From the Desk of Senator Bennett
Greetings from the Capitol!
We had another busy week here in Des Moines, and you can read all about it below. Many of you have contacted me about SF 83, which many are calling the “Don’t Say Trans” bill.
This bill would ban teachers from discussing gender identity in grades K-8. During the subcommittee, we heard from concerned parents, teachers, students, and clergy who believe that this legislation will erase trans and non-binary kids, further marginalize them, and limit teachers’ ability to address bullying.
Understanding School Funding
This week in the Capitol, much of the discussion centered on public school funding for the upcoming academic year, with Senate Republicans advancing a bill to increase funding by $107 million, or 3% more than the current year.
Senate Democrats have a different approach. We fought for an increase of $267 million – the same amount Republicans are handing out in corporate tax cuts and private school vouchers this year. Our budget reflects our values, and Senate Democrats believe our kids and local communities are worth at least as much as giveaways to big corporations and exclusive private schools.
Increasing funding by $267 million would send an important message about our priorities, while also ensuring our public schools have the resources they need to meet rising costs, hire more teachers, and expand mental health services for kids.
3% or 6%. $107 million or $267 million. By themselves, these numbers sound very large and even more abstract. What’s important to remember is that this is real money provided to every school district in every corner of our state to ensure every kid has an equal opportunity at a great life.
Here are a few facts and figures to help put it into perspective:
- State funding for schools is distributed on a per-pupil basis, meaning the amount schools get depends on their enrollment.
- In the current year, state funding for each public-school student is $7,413. The Democratic proposal would increase that amount by $445 to $7,858 per student, helping schools offset rising costs and needs.
- School funding is one of the largest and most important items in the state budget – last year it accounted for 42 percent of the state general fund. Our kids are worth it!
The choices we make here in the Capitol really matter to students and teachers today and the future of our state tomorrow. Senate Democrats will always stand up for kids, families, classrooms and communities.
- Fighting for justice in medical malpractice. The legislature considered capping jury awards for patients injured by negligent medical care this week, in a debate pitting the interests of victims against the interests of insurance companies. Dr. Joy Trueblood, a doctor and herself a defendant in a medical malpractice suit, summed up the situation in remarks to lawmakers: the only winners from these caps are insurance companies. We have not yet debated this bill on the Senate floor, but we expect to soon.
- Cracking down on stalking. After a rash of alleged stalkers using GPS devices to track victims, the Senate is considering legislation to enhance penalties and close loopholes that allow stalkers back on the streets. I sat on the subcommittee for that legislation, SSB 1070, and supported its passage in committee. It is now eligible for debate on the Senate Floor.
- Data Privacy: Protecting yourself online is important and the focus of SSB 1071 – a bill that enhances consumer data protection now under consideration in the Senate. Want to view or change the privacy settings on your tech? Use these direct links to update the settings on popular devices and online services.
- Adoptive parents’ rights. A Senate Committee advanced a bipartisan bill this week to protect the rights of adoptive parent employees. SF 3 ensures adoptive parents get the same rights and benefits from their employers as parents of biological children. Iowa Senate Democrats are ready to work with any and all willing allies on a pro-Iowa, pro-worker, pro-family agenda.
- Needed: Eagle eyes. Calling all wildlife watchers! The Iowa DNR is looking for volunteer bald eagle nest monitors, and will host a live online training workshop at 1 p.m. on Sunday Feb. 19th. Participants will learn about the program and how to monitor a nest in their area. Iowa has over 500 active bald eagle nests, and volunteer monitors collected data on roughly 290 in 2022. Interested in joining them? Visit the VWMP webpage or send an email to email@example.com.
- Defending access to abortion. President Biden recently released an executive memo to help protect access to abortion medication across the nation. In the memo, the president directs various federal agencies to monitor barriers to abortion medication and identify resources to overcome them, helping preserve choice and ensure safe access to legal medications.