Capitol Update

April 20, 2023 | Week 15

Week Fifteen Update

Visiting Pekin Community Schools

I was honored to visit with the staff and students of Pekin this past week. The Pekin Community School District serves approximately 700 students between its two school buildings: Pekin Elementary and Pekin Junior-Senior High. The elementary school serves grades PreK through 6th, and the Junior-Senior High serves grades 7-12. I enjoyed visiting with faculty and students and learning about the issues that are important to them.

The teacher pictured here is Mr. Eidhal, the Junior/Senior High science teacher. He has been teaching at Pekin for over 50 years! The students also gave me a great tour of the building and grounds.

Pekin's leadership has created an excellent educational environment with wonderful school spirit and opportunities for students. I especially appreciated the schools' emphasis on the Pledge of Allegiance and American patriotism. Thank you, Pekin, for having me! Go Panthers!

It is my goal to visit all 11 schools in my House district before the next legislative session. I look forward to scheduling a time with each school to see how they operate and talk with the students and faculty.

Article V Convention of States


One hot topic in Iowa’s Legislature this week has been the Convention of States. This has been the focus of many conversations among legislators, staff, and lobbyists as we have weighed the pros and cons within the local and national political landscapes. 

What is an Article V Convention and how would it happen? 

A “Convention of States” refers to the measure in Article V (5) of the U.S. Constitution. This article provides two methods for amending (adding to, changing) the constitution of the United States: 

1) “Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments…"


2) “Congress, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a convention for proposing amendments.” 

This means that the U.S. Congress can propose a constitutional amendment by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, or a “Convention of States” can be called to propose amendments, after two-thirds of the state legislatures have voted to “apply” for the Convention. 

Article V also states that any amendments proposed must be ratified by three-fourths of the states in the union. 

What does Iowa’s resolution do?

HJR (House Joint Resolution) 7 and SJR (Senate Joint Resolution) 7 constitute Iowa’s application to the U.S. Congress, urging them to call an Article V Convention of States. It also outlines Iowa’s priorities for the Convention, which include: “impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit the power and and jurisdiction of the federal government, and limit the terms of office for federal officials and for members of Congress.” The idea is that these statements would determine what Iowa’s delegate to the proposed Convention would be able to propose or vote in favor of. 

What do supporters of the Convention say? 

Those in favor of calling an Article V Convention say that it is the only way to rein in the bureaucratic power of the federal government. “The truth is, the Washington establishment will never, ever limit its own power. We just can’t rely on the politicians who got us into this mess to get us out of it,” the Convention of States Action argues. Supporters say a Convention is the only way we will be able to impose any type of limits on the federal government, and that this power should be in the hands of the states. They say that an outside political force, in this case the Convention, must intervene to stop Congress from continuing to make poor decisions for our country. 

What do those who disagree with calling a Convention say? 

Opponents of the Convention have a number of concerns, mainly questions surrounding who would be elected to the Convention and what decisions could be made. These folks state that opening the Constitution to possible amendments is like opening Pandora’s box: where does it stop? They say the Convention would likely be a “runaway” and change much more than was ever intended or beneficial. Every state legislature, as well as the entire system of the federal government is built on the Constitution, and changing it would cause more harm than good, they say. 

We all agree, there’s a problem to be solved. 

Presently, 19 states have voted on and submitted an application to Congress for an Article V Convention, with almost identical wording to Iowa’s Resolution. 34 total states would need to apply to Congress for a Convention to be called. There’s no denying that there are huge problems with our federal government’s overreach and abuse of power, but is calling a Convention the way to solve them? The Iowa Legislature’s verdict on this issue remains to be seen.

My Story - COS at the Iowa State Fair:

With a corn dog in one hand and a bucket of gooey Barksdale State Fair cookies in the other, the seemingly simple question was posed to me as I strolled along the hundreds of booths in the Varied Industries Building relishing the cool air and filling my bag with free goodies from the vendor tables.

It was a simple question. One with a simple answer. So I thought.

“Do you think we need to reign in federal government?” “Well, yes, of course! Who wouldn’t say that?!” I exclaimed. The Iowa State Fair following a year of COVID lockdowns truly showcased an example of government overreach. “Sign this petition so that we can hold a convention of states and address the problem of the federal government,” said the kind lady. Wow, an opportunity to actually DO something about our government? You bet! I quickly penned my name to the petition and began to pepper the dedicated volunteer with some questions. I didn’t get very far into the questions before her looks over my shoulder told me that the purpose of the booth was to get signatures, not have a lengthy discussion with a fairgoer. Rejoining the streaming crowd flowing by, I moved on to the next booth to look for more free ink pens.

Such was my introduction to a Convention of States.

Historically, the 27 amendments to the Constitution, including the first ten that we call the Bill of Rights, were proposed and passed by Congress and then sent to the states for ratification. But never in our 200+ year American history since has a convention been used to propose amendments.

