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ISSN 2834-183X (Print)

ISSN 2834-1864 (Online)

Sen. Jason Schultz


Sen. Jason Schultz

The Schultz Perspective by Senator Jason Schultz

March 1, 2024

HF 718 was the large property tax reform bill passed last year and put into law. Your legislature and governor recognized that Iowa has the 10th highest property tax burden in the United States, and you are demanding relief. As a result, we passed HF 718 to provide much needed property tax relief for all these Iowans. This bill passed the House and Senate 149 to 1 and was signed into law by the Governor.



There is no going back. Our property tax system is broken, and we have begun a multi-year process of rebuilding this broken system into something more affordable and more competitive. The bill was built to have a follow up ‘conversation’ via another bill in the coming years.

But, now I have a good news/bad news situation to share with you. The good news is that your local elected officials love you, especially county supervisors. They have learned what you need, attended meetings to learn of programs to solve your problems, and won’t turn down a good idea. The bad news is that they are willing to increase your taxes almost any amount so they don’t have to prioritize spending. They sincerely believe it is necessary. This is why Iowa is so far behind the national curve on property taxes.

HF 718 is a bill that only limits the rate of growth of tax revenues to a city, county, or other taxing authority. It doesn’t cut anything. It just tries to hold property tax growth closer to inflation or your ability to grow your own income.

I was made aware of the anger of western Iowa county supervisors, so I attended a regional supervisor meeting in Storm Lake in November. It was an eye opener for me. I listened to several supervisors plot ways to get around the law. One supervisor offered that maybe the law should be ignored (the representative of the Association of Counties pointed out that counties should always follow the law). I even heard one gentleman suggest that supervisors should follow the law to the letter and show citizens how bad of idea it was to limit how much they tax. I was amazed.

After 15 minutes, I finally asked if I could answer. After assuring them that I was not secretly recording the meeting, I wished that the 500,000 Iowans represented in the room could hear their elected officials plot and scheme to collect more of your tax dollars than the new law would allow. It was a tense conversation.

I pointed out a few times county elected officials took advantage of any opportunity to get more tax revenue. There was a calculation mistake a couple of years ago in Des Moines that led local officials to budget over $110 million extra statewide. When the error was caught, there was an outcry at the local level that they couldn’t be expected to cut the mistaken over-funding. Some counties raised their tax levy to keep the money.

A few years ago, the legislature followed Farm Bureau members’ advice and removed the mental health levy from the county taxes. This should have saved Iowans over $100 million in property taxes, but many counties raised other levies to keep revenues the same, absorbing the savings. These are among the reasons the state had to step in to protect the taxpayer.

The local resistance to limiting the growth of revenues is frustrating. The bill offers flexibility for local officials to continue providing essential services, while learning to find efficiencies and to prioritize spending year after year. The state legislature had to do this in 2017 when we gained the trifecta majority. Our first action was to cut $113 million from the current budget. The only other option was to raise taxes, and we were not going to even consider that as an option.

I believe we owe the effort to Iowans who work so hard every day to make ends meet. Our job is to keep the cost of government as low as possible, while providing the services needed. HF 718 puts local officials in a place where they can succeed if they use the flexibility in the bill to buy time to rebuild their budgets and priorities. Citizens can help. Let your local official know you need property taxes to grow as slowly as possible. Ask them to be tight with the budget and eliminate line items as they find unnecessary spending. Give them credit when they hold taxes down. If your state government is doing this, so can your local government.

February 23, 2024

Earlier this year I reported the current laws regulating the foreign ownership of agricultural land in Iowa. The information I offered came from the Iowa Department of Agriculture, who has been monitoring the situation. They also let me know about a bill the Governor’s office and Department of Agriculture worked on to update our regulations to address today’s needs.

On February 19, the Senate passed SF 2204 to further protect Iowa farmland. Senate File 2204 is aimed at foreign businesses, nonresident aliens, foreign governments or their agents who own Iowa farm land. These entities already must register with the Iowa Secretary of State. The bill requires that these foreign entities include all the following: their legal name, address, nationality, authority to purchase ag land, a statement of purpose for conducting business in the state, interest in owning the land, a listing of all land holdings across the United States totaling more than 250 acres by a parent corporation or a subsidiary when registering with the state.

Under the bill, if they do not register within 60 days of acquiring the land, the foreign entity would face a penalty of up to 25% of the value of the land. The bill also updates reporting requirements.

Currently, there is a once-a-year requirement to report to the Secretary of State to keep information up to date. SF 2204 removes this requirement and replaces it with a twice-a-year report to keep the registration current. Failure to file a report every six months will subject the foreign entity to a fine up to $10,000 per offense.

