First legislative coffee held at Chamber offices
The Shelby County Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted its first legislative coffee of the season on Saturday.
Iowa Sen. Jason Schultz (R-Schleswig) and Iowa Rep. Steve Holt (R-Denison), answered questions from the audience and provided updates on the current legislative session.
“The legislative session started Jan. 9. Right now the headlines are already huge with school choice,” Schultz said. “Obviously that’s going to be a big conversation. We also have the governor’s alignment bill – the bill itself isn’t out there but I’m interested in hearing concerns you have. The legislature is going to do its due diligence on it. It’s our job in your name. I think it will be a good move for Iowa. We can talk about property tax. I support all of these issues.”
Schultz said regarding realignment that right now there are 37 cabinet directors.
“Some of them come and go. The governor needs to make the flow chart more streamlined and move from 37 to 16 department heads who are directly reportable to the governor,” he said. “You have to restructure government to match today.”
Property tax is an issue that Schultz said he’s always going to be willing to look at.
“Property tax streamlining transparency and trying to hold those increases down, given the cost of school choice and all the governor wants to do and not to mention the ending of emergency Medicaid federal dollars, it’s going to be hard to do a large property tax shift with the money we have available,” he said.
Schultz also said he filed a repeal of the Iowa Gender Balance law that was put in place in 1987 at the state level and 2010 at the local level.
Holt spoke about the details about the governor’s Students First Act, and much of the discussion throughout the event covered this topic.
“It is not a voucher program, it’s an educational savings account. These are in place in a number of other states,” Holt said. “If it passes, in 2023-24 a family can choose an accredited private school. If they do so, the $7,598 in school funding will follow the school to the institution of their choice.”
Holt said that money is never in the hands of the parents in a way that it could be abused.
“There’s a third-party vendor that the Board of Education would contract with. It would be in an account and it could be used for approved educational expenses such as tuition and books and others,” he said. “It would be available in year one to all K-12 students in public schools and students in private schools who are at or below 300% of the poverty level. For a family of four that’s about $83,000.”
Audience members addressed questions regarding the Students First Act, as well as the CO2 pipeline.
Steve Kenkel of the Board of Supervisors expressed appreciation of the support from Schultz and Holt regarding the pipeline.
“If the legislature does not address eminent domain, then the pipeline company receives their permit to proceed, please be responsible,” he said. “There's four other states involved in this project. Be respectful of the land owners that you address that no construction starts until all four other states have come on board. I would hate to see the land owners here get their land all tore up and then the project doesn't go through. This is the largest sequestering project in the world.”