are the principles of responsible budgeting and the continuing work on tax cuts.  Always tax cuts.  This is the way.

If you need to reach me, please email jason.schultz@legis.iowa.com

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, January 28, 2022

As we finish up the month of January in the Iowa Legislature, the committee system is in full motion.  Bills are being considered at the subcommittee level and successful bills are moved up to full committee.  The largest issues of the session, tax cuts and workforce development are still being developed and will be filed soon.  I’ll cover those two issues in future reports.

One of the issues about which I receive the most emails is generally known as the Convention of the States movement.  The Constitution of the United States allows for two ways to amend the Constitution.  One process is for Congress to consider an amendment, which then requires three-fourths of the states (38) to ratify the change to make it official.  The second way is for two-thirds of the states (34) to agree by identical resolution to trigger Congress to call a Convention of the States in order to consider the subjects of proposed amendments listed in the States’ resolutions.  The Convention cannot by itself pass any amendment, only offer them.  It has no legal power to ratify.  If proposed amendments are offered out of the Convention it would then take three-fourths (38) state legislatures to ratify these amendments without the approval or input of Congress.

The resolution being considered nationwide has been passed in 16 states as I write this with Wisconsin passing the resolution this week.  I am told Nebraska is likely to adopt the resolution this session.  A few years ago, Iowa’s House of Representatives passed the resolution, but the Senate majority didn’t have the votes to follow suit.

The resolution being considered would authorize the states to consider three topics: Term limits for federal officials, to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government and spending restraints on the federal government.  The delegates of the attending states would consider ideas for amendments.  It is possible that no amendment proposals would come out of the Convention, or that only one or two of the subjects would have a finished amendment idea to offer to all fifty states to consider.

The worst part of this issue is that it has caused what I call a family fight among conservatives.  Many relationships have been damaged as this issue is debated across the state.  For the last few years I have stepped back to watch the discussion and see how the case for and against developed.  Opponents of the Article V effort maintain first that there is nothing wrong with our Constitution and that we just need to elect officials who respect and abide by the Constitution.  Secondly, the event could become a runaway Convention and rewrite the whole Constitution to erase our fundamental rights.

I have considered these points very seriously, and have concluded that doing nothing is more dangerous to the republic than signing on to the list of states calling for a convention.  Electing the right people didn’t work when we have had Republican control of Congress and the White House as recently as President Trump’s first two years.  We also found that the power and reach of the federal government grew as mandates and shutdowns were ordered by Washington in a questionable response to the Chinese Covid Crisis.  I am also satisfied that the Convention cannot ratify, only propose, amendments.  It would take only thirteen state legislatures to stop any amendment’s adoption if it fell outside the subject of the resolution.

The issue seems simpler for those on the political left for this issue.  They are solidly against it.  In fact, a coalition of over 200 liberal organizations have banded together to fight the Article V effort.  A powerful and growing federal government helps them achieve their goals.  This alone should indicate the value of a convention discussion.

I’ve made no secret of my belief that the federal level of government is a lost cause regardless of who’s in control.  This is why I am so dedicated to strengthening Iowa and ensuring our rights are protected.  Congress cannot rein in its own lust for power, the well-funded interests have more influence over decisions than voters, and huge departments write overreaching rules that somehow have the power to control and punish far beyond the law they are to administer.  This can’t be fixed from Washington, D.C.  I am convinced Article V was given to us by our Founding Fathers for a time such as this.

Thank you for the chance to lead on this issue.  If you need to reach me, please email jason.schultz@legis.iowa.com

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, January 21, 2022

Week 2 of the Iowa Legislature sees subcommittee work on proposed legislation hitting full stride.  This first step of a bill’s life usually consists of a three-person subcommittee, two of the majority party and one of the minority party, hearing a description of the bill and then taking input from the public.  Anyone can attend a subcommittee and should be given the opportunity to speak.  Lobbyists, the general public, and other legislators can offer input at this level.  In the Senate, subcommittees are on live camera if you follow the links on the Legislature’s website.

A project I have been working on for years has moved forward.  I have made welfare reform a focus of my years in office.  Over the last several years I have aimed to find a way to ensure a recipient in Iowa is who they say they are, have no hidden assets, and aren’t enrolled in another state’s welfare program.  The hardworking Iowans who pay for welfare benefits deserve this.