The bill directs the Secretary of State to compile an annual summary report of foreign agricultural landholding based on information provided in the registration and biennial reports. This summary report will be considered a confidential record and only the Governor, General Assembly, and Attorney General (for enforcement purposes) will have access.

Lastly, the bill grants the Attorney General the power to conduct inquiries and subpoena records when investigating violations of registration or biennial reporting requirements outlined in the bill. I know Attorney General Brenna Bird will aggressively enforce this bill after it passes the House and is signed by the Governor. Over the years, I have been told by constituents that there are parcels of land that are owned by subsidiaries of foreign corporations or governments. If you believe you have information that could lead to an investigation of Iowa’s ag land protection law, you can find contact information on the Attorney General’s website, Or you can write to the Attorney General and mail it to:

Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines IA 50319

Currently, the only time a foreign actor could own farmland is if:

  • Acquired before January 1, 1980
  • Acquired through a will, but must divest in 2 years after obtaining ownership
  • Acquired by law for debts, foreclosure, forfeiture of deed, or any other procedure for enforcement of lien or claim on land, but must divest in 2 years after obtaining ownership
  • Acquired for agricultural research purposes
  • Up to 320 acres may be acquired for immediate or pending use other than farming, but must be converted to other use in 5 years
  • Must register the land and file an annual report with the Secretary of State’s Office

The Governor’s bill does not change these criteria but puts teeth and more frequent reporting into Iowa’s law. I’m glad this is an issue that we could address this year and look forward to the first report sent to us from the Secretary of State.

February 21, 2024


There is a dangerous public issue growing in the United States that threatens to change the fabric of Iowa as we know and love it.

But first I must state for the record the necessary and honest disclaimer with which I believe almost all of the readers here will agree. America is a nation of immigrants. My great-great grandparents were legal immigrants. Likewise, so were the ancestors of almost everybody in western Iowa. I believe that if anybody from around the world wants to come to Iowa to better their lives, pay their own way, and enter legally with the same amount of scrutiny and data collection that the federal government has on me, they should be allowed. I do not oppose a controlled and regulated immigration system, nor do the people who speak with me about this issue.

The intentional collapse of our southern border by the Biden Administration is matched only by the intentional flooding of Europe by Middle Eastern and African migrants. Paris and other large metropolitan cities in Europe have large areas of lawlessness in which even law enforcement cannot enter.

Just as in Europe, where left-leaning national leaders dropped their defenses to the harm of their own citizens, our own President has answered the United Nations and World Economic Forum call to allow any number of people from any country of origin to enter our country anonymously. We know it is big business, as the illegal aliens are provided transportation, food, and water on their thousand-mile trek. There are even aliens captured crossing our southern border from Africa or Asia! They crossed the two largest oceans on the planet to enter this country as penniless migrants. Some very bad people are getting very rich off the human trafficking operations around the world.

Governor Reynolds has taken a bold stand on this issue. We need to recognize that Biden’s choice to open the border and his plan for America has very real impact in Iowa. Since the beginning of the Biden Administration, seven million illegal migrants, gang members, sex traffickers and their victims, drug cartel members, terrorists, and Chinese spies have entered the country. Two million migrants are waiting for immigration court with a two-year backlog. Two million pounds of drugs, including 30,000 pounds of fentanyl have been captured. 169 terrorists have been captured. The terrorist count must be a tiny percentage of those who entered the country, because that group would be actually trying to hide, not surrender at the border and proclaim refugee status.

The Iowa law enforcement experience is related, but smaller. Because of the actions of the global left, every state is now a border state. Iowa is particularly affected as we have I-29 and I-35 providing a nonstop route from the open border to our homes. In 2023 alone, the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Division of Narcotics Enforcement seized more than 83,000 fentanyl tablets, more than 1,000 pounds of meth, 800 pounds of marijuana, and 165 pounds of cocaine. Twenty-six of the narcotics cases investigated had a direct link to Mexican cartels.

The data within this report come from the governor’s office, and fully justify her bold actions. They also give us an insight into the service of our home-grown law enforcement and military members. Operation Lone Star included a deployment of Iowa military and law enforcement personnel. From August 2 – September 1, 2023, 109 Iowa soldiers were sent to support the State of Texas as Texas Gov. Abbott works to defend his citizens from the intentional failures of the federal government. Our Guard family and friends apprehended nearly 3,000 illegal migrants and turned back many more.

She also deployed Iowa law enforcement to Texas, including State Senator Dan Dawson. He is a detective in the Iowa Department of Public Safety. Firsthand accounts and pictures of the situation make me sick. Our Border Patrol within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are frustrated. They may be the only 3 letter agency in the federal government that hasn’t been weaponized against the American people by the past two Democrat presidents.

