Grow Cedar Valley First Funnel Legislative Update

posted on Wednesday, March 10, 2021 in Government Affairs

When the 2021 Legislative Session started, we believed that there would be a tight focus on passing a budget and minimal activity beyond that. Well, that was wrong. There have been over 1900 bills introduced already in this session. While over half of them did not make it past the funnel, there are still a record number of bills that are eligible for further consideration. That includes several that match up with our Grow Cedar Valley legislative priorities.

One bill that piqued our interest is a proposal to make daylight saving time the official time for Iowa all year long. Check out the 1-minute video update from our Director of Government Affairs, Steve Firman.

We are seeing movement on two particular priority areas: workforce and infrastructure. Under workforce, the House has taken a strong lead on promoting childcare initiatives. This is important as childcare accessibility and affordability can be a roadblock for some people keeping them from entering the workforce. Most of the bills filed provide grants, tax credits, and incentives to increase childcare providers and encourage businesses to offer childcare options.

The House passed the following childcare bills:

  •  HF 230 – Increases the income threshold for a Child Care Tax Credit from $45,000 to $90,000.
  •  HF 370 – Creates an incentive for employers to provide child care for their employees by providing a tax credit up to $150,000.
  •  HF 260 – Allows individuals providing child care in their homes to take care of 6 or fewer children, an increase from 5 or fewer.
  •  HF 292 – Raises Iowa's child care rates to the 50th percentile according to the Market Rate Survey.
  •  HF 302– Creates an "off-ramp" from Child Care Assistance program so parents can continue to grow in their career without losing their child care assistance entirely, all at once.
  •  HF 301 – Creates a fund to provide child care workforce grants on a dollar for dollar matching basis from communities. These programs will help move child care providers up the pay scale and the education pathway.

The Senate will primarily be following the House’s lead on this issue.

The Governor’s housing omnibus bill to address housing needs across the state; SF 295 and HF582 will increase workforce housing tax credits, establish a housing tax credit program, expand redevelopment tax credits, create disaster recovery housing assistance, support main street revitalization efforts, and support the state housing trust fund.  These initiatives will spur the construction of affordable workforce housing, a critical need in the state, especially in rural and exurban areas.

Considering infrastructure, one of Governor Reynold's priorities for the 2021 session is expanding broadband to meet the needs of Iowans with a commitment of $450 million of investment over three years to establish a grant program to incentivize broadband development across the state. HSB 133 and SF 390 both survived the first funnel and are eligible for floor debate. Currently, interested parties are discussing the funding levels and necessary speeds related to the bill's proposed grants.

Another annual priority for Grow Cedar Valley is to provide support for the University of Northern Iowa. This year a tenure elimination bill, HF 496, that target the Regents universities has been debated and survived the funnel. Grow Cedar Valley is registered against this bill because we recognize that elimination of tenure would make it almost impossible for UNI and the two others to retain or recruit the top-notch faculty that makes our three institutions so well regarded nationwide.  In the end, we believe this becomes an economic development issue for the Cedar Valley as well.  We hope it will not make it to or through the second funnel.

One final bill caught our interest.

It a hands-free driving bill that would outlaw the use of a handheld electronic device (phone) while driving. This type of legislation has been introduced many times before and not passed, but this year, it issue seems to have gained stronger support and could well become law. 

As always, if you have any questions or would like more information on these or any other issues, do not hesitate to contact us, our visit our government affairs page to learn more about our priorities and legislative agenda.