The bill I have passed out of the Senate for years has died at the steps of the Iowa House.  For reasons I could not guess, there was no interest in using technology to verify the identity and status of over 600,000 Iowans who receive any form of public assistance.  The best estimate is that modern technology in the private sector could legitimize 85% of applicants, leaving only 15% for state employees to investigate with closer scrutiny.  This would increase the integrity of our programs many-fold.  At the end of the last session, I had to pleasure of receiving the governor’s support after being briefed on the bill.  The House was a tougher nut to crack.

Late last week I received the news that the House Human Services Committee released a series of bills to consider that was my bill, divided by section, into eight separate bills.  This isn’t completely unheard of.  Sometimes breaking down a bill makes it easier to consider each part, especially when it wasn’t your chamber’s idea in the first place.  I welcome this development.  I can’t imagine what part of the bill won’t pass the House’s test of what is good for Iowa.  Our local representatives support the idea.

If the House gives this a fair hearing, we should be seeing our welfare verification system becoming much more efficient by next July.  I’ve estimated savings that could rise to as much $40 million per year.

Thank you for the chance to lead on this issue.  If you need to reach me, please email jason.schultz@legis.iowa.com

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Thursday, January 13, 2022

The governor’s annual Condition of the State address is scheduled each year on the second day of session.  Governor Kim Reynolds delivered her vision for Iowa Tuesday night.  It was the best speech I’ve heard while in office, and bodes well for how effective our session will be.

One of the great highlights was the annual tradition of highlighting success stories from the previous year.  We stand and recognize the people who are doing great work.  This year the governor highlighted successes that were all located right here in western Iowa.  The Muller family’s Grace on Main in Elk Horn was recognized for moving here and taking a chance on Iowa as they opened a restaurant days before the Covid response shut them down.  Local residents rallied to support them by buying pizzas through the window, keeping their new business open.

Woodbine’s new CREW center was highlighted in the speech, as this incredible blend of education, fitness center, and social center has proven rural Iowa can develop their own innovative projects that meet and exceed the needs of local students and citizens.  I had the pleasure of visiting with Woodbine Superintendent Justin Wagner and several of the students whose lives have been changed for the better by the new style of hands-on learning the non-traditional instructors provide.  Three of those instructors attended as well.

And the third introduction from the podium was for Jacky Ochoa, a mother of four daughters who attend St. Rose of Lima Catholic school in Denison.  She had written a letter to the editor to an Iowa newspaper. She caught the governor’s attention for her eloquent defense of school choice, and the programs that help low- and middle-income parents access the right education for their children.  Representatives Windschitl, Holt, and I couldn’t have been more proud to be in the chamber to hear this well-deserved recognition.

Governor Reynolds then outlined a very aggressive tax reduction plan.  She outlined the increasing revenues in Iowa as so many states struggle.  She outlined a multi-year plan to move to a low flat-tax, and elimination of taxes on retirement income.  Wednesday we received her budget proposal and are learning more details.  Over the next couple months we will be working to align our numbers with hers.  The Senate will start this process with a budget that controls spending and cuts more taxes.  It is a pleasure to work in a Capitol where the discussion centers around the question, “Which taxes do we cut, and how much?”  Iowa couldn’t be in a better place or headed in a better direction.

Getting people back to work is a second issue of focus for the governor (and legislators).  Reforming the unemployment system to make it more of a RE-employment system was the second major policy portion of the speech.  Governor Reynolds outlined a bold and correct vision that encourages people to waste no time to re-enter the workforce and better their lives.  I led the applause as she delivered the best line of the night, “There is dignity in work; it gives us meaning and purpose. So when it’s degraded, when idleness is rewarded with enhanced unemployment and stimulus checks, when work begins to seem optional rather than fundamental, then society begins to decay.”

Way to go, governor. As I walked out of the House chamber back to the Senate, I considered how grateful I am that you have given me the opportunity to be here to represent you and work with this team.  You can contact me at Jason.schultz@legis.iowa.gov or call 515-281-3371.

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The 2022 session of the Iowa Legislature began on January 10.  I’d like to describe what we find as we arrive and what we will be doing.  It is the second session of the two-year General Assembly.  50 Senators and 100 Representatives will work from now until mid-April to move legislation, work with the governor and her departments, and communicate with constituents back home.  All of this with the goal of making Iowa a better place to live, work, and raise a family.

Since 2017 the Senate and House chambers have been held by Republican majorities.  Our governor, Kim Reynolds, is also a Republican.  This unity of similar thoughts, goals, and approaches to problems has served Iowa very well.  Our state has gone from a very dim financial picture to one of the best in the country.  By deregulating and lowering taxes multiple times, economic activity is up and the standard of living of Iowans is rising.  We have more jobs available than we can fill, and wages are up.  It is a great time to be an Iowan.