Remember, our US Constitution prohibits using the military for law enforcement, so these crime stats are attributed to law enforcement for processing, but it was a team effort in border defense for the benefit of Iowa. Here are the results:

  • 20 troopers, 2 pilots, and 9 special agents deployed Sept. 1 to Oct. 2, 2023
  • Nearly 500 illegal migrants turned over to border patrol
  • 42 vehicle pursuits and 35 bail-outs
  • 40 human smuggling cases
  • 11 drug trafficking cases
  • 14 narcotics arrests
  • 6 weapons arrests
  • 11 stolen vehicles recovered

I applaud Governor Kim Reynolds for taking part in defending our national border along with 24 other states who understand what is at stake for our citizens. This was a good use of one-time federal ARPA tax dollars. It used federal money to address the neglect of its constitutional duty. We all should thank our military and law enforcement friends who took time away from their jobs and families to do this important work.

February 9, 2024

For six years, your Iowa Legislature has struggled to address the issue of religious freedom versus the current cultural and technological revolution taking place in America, including Iowa. Everyone is familiar with the well-publicized events when a same-sex couple want to have a ceremony or hire a service in a practicing Christian establishment. But the infringement of religion can cover many other areas in our lives.

SF2095 is an effort to de-escalate these highly charged conflicts and tone down the rhetoric on both sides. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) goes back to 1993 when then President Clinton and a nearly unanimous Congress passed the first RFRA in response to the US Supreme Court weakening long-held religious freedom protections in “Employment Division v. Smith.”

This worked until 1997 when the US Supreme Court struck again in “City of Boerne v. Flores.” I don’t know what the US Supreme Court has against the 1st Amendment in our Bill of Rights, but I detect a pattern. They ruled the federal RFRA of 1993 applied only to federal law, and not state or local laws. The states weren’t having it and began passing RFRA protections of their own as issues arose in each jurisdiction. The first states were Connecticut and Rhode Island. The last two were Montana and South Dakota. In all, 23 states have added RFRA language to their state laws.

RFRA language doesn’t pick winners or losers. It only gives the citizen the opportunity to have their day in court. Once there, the state or local government must prove they have a compelling interest in abridging the rights of the citizens to achieve a goal. If a compelling interest is found, the government’s infringement must be the least restrictive possible.

My favorite example to illustrate the balancing test is the Amish buggy case in Pennsylvania. The local Amish refused to place the standard orange triangle on the back of their buggies on the highways. Their religious humility forbade flashy colors and even the triangle shape was offensive for religious reasons. The state made a successful case that traffic safety was a compelling reason to force the issue and having dark colored buggies traveling 5 mph on a public highway was unacceptable. The court agreed with the State but ordered a less aggressive alternative. An agreement was reached to hang lanterns on the wagons and use reflective duct tape (not orange) for visibility. Fortunately for the Amish community, Pennsylvania had just passed their RFRA the previous year.

This sounds like a legislative slam dunk. Bipartisan approval in Congress, red and blue state adoption of RFRAs, and a logical explanation in line with our Bill of Rights. But times have changed.  The radical left has taken over the Democrat Party of old. Radical sexual and gender groups have gone from a small voice on the left to the most powerful positions in our media, corporations, government, and entertainment. Despite this, those communities have held tightly to the message that they are victims, not cultural victors. And they have an interest in requiring everyone to recognize the new paradigm as an agreed-to conclusion. They have made opposition to RFRA a central point in their messaging. The modern Democrat officeholder won’t touch this issue even if they agree with President Clinton and Congressional Democrats from 1993.

Opponents are sending out mass digital messaging claiming RFRA allows people to choose which law to obey. This is false. The fact that the law was enforced in each case is why the citizen is in court to argue their religious freedom claim. Opponents claim the bill is a “license to discriminate.” This is also false. RFRA doesn’t mention any class or group of citizens. Everyone is treated equally, even if outcomes end up favoring one or the other. The worst accusations occurred in the subcommittee I chaired. It was alleged that husbands would be allowed to beat their wives and men could molest six-year-olds. I assured them that Iowa has a strong, compelling interest in not adopting the Koran due to the proposed RFRA.

Iowa has had to endure years of culture war noise. I’ve seen the pendulum of power swing from one end to the other. If anything, the discussion has only gotten louder. I think having a clear path to tell your story to a judge is the clearest way to balance the interests of those who make laws, enforce them, or live under them. I hope this starts to bring us to a place where we can live our lives as we see fit.

