By Rep. Dustin Hite
A chilly morning did not stop us from wrapping up week five of session today. This week was particularly packed because next week in funnel week. Funnel week is the week before the deadline for House bills to be reported out of House committees. This means we have been busy sitting on subcommittee and full committee meetings to pass good legislation and ensure it survives the first funnel date. One bill I chaired the subcommittee meeting for this week was House File 2013. This was a bill I worked on with Mahaska County Treasurer Connie Van Polen. It addresses the design of county seals, and updates their rules to fit within how they’re currently used. It passed through our subcommittee and is now eligible to be considered by the full Local Government Committee.
This week also brought the passage of the House education funding bill. The Iowa House debated the annual increase in supplemental state aid to schools on Tuesday, along with increases for the school transportation equity funding and per pupil funding equity. Before the House were two bills which increased state funding to Iowa schools by $108 million in the 2020-2021 school year starting in August, raising state funding to schools to $3.386 billion.
The Fiscal Year 2021 increase of $108 million means that taxpayers have invested an additional $968.1 million into Iowa schools since the start of the 2011-2012 school year, which would be a 38.54 percent increase over this period. In addition to seeing increased dollar amounts, Iowa’s commitment to education remains steady when it comes to K-12’s share of the General Fund budget. In FY 2020, K-12’s share is 43 percent.
Then there is the state cost per pupil, the amount the state is committed to providing for each public school student. In Fiscal Year 2012, this amount was $5,883. Under the bills passed by House Republicans this week, that figure in Fiscal Year 2021 will be $7,062 per student. That is an increase of $1,179 over the past decade, a steady increase.
In addition to school funding, I would like to mention one creative way we are looking to improve rural internet access. One proposal House Republicans are considering to encourage internet access where it does not currently exist is to leverage the existing asset of the Iowa Communications Network (ICN).
The ICN was created decades ago. It is a state asset, costing over $400 million, that has deployed fiber communications all around the state. In many instances, ICN assets are in underserved areas of the state. Now, we are exploring opening up the ICN to providers as a middle mile wholesaler.
The ICN would not be a retail provider to homes and businesses. Instead, communication providers would only have access to the ICN for the purpose of providing broadband internet in underserved areas of the state, not duplicating internet access where it already is offered. Other providers would have an opportunity to verify that ICN access was being used to deploy broadband internet in underserved areas of the state.
There is no silver bullet solution for providing all Iowans with access to the internet. But, opening up the ICN is one possible tool that can be used to quickly provide internet access to underserved Iowans.
This week also brought many members from the district up to the Statehouse. Don DeKock, Dan Spotten, and Greg Ebling met with me this week. Additionally, Mahaska County Attorney Andrew Ritland and Marion County Attorney Ed Bull were in Des Moines. As always, if you are visiting Des Moines and would like to meet with me, please reach out to me at email@example.com. This weekend, I will be back in my office to file tax returns as the tax deadline is coming up.