Your Iowa legislators have always been citizen-legislators.  This means we are not full-time elected officials and have jobs and careers back home to maintain.  While we are in session, the weekly calendar takes this into account.  The Monday daily session begins at 1:00 p.m. so that legislators are not forced to leave their families on Sunday night, and we finish our weekly business on Thursday afternoon.  This gives us Fridays to visit businesses, schools, or constituents on a weekday during the legislative season.  Legislative forums or coffees are usually scheduled on Fridays and Saturdays so we can explain what we are doing and answer questions.  This system seems to work quite well.  Much better than the states with full-time, year-round legislators who become detached from their districts and voters.

The major issues we will see this year are continued efforts to get government out of the way of Iowans bettering their lives.  Because we have held to very conservative budgeting principles, the private sector has grown faster than the government.  This leads to tax revenues growing faster than the Iowa budget.  We now have a billion dollars in the emergency funds, a billion dollars in the Taxpayer Relief Fund, and a projected billion-dollar surplus coming in this next year.  We will be cutting taxes again this year.

I said earlier that Iowa has more jobs open than job seekers.  One major effort this year will be to find and eliminate any government incentives for those who can work to stay home and not work.  This includes making sure anyone who is on a welfare program is truly eligible, and supporting programs to encourage even those recipients into the workforce with training and coaching.

The Covid government response over the last two years has divided America, including our Iowa.  We will be watching the various federal courts to see if they uphold the founding constitutional ideals that made our country great, or if we have to step in to protect Iowans from mandated overreach.  Part of this process will be to try to distill the truth about vaccines, early treatment, and natural immunity from the social media-driven anger.  I will have more detailed newsletters on each of these issues as they develop.

I am thankful for the opportunity to serve as your senator and hope to see you as I travel the district.  If you have questions or comments, please email jason.schultz@legis.iowa.gov or call 515-281-3371.

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, May 21, 2021

As America’s mainstream culture continues to devolve from a Christian values based-representative republic to a mob-rule, squeaky-wheel type democracy, the issues get more and more extreme.  Unheard-of-before issues supported by very few rise to the surface, while the vast majority of citizens are shouted down or embarrassed to even talk about them.

The latest push to change our culture involves allowing boys who pretend to be girls to participate in girls’ sports.

Unheard of just a year ago, this practice has become the latest push to destabilize and divide America and marginalize those who speak out against the entire Marxist movement.  Until recently, everyone understood that for reasons of safety, competition, and camaraderie, young women and men have formed separate teams and leagues.  This was based on both common sense and biological science.  The left now demands we abandon both.

We now have young men who want to be women participating in women’s sports.  This predictably leads to tournaments, games, and performance records being won by an individual who is biologically different than their competitors.  Girls and women who have trained and practiced all of their lives are losing scholarships, memories, and rewarding life lessons due to political correctness and cowardice of the adults who should be protecting them.

The science is simple on this issue.  Testosterone is the growth hormone that increases the size and strength of bone and muscle mass.  It also increases competitive drive and aggression.  This is an undisputed truth.  Imagine if a girl who knows she is a girl would choose to undergo testosterone hormone therapy.  It would be considered an illegal performance-enhancing drug.  But if a boy chooses to play on a female sports team we are now expected to overlook the testosterone advantage he enjoys.

It would seem if this issue has any positives, it is that boys in girls’ sports has revealed more of the hierarchy of liberal victim rankings. It is now clear that women who know they are women rank below individuals suffering from gender dysphoria.  Just as Asian-American citizens are ranked below African-American college applicants based on quotas limiting Asian-Americans and reserving spots for African-Americans.  The left doesn’t want equality, it wants control for its own benefit.

A possible solution has been offered next door in Nebraska.  If a young man wants to participate in female sports, he must first undergo a year of hormone therapy to lower the natural testosterone in male bodies.  They would also be required to use private bathrooms and locker rooms or those that match how they were born.  I don’t think it is healthy, but it is their choice at some point.  I also question if it is possible to truly level the athletic playing field using hormone therapy.

In order to protect women and their sports, in order to stand up to the leftist, Marxist movement to change America, and to stop giving incentives to the destructive changes boys and girls are doing to themselves, we must take a stand.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, May 7, 2021

The regular 110-day long session has ended, but the Iowa Legislature is still working to complete a budget and tax plan.  In order to complete a budget, we need a reliable prediction of revenues.  The Senate is prioritizing broad-based tax cuts as a plan to lower the burden of state government on Iowans, spur economic growth, and continue Iowa’s streak at the top of every state ranking for fiscal discipline.

