A Better Path Forward for Iowa
“Just because the tide is against you doesn’t mean you can’t swim.”
Since the legislative session began last month, it feels like we’ve been playing a lot of defense, pushing back against bills that go too far, too fast, and too often leave behind the Iowans we were elected to serve.
Those are the bill that have made headlines so far this year, and Senate Democrats have stood together to resist them.
But that’s not all we’ve done up here. We’re also introducing our own legislation, offering a better path forward for Iowa. This week, we wanted to share the good bills that Democrats are coming together to co-sponsor this year. The following list isn’t comprehensive, but it gives a good sense of the positive change that is possible for our state.
- Senate File 95: Paid Family Leave. How can we make Iowa a friendlier state for workers and families? Paid family leave would be a great first step! Our bill provides up to 12 weeks of paid time off to care for a new child or to help a family member in need.
- Senate File 56: Maternal Medicaid Expansion. Every parent and every newborn Iowan deserves high-quality care and a healthy start to life. This bill ensures they get it. SF 56 expands the state’s Medicaid healthcare program to cover prenatal care, labor and delivery, postpartum visits and postpartum supplies.
- Senate File 62: Childcare Assistance. Childcare is hard to find and hard to afford for too many Iowa families. That holds back moms and dads – and our economy. Our bill increases access to the state’s existing childcare assistance program so more working families can afford care for kids.
- Senate File 310: Fully Funding Preschool. Right now, the state funds preschool programs in our school districts at just 50 percent of actual enrollment – limiting access for kids across Iowa. Our bill boosts state funding to 100 percent of enrollment so that every family who wants high-quality preschool can access it in their community.
- Senate File 303: School Breakfast and Lunch Expansion. Kids can’t learn when they’re hungry – and way too many Iowa kids come to school hungry. This bill requires schools to provide breakfast and lunch at no cost to students, and provides state funding to cover the cost.
- Senate File 82: Strengthening the Veterans Trust Fund. This bill increases annual funding for the Veterans Trust Fund to $1 million to ensure Iowa keeps its promises to those who served. The trust fund provides critical support for veterans, including emergency medical care and equipment, home and vehicle repairs, and counseling.
- Senate File 235: $15 Minimum Wage. Just what it sounds like: raises Iowa’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, and includes automatic inflation adjustment so that when prices go up, wages go up, too. Iowa’s minimum wage is currently stuck at $7.25 hasn’t changed in 15 years.
- More limits on justice. The Senate’s Republican majority passed a bill this week once again putting a government-mandated price on human life and limiting justice for injured Iowans. This time, it’s Senate File 228, which caps damage awards for victims in trucking accidents. The bill caps noneconomic damages at $2 million, putting a price on human life and taking away the power of juries to decide appropriate awards in cases where Iowans were hurt or killed by negligent truckers. Earlier this session, Republicans passed a similar bill limiting awards in medical malpractice cases. Democrats believe these cases should be decided by local juries, without mandates from politicians in Des Moines.
- Recovering overtime pay for Iowa workers. In 2017, Republicans cut overtime pay for 2,800 state workers. SF 282, cosponsored by several Senate Democrats, would revoke those changes and ensure that sick or vacation days count toward overtime calculation. This legislation not only protects workers, but helps Iowa’s ability to recruit and retain quality employees.
- Free tax preparation. The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services is offering free tax preparation assistance for Iowans with low-to-moderate income, the elderly, and Iowans with disabilities. Find locations and times for tax prep assistance at: https://theiowacenter.org/services/tax-services/ or http://irs.treasury.gov/freetaxprep/
- Reforming the salary boards. Have you heard of county compensation boards – the committees of county residents that recommend salary ranges for county elected officials? The Senate has now introduced not one, not two, but three different plans to reform county compensation boards. If you have any suggestions for how these boards might be improved, we’d love to pass them along to our Republican colleagues.
- Relief for victims of stalking. The Senate is working on a bill to allow victims of abuse or stalking to break their lease without penalty. It’s unthinkable that someone might be forced to live at the very place they were targeted simply because they couldn’t afford to lose a security deposit. We’re hopeful this bill moves swiftly through.
- Nominations, please. The Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame honors milestone makers in areas of arts, science, sports, and public service. To nominate someone for the 2023 Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame, send nominations to email@example.com by April 1, 2023. For more information and to find the nomination form, visit the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame.