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 Statehouse News

 
This week was full of long nights and very extensive floor debates.  Some of them were good, some not so much.  Most of the bills we took up were strongly bipartisan and noncontroversial – that always feels good!  I mentioned last week that would provide an update on what got through the first funnel in this newsletter, so here are just a few of the highlights.   

I am pleased that the top priority of our school districts, extending the sunset date of SAVE, passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support.  House and Senate Democrats have been working for years to get our Republican colleagues to take up and pass this critical legislation. The penny sales tax has made it possible for districts to invest in critical infrastructure needs and bond against the fund.  I’m happy the extension of SAVE included additional property tax relief for homeowners and I hope the House’s effort to match what the Senate wants will be enough to get the Senate to finally vote to extend SAVE.  

Another bill I’m glad to see moving forward is the constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to felons who have served their time.  As a passionate advocate for voting rights, I am pleased that this bill, a priority of the Governor, passed the House Judiciary Committee with strong bipartisan support. I look forward to voting for it on the House floor.

HSB 206, the Governor’s children’s mental health bill, is also moving forward. I was pleased to vote for the bill in the Human Resources Committee as it is a positive step forward in establishing a structure for a children’s mental health system.  Unfortunately, the bill doesn’t really address prevention or our provider shortage, so I am hopeful we can work to strengthen the bill with amendments to address those needs.  Please note this is just a policy bill, so we also need to ensure funding is added through the appropriations process.   

On the other hand, I am deeply disappointed by that SJR 18, a constitutional amendment on firearms, has passed both chambers. It’s important to know that this bill is not the language of the 2nd Amendment in the US Constitution.  The legislation includes “strict scrutiny” language which goes well beyond that. Strict scrutiny would tie the hands of future General Assemblies as well as our independent judiciary regarding common sense safety laws like background checks and permits supported by the vast majority of Iowans.  I spoke in opposition to the bill because of the strict scrutiny language.  It was an emotional debate and it was hard to get through my remarks as I spoke about our country’s gun violence epidemic and what it feels like as a mother whose children need to do active shooter drills in their school.  I do however want you to know that I voted for an amendment, supported by all House Democrats, which would have put the language of the 2nd Amendment in the Iowa Constitution. I am disappointed that it was not approved.

Unfortunately, HF 503, a bill to change our merit-based judicial nominating process also continues to move forward. Iowa’s system is recognized nationwide for fairness and impartiality.  This bill is a solution in search of a problem and was not a part of anyone’s campaign platform.  Please contact your legislators and ask them to protect our independent judiciary.  

Beyond the funnel deadline bills, I am proud to cosponsor a new bill, HF 724, which would establish an agriculture climate adaptation advisory task force.  It’s our intention to reduce the impact of factors associated with climate change, such as the growing intensity of floods and droughts, on the ecosystems that support our agricultural productivity.  The task force would require stakeholders from across numerous sectors and interests and identify, evaluate, and make recommendations on available methods and technologies that could reduce the effects of climate change on agriculture. I think this is an important thing to do because our agricultural economy is critical to our future and we need to work together to combat the effects of climate change.  

Given that this week was full of long debates in the Chamber, it was hard to meet with as many visitors as I would like to! I’m sorry to those of you I missed!  As always, email me with questions or concerns.  

As a reminder, my weekly office hours are on Fridays at Main Street Café from 9-10:30am.  I also look forward to visit with you at my next listening post on Saturday, March 30 at 9:30am at Woodside Middle School in Saylor Township.   See you then!



Representative Matson speaks with Doug Romig from Polk County Conservation in the House Chamber on Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Water quality, as well as the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund were among the things they talked about.


Representative Matson and members of the International Relations Committee meet with Tapei Economic and Cultural Office (Chicago) Director-General Eric Jiun-yaw Huang and his two colleagues, David Dong and Kevin Chen on Tuesday, March 12, 2019. They spoke about the important relationship between Iowa and Taiwan, particularly as it relates to trade. Fun fact: Taiwan’s first directly elected president received a master’s degree is agricultural economics from Iowa State University!


Representative Matson meets with MS Society advocate, and Ankeny resident, Scott Nielson at the Capitol on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.  Scott was at the Capitol to discuss legislation about a grant program to help fund home modifications that would make it possible to stay in their homes rather than need to go into long term care facilities.  

News from the Statehouse


Improvements to School Infrastructure Passes House

The Iowa House passed a bill this week to extend funding for school infrastructure improvements for another 20 years.

A top priority of school leaders across Iowa for several years, the plan under consideration would extend the one cent local sales tax for school infrastructure (SAVE) through 2051 instead of expiring in 2031.

The bill will continue to provide funds for school infrastructure improvements, as well as allocating a portion of the funds for property tax relief between two different funds, one to school districts with low valuations and one for property tax relief to all school districts. A separate Career Academy competitive grant fund is established to help build job training facilities.

More transparency is provided in the plan by allowing voters to reapprove the district’s revenue purpose statement. If SAVE funds are going to be obligated for 20 year bonds, school boards must hold a public hearing and give citizens an opportunity to petition for a direct vote of the people.

House and Senate Democrats created the SAVE fund in 2008 and have been working for years to continue to program to ensure the safety of Iowa students by improving school infrastructures.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.


Working to Reduce Human Trafficking in Iowa

A bill passed out of the House could help reduce and better identify human trafficking in Iowa. The bill allows for better communication between many of the agencies that work to recognize victims of human trafficking. These agencies include the Department of Human Resources (DHS), law enforcement, victim services, juvenile probation, and county attorney offices.

Currently, information regarding a possible victim can only be shared in very narrow circumstances. This bill will widen these circumstances and allow for more sharing of information between the partners, and more effective collaboration. In many circumstances, the key to helping and identifying victims of human trafficking is inter-agency cooperation. House File 642 now goes to the Senate for consideration.

For more information regarding identifying and fighting human trafficking, please visit https://www.iowaattorneygeneral.gov/for-crime-victims/fighting-human-trafficking.


Read More News from the Statehouse


GOP Lawmakers Approve Bill to Eliminate Background Checks
Constitutional Amendment Restoring Felon Voting Rights Advances
State Pays Out Millions in Sexual Harassment Claims
Legislature Passes Agricultural Trespass Law
Urban Trout Stocking Schedule



Contact Representative Heather Matson

MatsonforIowa.com

Capitol
1009 Grand Ave
Iowa House of Representatives
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-3221
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1802 SW Prairie Trail Parkway
Ankeny, IA 50023
515-201-1877
 
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