Central to this effort is removing the last triggers that hold back the final rate reductions of the 2018 tax cuts.  The Senate Republicans believed then, as we do now, that tax cuts spur the economy and you always end up with increased economic activity and the increased tax revenue to go with it.  Delaying tax cuts as were required by the House in 2018 limited the effectiveness of the bill, left Iowa without some of the expected additional investment and employment that would have happened.  The triggers were based on economic growth and only one trigger was estimated to barely missed this year.  The Senate would prefer to not wait until next year to see this happen.  The House did not address it during the first 110 days but has introduced legislation this week to remove the triggers.

Another major move being considered by the Senate is to remove the mental health property tax levy from county taxpayers and replace that funding with state General Fund dollars collected from sales and income taxes.  Mental health services are not property services and Iowa is the only state in the country to pay for mental health services with property taxes.  It is more appropriate for sales and income taxpayers to cover the expenses for mental health.  This will be funded by phasing out the property tax backfill over 5 years for larger, quickly growing counties and 8 years for smaller, rural counties.  Together, these two changes will provide a more common-sense flow of tax collection to tax users.  This bill also makes it easier for Iowans to track where their money goes.

A third big difference is a three-year repeal of Iowa’s inheritance tax.  Only six states still use the old death tax.  The Senate proposal is to lower the rate over three years starting at January 1, 2021, and fully repeal the tax in 2024.  The House proposed a 10-year phase-out.

As part of the Ways and Means Committee, I will be involved in moving this tax package through subcommittee and committee.  I thank you all for the opportunity to serve Senate District 9 and be in a place where I can lower the tax burden on hard-working Iowans. I am optimistic we can find common ground to ease that burden.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, April 23, 2021

The 2021 session of the Iowa Legislature has entered the final stage.  Both chambers are working on budget bills and sending them to the other chamber for consideration.  This process can take as little as a few days when agreements are found early.  Other years see the negotiations drag on into May.

Although budget bills are usually long lists of numbers going to different programs, sometimes policy that affects budget issues can be built into the bill.  I’m happy to report my annual welfare reform bill, the electronic eligibility verification bill will have much of its language included in the Senate Human Services budget bill.  This is language I sponsor each year to have Iowa’s Dept. of Human Services hire a real-time data collection agency examine our welfare recipient list.  This technology is being used successfully in several other departments and can help us in this matter as well.

I started working on this bill to introduce technology and increase efficiency of state government years ago.  This effort was redoubled the next year when the USDA fined Iowa DHS almost two million dollars because our error rate was almost double the national average.  While doing research, I found a legislative analysis documenting the causes of the errors by the DHS as failure to verify required information and incorrect and inconsistent application of policies.

To add to this, professional fraudsters have begun taking advantage of federal and state Covid changes making it easier to apply online for various benefits.  Various state departments around the country are seeing unemployment claims and welfare benefit claims filed by computers automatically without a state resident actually filing for help.  Other states are reacting by using the same technology for which I have been advocating for four years.

Kansas was slammed by automated unemployment claims to the point they had to shut down their system and install electronic verification.  The Kansas Dept. of Labor revealed after reopening the system, there were over 400,000 claims waiting.  Less than 20,000 were valid claims.  Ohio saved over $300,000 in monthly unemployment payments to fraudulent accounts.  I believe this technology can lower Iowa’s SNAP error rate from the 6th highest overpayment rate in the country to a position lower than average.

The Dept. of Human Services has resisted this change since the beginning.  But they aren’t alone.  For the last three years the House has refused to consider this language as a stand-alone bill.  Our local representatives had nothing to do with this and I expect they support the policy.  But this year the governor’s staff reached out to learn more about the proposal and Governor Reynolds liked it.  This crucial support helped revive the language and I hope to see this adopted by the end of the session.

The only outside opposition I’m hearing is from progressive activists who either knowingly or unknowingly lie that a private sector company will be able to kick recipients off the program, or fake news in the cities who knowingly or unknowingly repeat the falsehood on radio, print, or tv.  Then again, to many progressives, the truth does not matter.  Whatever lies it takes to advance their Marxist policies are justified in their minds.

This policy does not place a private company over our Dept. of Human Services.  We are telling Iowa DHS to use proven technology and lower the error rate.  Iowa Workforce Development already uses vendors to provide this service.  So does the Iowa Dept. of Transportation.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your state senator.  If you would like to email me, please use Jason.schultz@legis.iowa.gov.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, April 2, 2021

Each year one of the most common complaints I receive is from constituents who believe someone is receiving welfare benefits who shouldn’t be getting them.  I haven’t heard many say the program should be ended, but everyone says the program should accurately identify those who are eligible.

For the fourth year in a row, I have filed my welfare eligibility verification bill.  This bill didn’t move far the first year.  I learned a lot about the programs and the solutions that were available to fix them.  I have now run the bill successfully out of the Senate for the second year in a row. Senate File 389 is a bill that first sets up an asset test for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – also known as food stamps.  Currently, our state is using what is known as ‘Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility’ to make it easier to get onto SNAP.  Thirty-nine states and Washington D.C. use this system.  It is used by states to allow people who have too many assets or make too much money to get onto SNAP because they qualify for another program with higher limits.  This artificially balloons the roles of eligible Americans on food stamps by an estimated five million people.  I can’t find an estimate for Iowa alone.  SF 389 would move Iowa back to the federal income limits for this program.

Additionally, SF 389 directs the Iowa Department of Human Services to begin to develop a real-time eligibility program to verify the eligibility of those seeking assistance or annual renewals of program eligibility for all welfare programs.  Real-time verification checks are a commonly used technology used in our state government by Iowa Workforce Development in unemployment claims and by the Dept. of Transportation to hire seasonal help.  It is commonly used in the private sector for digital cash transactions and credit cards.

Used for Iowa assistance programs, real-time verification would eliminate fraud by confirming the previous asset test for SNAP.  This system will lock in the identity of the applicant. It would verify state residence so people couldn’t claim assistance in two states at once.  It would confirm employment status.  Many other criteria can be verified in seconds.  This is currently being done manually by income maintenance workers with DHS over the year.

Better yet, this type of system will help the applicant.  To prove their status, they have to bring paper documents to DHS and have them checked.  A real-time system would have the ability to check the status of an applicant almost instantly and relieve the Iowan from having to bring documents each year to prove themselves.  Once implemented, the real-time vendor could run a large list of program recipients under annual review and return a report to DHS listing those who had red flags pop up and need manual verification.  The gain in efficiency is enormous.

Estimates of cost savings are hard to come by, as some money is federal and some state.  Also, historical data on fraud and duplication is also rare.  Very few states have really dug down to see how much waste there is in our assistance programs.  But our Legislative Services Agency has offered a guess.  The first year of start-up costs add up to over $5 million, mostly federal dollars. But once the system is in place, the estimated savings are over $47 million federal dollars and over $11 million in state tax dollars.

The House hasn’t shown any interest in taking up SF 389.  I started working on this bill four years ago, just before Iowa received a nearly $2 million fine for our high error rate in SNAP payments.  You would think that fine would make this bill an easy victory for Iowa taxpayers.  So far the Iowa House of Representatives isn’t sold.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, March 26, 2021

The year 2020 will be remembered by most of us for the rest of our lives.  A questionable presidential campaign and election season gave many doubts about our national electoral process.  Covid-19 escaped Wuhan, China and spread around the globe.  The national debt skyrocketed in response to the pandemic, which continues climbing to this day.

But the most disturbing memories for me were the months and months of riots and conflict in several of our large cities across the nation.  Even Iowa experienced the pain of seeing riots at the Capitol and in other areas of Des Moines.  The only thing standing between the rioters and major property damage to malls, houses, and our state Capitol was a thin blue line of law enforcement officers.

City police, sheriff’s deputies, and state troopers all took part in stopping those who went beyond protesting and began threatening property damage, theft, and violence in each of these events.  It was again made clear to me that the men and women who serve in our law enforcement agencies deserve the best legal support we can give them.

This session the Iowa Senate passed bills to support those who are put in dangerous situations, often without warning, and who must make split-second decisions that may be reviewed for years.  SF 479 would deny state funding to cities that defund their police. This bill provides justifications for one-time expenditures, decreases in population, or other possible routine reductions in a law enforcement budget. Left-leaning, progressive cities have learned the hard way that trading cops for counselors in violent situations only leads to more violent crime.

Another bill, SF 476 codified a concept known as qualified immunity. This concept, initially established by the US Supreme Court, gives law enforcement officers certain legal protections as they work in completely uncontrolled and frequently dangerous environments. It does not give them total immunity to act with disregard for the law or behave in a punitive manner.

Finally, SF 534 addressed the violent riots in Iowa last year and in several other parts of the country. This bill covers a number of problems uncovered in last year’s riots. One specific issue this bill addressed was criminalizing the act of purposefully shining a laser pointer into the eyes of law enforcement officers, potentially seriously damaging their eyesight. This bill does not impede anyone’s First Amendment right to protest, but it does protect innocent Iowans whose lives, homes, or businesses are threatened or destroyed by rioters.