In my short state fair experience, the nice lady told me that a convention could be used to reign in a tyrannical government that has overstepped its limitations. Makes sense, upon first discovery, that is. If only it were that simple. After a little bit of research, it’s arguably apparent that the Framers of the Constitution created Article V not to be used to reign in an out-of-control government but rather, to correct defects or errors where the newly constructed Constitution had fallen short of protecting the God-given rights and individual liberty of the people. The Bill of Rights, for example, was a correction of a defect in the constitution. Do you see the difference?

The intent of an Article V Convention was never to use such a procedure as an attempt to reign in government due to a lack of adherence to the Constitution. It was to correct defects in the already established Constitution. An important distinction.

Not only have I found it paramount to clearly understand the original intent of an Article V convention, but also to examine if an Article V convention is a false solution that merely addresses symptoms rather than actual problems - much like a visit to the doctor. Hordes of medications have been prescribed to fix only symptoms resulting from deeper problems such as high stress levels, poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. If healthy living habits were followed through by patients, many of the symptoms being treated would merely disappear. In the case of our great Constitution, why propose new amendments to the Constitution (resulting in treatment of only symptoms) when we can’t seem to follow the one we have right now (akin to ignoring healthy living habits.)

There are three main “symptoms” if you will, that supporters of a Con Con (Constitutional Convention) want to solve through an Article V convention. The top priority for a convention has been stated for the express purpose of imposing fiscal restraints on the federal government. Secondly, a convention has been promoted as a means to limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government. Most certainly a worthy and notable cause but is this the only method to do so? Lastly, a convention is being demanded to institute term limits for Congress.

For the sake of brevity, I will not dive in to the other possible ways we could address these issues but I do hope that we are able to agree that there is more than one possible solution to the problems that a convention would attempt to address.

It has been said that opening up the constitution for amendments is like opening up a pandora’s box. Many questions swirl around who the delegates will be, how will they be chosen, who determines the agenda and much more.

This is by no means a comprehensive discussion of the complex aspects of a Convention of States, only a short expression of my own personal walk through it. If you would like more resources as you do your personal research on a Convention of States, please reach out to me!

Changes to Employment for Minors in Iowa?

Many discussions have taken place within the Republican caucus about updating Iowa's code to accommodate ways to allow minors between the ages of 14 and 18 to work in safe and productive environments. Several bills are working their way through the system regarding these changes but are in the process of being amended to be the best solution possible. Despite the misleading media messages claiming that changes will once again "allow children to work in coal mines," the bills by no means come even close to such things. We are continuing to consult with the Workforce Development and Iowa businesses to find a great balance that gives kids more opportunities for responsibility while continuing to ensure their safety on the job.

Legislative Decorum - Why Does It Matter?

In order to ensure order and efficiency, the state legislative bodies follow certain rules of decorum. Some are slightly different between the two chambers (House and Senate), but the concept remains the same throughout. Several factors contribute to the decorum of the legislative bodies: 

Dress and Conduct 

Professional dress is a requirement for all legislators and legislative staff while the Legislature is in session. The Senate requires all men entering the chamber, while the Senate is in session, to wear a coat and tie. In addition, access to the House and Senate chambers is restricted while each body is in session. Chamber access rules are established by the House or Senate Rules Committee, and there are doorkeepers posted to monitor who is entering the chambers. It is also expected that legislative members and staff act with dignity and respect toward all those in the chambers. 

Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure 

A set of rules outlined in Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure governs the general proceedings of the legislature. The Manual prescribes a method of order that ensures all those wishing to speak in a meeting of the legislature have an opportunity to do so, uninterrupted. It also ensures majority consent on all motions and records of votes in certain instances. The general term for this is legislative or parliamentary procedure. Legislative Procedure requires that members be recognized by the Presiding Officer in order to speak while the body is in session. When members speak, they must speak only on the legislation at hand and refrain from personal insults. If they wish to address the body on a different topic, they may request a Point of Personal Privilege and will be allowed to speak at the Presiding Officer’s discretion. 

Respect for Presiding Officer

The President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House are the presiding officers and call their respective chambers to order. They decide all questions of order and rule on all questions relating to procedure. While the chamber is in session, the Presiding Officer must be addressed as Mister/Madam Speaker or Mister/Madam President. Any member whom the Presiding Officer appoints may act as the Presiding Officer for any session. 

Why does it matter?

Legislative procedure is a longstanding tradition in state and national legislatures across the globe. While some methods differ, the idea behind it all is to make sure order remains and all sides of an issue can be heard. Organizing a meeting in this way shows respect to all members involved and maintains a level of decorum appropriate for the elected leaders of our state. 

Addressing Property Taxes- HF 718


In last week's newsletter, I covered the processes of property taxes and the state budget. This week in the House, we voted on a bill that seeks to improve the property tax situation for many Iowans. House File 718 (formerly HF 1) was one of the first bills introduced and has made its way through to a floor vote. This was one of the House Republicans' priorities for this legislative session.

