Greetings from the Statehouse: Week 2

By Michael Bergan

Activity in the House has increased with committee and subcommittee meetings during our second week of session.

Activity in the House has increased with committee and subcommittee meetings during our second week of session. I chair the Administration and Regulations Appropriations Subcommittee in the House. We conducted our initial meeting reviewing the Governor’s budget proposal for our portion of the budget. Typically, the budget is compiled from 10 budget bills, nine are developed through the seven subcommittees and the standings bill. Over the next several weeks, the Admin and Regs committee will hear presentations from many of the 16 departments that come under the committee’s purview.
I have been assigned as chair of three subcommittees on bills in the Heath and Human Services committee. HSB10 would allow for a required physical examination for a child care provider to be done within 30 days of initial employment, in addition to within six months prior to employment. HSB 24 will allow Iowa to participate in an interstate compact with 30 other states for licensed psychologists. HSB 25 is an act relating to controlled substances, updating the Iowa code to align with federal regulations. Subcommittee meetings will be scheduled to receive input on the bills and will be debated in committee if passed by the subcommittee.
The first bill that has passed out of the Education Reform Committee is HSB 1, a bill that will establish an Education Savings Account program. HSB 1 has been renumbered as HF 68 and was eligible for floor debate on Jan. 23. As with any bill, I carefully review the bill and the impact it will have on Iowans and my district. I have received many emails from constituents expressing support and opposition to the bill. It is not uncommon for controversial bills to be amended to address shortcomings, or to improve legislation with other bills during the session.
Under HSB 1, the state will contribute $7,598 to an educational savings account for students attending accredited private schools. The Governor’s bill this session has some key differences from the proposal she introduced last session. This bill changes the way we count students and allocate money. Students who leave public school to attend private school with an ESA will still be counted in the public school’s total. $1,205 per student attending private school in the district would be allocated to the public school. 
Also new in this year’s proposal is increased flexibility for how school districts can spend their money. Right now, the state earmarks school districts’ budgets for specific programs and some of those dollars go unspent. The Governor’s proposal will allow school districts to use these unspent funds to meet other needs such as to increase teachers’ salaries.
At this point I have not committed to the bill. The bill shifts the focus of education funding from funding school districts to funding children attending accredited schools, public and private. With such a paradigm shift, it is important to anticipate consequences of the change. One area of concern that I am hoping to address is funding support for our AEA and public school districts in providing special education services to children enrolled in private schools.
Kindly notify me of your intended visit to assist in scheduling time to meet. I can be reached by email at