Greetings from the Statehouse: Legislative session is entering the final stretch

By Michael Bergan, Iowa House District 55

Now that the second funnel has come and gone, the legislative session is entering the final stretch. This week was mainly spent passing simple bills that made their way through the funnel, except for HF 259 which expands eligibility of Veterans benefits, and the AEA bill that made its way over from the Senate. Outside of legislation, the Capitol, as usual, was filled with visitors. Some of the visitors I met with included Iowa PBS, middle school students from Fayette County, and members of the Iowa Pork Producers Association. 

Notable Legislation

HF 2649: This bill reinstates an exclusion of the net capital gain tax from the sale of certain livestock such as cattle and horses. It also excludes other breeding livestock that have been held by a taxpayer for a year, so long as they meet the requirement of having more than a half of their income come from farming or ranching operations. This will support our livestock producers here in Iowa. 

HF 259: This bill increases eligibility for Veterans benefits for those in Iowa who have served. It does this by changing the definition of “Veteran” to include, “residents who have a service-connected disability by the US VA and were honorably discharged”. Now more of those who have been disabled due to serving in the military will receive the help they need and deserve. 

HF 2612: This bill has been amended to address education issues and funding.  The bill addresses teacher salaries and compensation for paraprofessionals in education; establishes a 2.5 percent increase in state supplemental aid; and resets expectations in special education services to our students by AEAs and school districts. The several aspects of this legislation are listed below. 

This bill increases teacher salaries. 

This bill increases the minimum teacher pay to $47,500 in the first year and $50,000 in the second year. This will put Iowa’s minimum teacher salary at 5th highest in the nation. It also adds a second tier for minimum teacher pay. Teachers who have 12 years of experience can make no less than $60,000 in year one and $62,000 in year two. The addition of this second tier means a lot of new money particularly for rural schools. And finally, this bill allocates $22.3 million for the teacher salary supplemental pot of money for schools so they can increase Veteran teacher pay and to help with the pay compaction concerns we have heard from some school districts. This is money that will be built into the base going forward, meaning it will increase with SSA in subsequent years.  

This bill will incentivize retired teachers to help fill workforce gaps in schools.   

It contains a policy that allows retired teachers to return to the classroom without affecting their IPERS benefits. These teachers would be able to return to schools in a limited capacity after just one month of retirement. This will incentivize experienced teachers to return, perhaps as a substitute teacher, and alleviate some of the workforce struggles facing our schools.  

This bill raises pay for paraprofessionals. 

This allocates $14 million to increase pay for educational support staff. The Iowa House fought tooth and nail to have this proposal included in this legislation to raise the pay for our paraprofessionals who do such important, difficult work. 

This bill contains a lot of new money for schools.  

In this bill, we set the SSA percentage increase at 2.5 percent. The House originally passed 3 percent SSA and that’s certainly what we would’ve preferred to pass the Senate and be signed by the Governor. However, the silver lining is that with a 2.5 percent SSA increase, the little over $110 million increase to put toward salaries, and new funds we plan to allocate towards school safety, all that new money for schools equates to the equivalent of more than 5 percent SSA. 

This bill creates a task force to study the best way to improve special education. 

The task force will review the current AEA system and look for areas for improvement. They will look for ways to improve services, consolidate buildings, provide effective oversight, eliminate redundancies and ultimately better outcomes for students.  

In the House, we took a lot of feedback from Iowans in our crafting of this bill. We heard from parents, teachers, superintendents, the AEAs, the Department of Education and more. We have acted to provide certainty for our schools in their funding and services as they prepare for next year.

Guests at the Capitol

It was a very eventful week here at the Capitol. On Tuesday morning I attended a legislative breakfast held by Iowa PBS in recognition of the antique roadshow. Later that day I took three separate groups, mainly consisting of middle school students from North Fayette Valley, up to the top of the dome on an extended tour. It was wonderful to see so many young people experience the beauty of our state’s Capitol for the first time. Then later that night, I attended the 2024 Agricultural Leader’s Dinner where Mike and Rachel Gooder, owners of Plantpeddler from Cresco, won the award for leadership in agriculture education. Wednesday morning, I met with Kris Courtney and Carlton Bakken from the Iowa Pork Producers Association as they came to the Capitol for a breakfast hosted by the IPPA. Lastly, on Thursday afternoon, I took a group of homeschool students and their families from Fayette and Allamakee Counties on an extended dome tour.

Visiting the Capitol?

It is always an honor to meet with constituents. If you are visiting the Capitol, kindly notify me of your intent to visit at michael.bergan@legis.iowa.gov. This will greatly assist me in the scheduling process.

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