February 2, 2024

Foreign ownership of land in Iowa is a frequent question I receive while traveling the district and by email. Over the last couple of years, we have seen Chinese listening posts pop up on land purchased near American military bases in states such as North Dakota and Texas. Aside from military intelligence gathering, others are worried that China may be working to gain control over United States food production. The purchase of Smithfield Foods by a Chinese company set off many alarms in people’s minds.

In regard to farmland in Iowa, we have among the tightest controls in the country. I reached out to the Iowa Secretary of Agriculture’s office to find out where we stand. It was reassuring to hear that Secretary of Ag Mike Naig was fully on top of the issue. His office had already done a deep dive into the issue and was ready with the following information.

At least 22 states regulate foreign ownership of ag land, and Iowa is one of eight states that prohibit foreign ownership. Our state does not restrict foreign ownership of land other than agricultural land.  The other seven states that prohibit ownership are the farm states surrounding Iowa. Our prohibition was adopted in 1979. The law covers foreign businesses, foreign governments, and non-resident aliens (not to be confused with illegal aliens such as those flooding through our southern border due to President Biden’s invitation, non-resident aliens are legally in the country but are not citizens and have not been given permanent residency status).

There are some exceptions to the law to make the law work in the real world. If ag land is inherited, it must be sold within two years. Ag land can be held by foreigners as a security interest. If the land is gained by foreclosure or enforcement of a lien it again must be sold within two years. Ag land up to 320 acres can be purchased by a foreign interest if it is developed for something other than farming.  If it is not developed, it must be sold.

The exemption that concerns me is the last. Ag land may under Iowa law be acquired for research or experimental purposes up to one square mile, that is 640 acres. We all know communists are devious people. They are why the world can’t have nice things. This loophole may be attractive for the Chinese Communist Party and they control through force or intimidation or blackmail. Governor Reynolds has shown interest in this area and your legislature is hearing from citizens about their concerns. I’ll be working to move any legislation we can devise to tighten up our Ag Land statute.

While we are on the subject, let’s put the size of the issue in perspective. A quick search looks like there is about 1.3 billion acres of privately owned agricultural land. It looks like foreign actors of any kind own about 3% of that land, and Chinese interests own just under 400,000 acres. That comes to 1% of the 3% slice of foreign ownership. Of course, the number of acres doesn’t mean much if the purpose is military intelligence gathering or a base for operatives, which is certainly happening across the country.

In summary, Iowa has among the best protections in place regarding foreign ag land ownership, but that doesn’t mean we can’t update and strengthen our laws to keep them relevant to today’s world and challenges. Corporate farming and ownership of land is another important issue monitored by our Secretary of State. I have that information as well and hope to get a newsletter out to you on that subject soon.

Thank you for your support in allowing me to work on these issues for you. If you have a question or comment, please email



January 26, 2024

Guaranteeing fair and honest elections is a project on which your legislature should never stop working. Over the last several years, the Republican trifecta has placed into law many successful policies that have succeeded in giving us an election system that is recognized nationally. Probably the most important of which was to require an ID by each voter on election day. We have also made absentee voting more secure. We did this by prohibiting the practice of ballot harvesting by strangers. We also put strict restrictions on who can return your absentee ballot to help prevent losing your vote and stopping fraud. We prohibited election officials from shotgunning out ballots and applications to voters.

Each general assembly we review performance and look to tighten up inefficiencies and security risks. This year I’m looking to enact three new policies, along with some technical updates from the Secretary of State’s office.

First, I am seeking to have our statewide voter registration list checked, at least once between elections, by a real time identification technology company. These would be the same style of companies that handle identification security for our credit cards and debit cards. They are also the style of security companies I worked to have verify identification, assets, and addresses of Iowa’s welfare benefit recipients to ensure integrity in those programs. This project should be much easier. The goal is to send the statewide files to the company and receive back a report of those on the registration list who have evidence of change of address, or deceased, and other legal requirements to be registered to vote. This report can then be broken down by county and offered to county auditors to begin the process of confirming a legitimate registration. This process is already in place.

If this works well, I’d like to see a narrower project that would compare Election Day registrations against known addresses and identities to reveal whether there is fraud of any kind happening. I’ve always been worried about the rush of registrations on the day of elections.

Secondly, I would like to see an end to the ballot drop boxes that appeared due to the emergency rules during the Covid episode. We didn’t have drop boxes before 2020. It was an overreaction during Covid, and we certainly don’t need them now. There is no security benefit in having people drop their ballots into an unguarded box in front of the courthouse. We certainly don’t want to see a video of individuals dropping stacks of ballots into the box as happened in Philadelphia in 2020. It is also an unnecessary extra chore for auditors to check the box daily, even on the weekends and through holidays. If a voter would like to vote early, they can mail their absentee ballot, or go into the auditor’s office and vote in person early. I don’t think those policies are as secure as election day voting in person, but we will watch those for a while. The drop boxes aren’t needed anymore.