Division I of the bill provides an immediate statewide property tax reduction of over $200 million dollars. Iowa Code section 257.3 requires each school district to levy (each year) a foundation property tax equal to $5.40 per $1,000 of assessed valuation on all taxable property in the school district. Division I reduces that requirement by $1.00 so schools will be required to levy a property tax of $4.40. The state would then pay for that reduction so that the schools do not have a change in expected revenue.

Division II of the bill puts a limitation on how much a property taxpayer’s bill can increase year over year. The division outlines a property tax increase limitation on a per parcel basis for qualified parcels. This is on the actual amount of property taxes paid (not the assessment). This division’s limitation does not limit taxes levied as a result of a voter-approved levy or a debt service levy.

This division provides that a qualified parcel (gets the growth limitation) is a parcel that is NOT:

· Currently part of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing)

· Wind energy conversion property

· Currently part of an abatement

Additionally, a parcel that has changed ownership since the last assessment will not get the growth limitation (will get a new base with a new owner). New construction will of course get a new base year at full value and full taxation.

If a parcel is a qualified parcel, for property taxes due and payable in fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2024—if the amount of property taxes due exceed 103% (Residential, Agricultural) or 108% (Commercial, Industrial) of the prior year, the amount due will be reduced as described below.

If the threshold is exceeded, the amount of property taxes due and payable to each taxing authority that certified to levy in excess of such amount shall be reduced. If the city only levied the same as the prior year, but the county levied 104% on a residential parcel, only the county would have to reduce the amount due. The amount of the reduction shall be proportionately applied among those certified to levy in excess of the limitation. The reductions shall be made by the county auditor prior to delivery of the tax list and statements.

If there were improvements or renovations (not amounting to new construction) on the parcel during that year, the threshold amount of taxes shall be up to 103% or 108% plus the percentage of the parcel’s taxable value attributable to the improvements.

Division III of House File 718 rounds out Iowa’s version of Truth in Taxation and works to get more information in the hands of property tax payers. With this information they will be more informed about how assessments and levies are working together in their area. This division also provides that if all of the information from all taxing jurisdictions is available in a timely manner—everything should be on one notice for the taxpayer.

Finally, Division IV of the bill simply states that all special elections by any political subdivision for bonds or other debt must be on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of each even-numbered year. (Bond/Debt elections will be on the same day as the General). Additionally, it provides that the commissioner of elections will send notice of a bond election to eligible voters 10 to 20 days before the election. The notice must contain the full text of the public measure to be voted on.

HF 718 has moved to the Senate and has been assigned a subcommittee. If it passes the subcommittee, it will then be at the discretion of the Senate leadership to be brought up for a committee vote and eventual Senate floor vote.

New Iowa Apprenticeship Program

A new bill to establish Iowa's Registered Apprenticeship Program is headed to the Governor's desk. Here is a summary of this bill and the program it establishes.

  • Establishes the Iowa Office of Apprenticeship within the Department of Workforce Development.

  • The duties of the office would have to do mostly with the voluntary registration of apprenticeships with the office.

  • Eligible apprenticeship programs must be established with an apprenticeship agreement between an apprentice and an apprenticeship sponsor and involve work in an apprenticeable profession, as those terms are defined in the bill, and must be registered with the federal Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship, or the Iowa Office of Apprenticeship.

  • To be eligible for registration with the Iowa Office of Apprenticeship, an apprenticeship program must include employer involvement, on-the-job training, related training instruction from a lead apprenticeship sponsor, paid work experience, and receipt of a portable state or nationally recognized credential; and must be in compliance with applicable federal regulations and rules of the office, among other requirements.

  • The bill also establishes the Iowa apprenticeship council as an advisory council within the department of workforce development. Members of the council are appointed by the governor for three-year terms and must be familiar with apprenticeable occupations.

  • The bill requires licensing authorities, as defined in the bill, to grant an occupational license to any applicant who has successfully completed an apprenticeship in compliance with program standards for apprenticeships as outlined in federal regulations, subject to a valid apprenticeship agreement, and under the supervision of an eligible employer; has received a passing score on any examination deemed to be necessary for licensing by a licensing authority; and is otherwise eligible to receive a license.

  • The bill prohibits licensing authorities from establishing examination requirements for applicants who complete a registered apprenticeship as provided in the bill that differ from other applicants.

  • A sponsor of a registered apprenticeship program under the bill is responsible for the administration and supervision of on-the-job training and related technical instruction for each apprentice in the apprenticeship program.

  • When training is provided by a lead apprenticeship sponsor or intermediary, the employer of the apprentice is responsible for the administration and supervision of on-the-job training, and the lead apprenticeship sponsor or intermediary is responsible for related technical instruction for each apprenticeship.

Sales Tax Exemption for County Fairs

This week, we also passed House File 681, a bill relating to county fairs.

Under current law, any good or service sold by a county fair is exempt from state sales tax. This bill adds the provision that any good or service being sold to a county fair is also exempt from state sales tax.

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