Supporting our law enforcement is crucial to keeping our communities safe and ensuring they can do their jobs to the best of their ability. These bills protect Iowans exercising their First Amendment right to protest, Iowa law enforcement officers doing jobs, and the community from property destruction.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Thursday, March 18, 2021

One of the most important priorities I deal with as chair of the Senate Commerce Committee is to provide a level playing field in Iowa and then get out of the way of competitors.  This philosophy is never so clear as to when I review the situation between Iowa banks and credit unions.  These two entities compete for Iowans’ deposits, loans, and financial service needs.  I just said they compete, but they aren’t supposed to compete.  They are different entities intended to serve different populations.

We all understand our banks are for-profit corporations.  They may be privately owned or publicly traded with stockholders.  We all know they offer interest rates for savings to attract dollars, then loan those dollars at a higher interest rate for profit.  They provide various financial services and, along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., let you sleep at night not wondering if your money will be burned up or stolen.  Banks pay income tax on that profit just like Iowans and other private businesses.

Credit unions are a not-for-profit entity.  They were originally created long ago and chartered to serve a very specific, under-served population who couldn’t get service from a normal bank.  It may be an employee group or a specific geographical area.  Credit unions offered basic financial services similar to banks, such as savings and checking accounts and personal loans.  Because they were chartered to go and serve where banks wouldn’t go, they were given income-tax-free status, with the intent that profits were returned to credit union members through higher savings interest or lower loan rates.  This worked for a long time.

Decades later, it has become clear that credit unions are no longer bound to serve a certain population or geographic area.  They have broken out of their original charters and continually file to expand their reach and allowed services.  The problem is that they are still not taxed on their profit.  This tax inequity is going to tip the board more and more toward the credit unions over time.  In the last few years, the Iowa Senate passed a bill to tax banks and credit unions equally.  The House wouldn’t take it up.

This year I filed a bill to ban credit unions from purchasing banks.  It is currently illegal to sell a bank unless the action is approved by the Iowa Banking Superintendent.  Last year Green State Credit Union purchased First American Bank with its seven branches.  The banking superintendent was not notified and the transaction kept secret until it was too late to stop the sale and customers would have been hurt by reversing the sale.

Here’s the problem and why the credit unions have the advantage: When credit unions look to purchase a bank, they are using untaxed profits to buy the bank and, after acquiring the bank, will not pay taxes on the new profits.  This makes their return on investment artificially high.  When a bank looks to buy a competing bank, it must use after-tax profits.  They start with a 20-40% handicap.  Then, if they are successful, they must pay that same income tax on the new profits from the newly purchased business.  Their return on investment is naturally lower than a credit union’s, meaning they will not be able to compete over the long run.

I have no problem with credit unions doing what they were designed to do.  But among the largest several credit unions in Iowa, that is no longer the case.  Level the playing field and get out of the way: that’s what Senate File 530, a bill I filed this year, is designed to do.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Thursday, March 11, 2021

For almost 50 years the US Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade has divided this country over the issue of abortion.  Questions and debate rage over abortion, but the decision itself creates its own questions.  The issue of abortion goes back beyond the founding of America.  But for the first time abortion was found to be included in the U.S. Constitution despite not being mentioned even once.  This is part of why the division is so deep.

In 2018 the Iowa Supreme Court issued a similar but even more far-reaching decision.  In an opinion that could not point to one reference to abortion in the Iowa Constitution, the majority opinion discovered a new right that implies any late-term abortion or even taxpayer funding of abortion could be read into Iowa’s founding document.

Recently I chaired Senate Joint Resolution 2 in subcommittee and in the full State Government Committee.  This proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution reads as such: “Protection of life. To defend the dignity of all human life, and to protect mothers and unborn children from efforts to expand abortion even to the day of birth, we the people of the State of Iowa declare that this Constitution shall not be construed to recognize, grant, or secure a right to abortion or to require the public funding of abortion.”

The majority decision was made to look even more hollow and fabricated when it was pointed out that members of our first legislature who helped write and sign the Iowa Constitution filed pro-life bills restricting abortion just two years later.

It must be pointed out that we have a far different makeup of our Iowa Supreme Court these days.  Through multiple retirements and an unfortunate passing, we now have a court of justices who were selected for their commitment to uphold the Constitution as written and to recognize the intent of the writers as best they can.  I thank Governor Reynolds for appointing originalist justices to our state Supreme Court.

