April 17, 2024

SORENSEN: 'Second funnel' has passed for state legislators

Rep. Ray "Bubba" Sorensen

The end of week 10 has passed and so has second funnel. A self-imposed deadline between the chambers to have bills out of committee to remain eligible for further consideration this session [Second Funnel survivors are listed below]. So far, House Republicans have passed roughly 175 bills and sent them to the Senate for consideration. In comparison, the Senate has passed around 60 bills for consideration in the House. That’s a large disparity. The simplest explanation is that House Republicans have a 64-member majority, and each one of those members have listened to their constituents and brought forth proposals based on that feedback. Hopefully they will act soon as we need to set SSA and our teacher pay raise so our schools can set their budgets.

I fought like crazy to help protect folks who’ve made reputable consumable hemp businesses in this state, based on laws passed by both feds and state, and although I stopped it from being completely wiped out, I lost the battle. I understand there’s a huge spectrum of thought on marijuana and hemp, everything from “Hemp is the Devil” to Cheech and Chong. From my perspective, our founding fathers made use of hemp in consumption and textiles, and with the proper regulation, could be another commodity to thrive in this successful agriculture state… again with the proper guardrails. Missouri, Illinois and now Minnesota have full recreational marijuana and Nebraska has decriminalized. My guess, it’s a matter of time before the feds completely overrule us and full-rec use will be the law of the land, no matter what we do.

We passed HF 2652 on school safety infrastructure, a part of our multi-pronged legislative approach to making our schools safer.  This bill requires schools to conduct a safety review of their ability to keep students and staff safe and share their review with law enforcement. It establishes a task force to put together a gold standard of school safety building codes, and importantly requires districts to focus on improvements to school safety before building or renovating athletic facilities. It also creates a pilot program for gun detection software that works with existing school cameras, and it directs Federal ARPA money to be used to ensure every school building has an emergency radio. We passed HF 2586 last week, which focused on having personnel able and ready to protect students in the event of an emergency. This bill allocates money for schools to provide stipends or cover the costs for staff members who go through the extensive training and receive the new permit to carry in schools if they choose. In Perry, law enforcement responded exactly how they were supposed to… and it still took 7 minutes to arrive. A lot can happen in 7 minutes. Our entire point in creating this permit program is to lower that response time to seconds.

This week we passed HF 2401 to protect our local pharmacies facing unfair practices from Pharmacy Benefit Managers, the middlemen known as PBMs.  A few years ago, we passed a bill that allowed the Iowa Insurance Division to regulate PBMs. Since they have received over 70,000 complaints about PBMs from Iowa pharmacies. We are seeing rural pharmacies close at an alarming rate. Without local pharmacies, Iowa families and older Iowans have a harder time accessing the care they deserve. HF 2401 will help Iowa pharmacies be reimbursed at a fair price for services they perform and drugs they administer.

This week, we passed HF 2547 in a bipartisan manner to ensure kids are in the classroom and ready to learn. To get kids in the classroom, this bill ensures every school district establishes a plan to address chronically absent students. It requires that schools send notice to parents when a child becomes chronically absent and creates a process for a school engagement meeting if a student is absent 15% of the time. In this meeting, an absenteeism prevention plan is agreed to. If a student and their parents fail to follow the protocols laid out, the school official may refer the situation to juvenile court or the county attorney for prosecution. To ensure kids in the classroom are ready to learn, this bill requires school districts to have a cell phone policy that restricts use of cell phones during classroom instruction. We have heard from so many teachers that cell phones are a huge distraction preventing kids from learning. It’s time for kids to put down their phones and schools must have and enforce this policy.

Right now, an adoption tax credit exists with a maximum amount of $5,000. Since that tax cut was created, the cost of adoption has skyrocketed, often totally more than $30,000. The heartbreaking reality is that the ridiculously high cost of adoption can prevent a child from a loving family who wants to give them a home. Iowa House Republicans want to ease that financial burden and support strong families. HF 2637 increases the adoption tax credit from $5,000 to $20,000. This legislation is needed to encourage more strong families and set kids born into tough situations up for a successful, happy life.

You can reach me at Ray.Sorensen@legis.iowa.gov. Thank you, counties of Adair, Madison, Dallas, Clarke, and Union, for allowing me to represent you at our Capitol.

Our liberties we prize and our rights we will maintain.