And the final provision for this report is the banning of ranked choice voting. Some campaign strategists have endorsed and promoted the strategy to game the election system by having voters rank their choices, in order of preference, as opposed to voting for a candidate. Then all candidates are ranked according to the preference points they receive. After running a voter’s ballot through a ranked choice system, that ballot could be cast for the candidate the voter ranked far below the candidate they meant to support. It could be a candidate who the voter actually opposes gaining office. But in ranked choice voting, the citizen lost control of that decision after casting their ballot. Ranked choice voting is un-American and has been a disaster in places where it has been tried.

As always, you have my gratitude for giving me the opportunity to work on a project like a fair and secure voting system. If you would like to send an email, send it to

Friday, January 19

The 2024 session of the Iowa Legislature began on January 8, and work began on various topics. The biggest topic making news was the Governor’s plan to reform our Area Education Agencies. It created an instant response as AEA employees and their families, teachers, and parents who have received services called and emailed their concerns about changes to the current AEA structure. The original plan is being modified to show consideration of what we heard. As the bill develops, I’d like to provide a bit of background on why AEAs are receiving high level oversight.

AEAs are large entities created fifty years ago to support our K-12 schools, focusing on a broad range of special education services. Programs you may be familiar with are speech, reading, hearing and vision, autism, physical therapy, and other services. These services help schools, especially rural schools, by providing trained employees so each school does not have to hire for services that do not justify a full-time employee. Private schools can also receive services. While funded by state, federal, and property taxes, AEAs are governed by local-to-the-district public boards.

AEAs are large organizations. There are nine AEAs across the state. Together, they employ 3,400 employees. AEAs receive their funding from the education state aid formula, federal government, and property tax levy. Their state money grows at the same rate as K-12 schools each year. Altogether, Iowa AEAs will receive about $526 million tax dollars. A person would think that is an incredible amount of financial resources for special education, but the financial reports reveal growing problems.

Only 40.8% of the over half billion tax dollars are going to Student Support Services. The other 59.2% goes to administration, maintenance, staff support services, fund balances, and financing. I know a case can be made that some of the line items in the 60% could be argued to be essential to providing the student services. But if the core mission is to provide special ed services, it seems proper that most of the money would go to serving the local student.

“Administration and Central Support Services” make up a whopping 13.5% of the $526,600,000. That is much higher than most programs are allowed in other areas. It comes out to $71,091,000 to administer and manage 3,400 employees. With that much money available, it shouldn’t surprise us that the average Chief Administrator makes over $300,000.  Something just isn’t right and needs to be addressed.

For all this money being spent annually, we should expect excellent results. But those numbers are troubling also. While we spend more on special education than the national average, we are seeing less than average results. Using National Assessment of Educational Progress data, the measured achievement gap between students with and without disabilities has been either getting larger or stayed the same over the last twenty years.

Additionally, the Federal Department of Education has identified Iowa as “Needs Assistance” in this area and will step in if we do nothing to improve performance. If we do not act, the Biden Administration may take over and tell us what to do. I don’t think any Iowan would want that to happen. Already, in-person monitoring of our special ed programs will begin this fall. I can only see this making the situation worse.

The achievement gap in 4th grade reading between students with and without disabilities was 46 points in 2003. It was 56 points in 2019. Math was better, with 4th grade gaps of 26 points in 2003 and 44 points in 2019. Overall, 4th grade reading scores are trending 10 points below the national average. We shouldn’t accept this as taxpayers. More importantly, our students and parents deserve better results.

While there is a bit of controversy about looking at AEAs, it shouldn’t have taken this long to match dollars and results. I’m glad the governor was bold enough to raise the topic. I’ve received many emails describing great outcomes from parents, and good reviews of the AEA employees who are working with the students. We know we are spending more than the national average on special education. Let’s see if we can re-focus and get better results.

1 Comment

  1. Leslie gleaves on February 18, 2024 at 10:41 am

    At the recent legislative breakfast you stated that the scores of non traditional students were based on other states averages ..but in this newsletter you stated comparison of traditional vs non traditional .Which was is it ? And can you provide sources for your data on salaries? The 3rd issue is the implementation of the issue .You first stated it wouldn’t be voted on this year and then you said it would be implemented..but it was up to the individual schools to take the services or use their own ..I guess it’s good that they recorded the meeting. Thanks

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