I have often referred to this proposed amendment as the amendment that doesn’t change anything.  By that, I point out that the Iowa Constitution doesn’t take a position on abortion as written in 1857, and by adopting this amendment it still won’t.  With the amendment, activist justices in the future will not be able to create new ideas in a document that is 164 years old.  The issue of abortion will reside with the people of Iowa, and their legislature.

Some may be disappointed, but the amendment language does not ban, limit, or restrict abortion in any way.  It only establishes what Iowa has known since 1857.  That the word or intent of abortion is not in our state constitution.  If SJR 2 passes both chambers, it will have to be passed in the next Legislature after the 2022 elections.  If it passes both chambers again, it will be ready for Iowans to decide on the 2024 General Election ballot.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, March 5, 2021

Among the priorities of the 2021 legislative session is addressing broadband internet quality across Iowa.  It was really driven home during the last year of working from home, online learning, quarantining at home, and a general increase in technology use that internet has become a necessary infrastructure issue, not a luxury.  To complicate the issue, Iowa ranges from growing metropolitan centers to rural gravel roads with homes sometimes a mile apart.

First, it should be noted that many areas have faster, better internet services than we think.  I have had to ask the family to stop using our home Wi-Fi when I would attend an online video/audio meeting.  My video feed would almost make it, but the screen would freeze for seconds at a time, and once in a while the program would lock up completely.  Recently, I learned I was subscribed to an old internet plan, my Windstream service had already been updated years earlier, and all I had to do was subscribe to the modern plan, which doesn’t cost much more.  It pays to check for updates from your other monthly providers such as phone service, satellite radio or satellite TV.  Service packages change as technology gets better, often to the customers’ benefit.  We really need to know how good of internet we have before we look for other answers.  For those across Iowa who use Windstream, the number to see if they can upgrade their service is 800-345-3874.

But that won’t help if you live in a place where the equipment, fiber optic cable, or wireless tower don’t serve your area.  In those cases, the governor has made it a priority to work to get every Iowan connected.  She has introduced a bill to create a three-tiered program to help internet providers reach Iowans with low or no internet service.  The most assistance goes to providers installing internet infrastructure in the least served areas and lower amounts to those who already serve areas with decent internet.  One of her points is to make sure the rural/urban divide does not grow.

I believe the states who first get statewide reliable internet capable of high volume use will benefit economically.  Our own businesses and residents will be set to compete globally from their own hometowns.  I am especially thinking of keeping our best and brightest here in Iowa after college or when they start a family.  Businesses from out of state may see our pro-business climate an improving tax code but may need better broadband service to justify moving to Iowa.  The need for better and faster broadband coverage will only grow.

It has been a pleasure working with the governor’s staff and House members on the same project.  We will be working through the session on this and other bills to update Iowa’s technology in order to compete and win in a digital world that will only get more digital.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, January 19, 2021

Each year the funding of our K-12 education system is one of the first large appropriations of the session.  We do this so that local school boards and administrators can start their own budgeting process.  This year the normally complex funding formula gets outright complicated.  Education leaders in the Senate, House and the governor’s office worked their way through the process.  They found a way to fund education, protect the taxpayer, and make sure promised funding will be delivered.

The Covid-19 virus, now with Great Britain, South African, and Brazilian variants, caused disruptions in school operations that saved dollars in some areas and cost tax dollars in other areas.  From a statewide perspective, Iowa schools had net savings from school closures in the spring. In addition, federal dollars to help schools handle the Covid situation were received.  In this environment, schools are asking for a 4% increase in funding.

It has been agreed between the Senate and the House to increase funding in a targeted way.

  • Sets FY 22 SSA at 2.4% and the assumed additional $15 million AEA reduction done in standings for an increase of $15.7 million
  • Provides an additional $10 per pupil equity to continue working towards district cost per pupil and state cost per pupil equity for an increase of $5.8 million
  • Provides the additional money to buy everyone down to the statewide average on transportation which is estimated to be $767,847
  • Provides one-time additional funding of $60 per pupil for districts offering qualified instruction in the 2020-2021 school year for an increase of $27.2 million
  • Total increase of $49.4 million

One large difficulty is the fluctuation of student attendance this year. Data from the Iowa Department of Education shows that Iowa’s enrollment declined by nearly 6,000 students for the 2020-2021 school year compared to the year prior. This situation can be handled, and due to careful budgeting practices, Iowa is in a very good position to be flexible in dealing with the unpredictable number of students.  If they return to the classroom next year, Iowa taxpayers could be on the hook for over $100 million in new spending even if we set SSA at 0%. If this happens, we will almost certainly overspend and we do not want to be caught by surprise.

As you can see, Covid-19 has created an unpredictable and variable environment in school funding.  Our best course of action is to continue responsible budgeting so we can react in a strong manner when surprises pop up.  Iowa, from Governor Reynolds on down, has handled Covid better on balance than almost every other state.  We will come out of this stronger than the states who over-reacted and threw money at the uncertainties of Covid.

 

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Friday, January 12, 2021

The legislative season is through our second week.  One strategy to handle a large number of bills is to move the easiest first.  This week we moved Senate Joint Resolution 1 out of subcommittee.  This is a proposed amendment to the Iowa Constitution.  It reads:

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.”

Iowa is one of only six states to not have recognized protection of the right to keep and bear arms in its constitution.  This fixes the oversight as well as modernizes the language from that used in the Constitution of the United States.  Somehow, over the years many court decisions have ignored the “shall not be infringed” language of the original 2nd Amendment.  The proposed Iowa amendment declares that attempts to regulate guns be reviewed under strict scrutiny.  This is the highest standard of judicial review, and is how 1st amendment cases are reviewed.  I believe your right to keep and bear arms is equal to your right to free speech, assembly and religion.  In fact, the 2nd amendment guards the 1st amendment.  All rights should be considered under the same standard.

The subcommittee was predictable in that of the three-person subcommittee, the two Republicans supported the measure. The lone Democrat declined to sign the report approving passage.  Those who testified and opposed passage presented similar arguments.  The common reason to oppose SJR 1 was that it would make it harder to pass gun control measures in the future. I agreed with them on this point – the whole reason to approve the amendment was to make it harder to ban guns and impose draconian regulations on gun owners.

The important point to remember about our US and Iowa constitutions is that they bind government and protect the rights of citizens.  The new presidential administration has made it clear that it intends to severely limit if not destroy our right to keep and bear arms.  If there is a successful effort to ignore or remove the 2nd Amendment, the states will be the final rampart of freedom.  We will need these protections in Iowa to protect us from the runaway federal government.  If we someday lose Republican control in Des Moines, the Iowa Constitution can guard against future governors and legislatures.  This effort will be joined by a bill I am working on to not allow state dollars to be used to assist in the enforcement of future federal gun control laws or executive orders.  The goal is to have laws consistent with the Constitution, all working in conjunction to protect our rights.

Thank you for giving me this opportunity to serve as your senator.  If you have comments or question, email jason.schultz@legis.iowa.gov.

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Monday, January 11 was the first day of Iowa’s legislative session. This session is scheduled to last 110 days which leads to the final day being April 30. Due to Covid, this session will be like no other. In order to meet constitutional requirements and pass a budget, we must gavel in the second Monday of January.

Several changes in how we do business have been made. The Capitol is open to the public. There is no mask mandate but masks and face shields are suggested. There are masks and face shields available to those who wish to wear them. You are encouraged to bring your own. The first day of session saw most people wearing masks, many without, and only a couple of face shields. The public will have their temperatures checked at the security screening points.

Guided tours of the Capitol are canceled Monday through Thursday while we are working. Friday and Saturday will offer a limited tour.  We will not be able to take constituents up into the main dome this session. Finally, rooms in the Capitol will not be available for public groups to reserve for events such as legislative receptions or lunches. This was a disappointment for me, as I schedule and facilitate the weekly legislative Bible study on Thursday mornings. For this session, I will gather with interested senators to continue the forty-year tradition to study the Word and pray for our state.

In the chamber, we will see the media move off the floor and up into a reserved section of the gallery overlooking us. Subcommittees are going to be the largest change. We will have subcommittees by video conferencing. Our young pages are being trained to operate the audio and video equipment to provide a more stable and prepared experience and to save time. This will be a good experience for our high school pages and will make them more a part of the daily workings of the Senate. I welcome that. Legislators and staff may be in the same room or separate rooms based on distancing considerations or preference.

Full committee meetings will happen in the Senate chamber to provide enough room, with senators sitting and speaking from their desks. In both committee meetings and full senate debate, senators must be physically present in order to vote. We are not doing virtual voting or debate.

This session will be a challenge for many, but I am confident the Iowa Senate with a Republican majority will deal with the challenges and finish with a conservative budget and policies that will make Iowa stronger going through the pandemic and for years after.

If you need to contact me, email jason.schultz@legis.iowa.gov or call the switchboard at 515-281-3371.

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