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2017 Legislative Session Review

Des Moines News Iowa Legislative Review

May 5, 2017

On Saturday, April 22, 2017, the Iowa General Assembly adjourned for the year. From The Partnership’s perspective, workforce development, education, and economic development issues dominated our attention. Focusing on the Governor’s Future Ready Iowa initiative, The Partnership played a significant role in advancing multiple pieces of legislation aimed at achieving 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce having education or training beyond high school by 2025.

Workforce Development and Education

SF 274 encourages elementary, middle, and high schools to offer computer science courses. The Partnership strongly supported the bill and participated in a broad coalition of stakeholders to secure its passage. Recognizing that computer science is now a basic skillset in an innovation economy, SF 274 will provide a pathway for more Iowa children to learn and develop critical technology skills. From a business perspective, providing access to computer science courses at such an early age will provide students expanded pathways to technology and innovation based careers.

HF 473 increases the number of ways for Iowans to receive high school equivalency diplomas. Currently in Iowa, more than 200,000 adults do not have a high school diploma or an equivalency diploma. Achieving an equivalency diploma will provide individuals more opportunities for employment and financial self-sufficiency.

HF 231 clarifies Iowa code and makes it clear that money available for apprenticeship programs, created in 2014, are for Iowa residents only.

Economic Development

HF 652, an anti-tax credit bill, did not advance through the legislative process. The Partnership was a member of a broad coalition of business and entrepreneurial interests that campaigned against the bill. HF 652 would have greatly limited economic development tax credits that would have resulted in a denial of capital to small businesses and entrepreneurs. In addition, the bill would have eliminated the refundability for many Research Activities Credit recipients.

The Partnership believes that any reduction or limitation of Iowa’s highly successful economic development tax credit system must occur concurrently with comprehensive tax reform. In order to maintain competitiveness, Iowa policymakers need to act holistically with respect to the current tax system.

HF 607 supports Iowa’s growing brewing and distilling entrepreneurs by updating Iowa’s alcohol laws to allow, among other provisions, distillers to sell no more than two bottles of their product directly to the consumer. This is a common-sense approach and will support a growing and nationally recognized small business community in Iowa.

HF 295 unified minimum wages across the state. Prior to HF 295, cities and counties were permitted to set their own minimum wage above the state wage of $7.25 per hour. The Partnership supports a state instituted minimum wage as it creates an equal playing field with respect to Iowa’s workforce. Having a patchwork of minimum wages spread across differing municipalities and counties would have created an untenable wage system that would have overburdened small businesses and entrepreneurs.

Learn more about The Partnership’s economic development efforts.

Looking Ahead

It’s no secret the state budget presented a unique challenge to lawmakers in 2017. The state’s revenue estimating conference scaled back multiple revenue projections and the legislature instituted a deappropraitions bill in January that removed more than $117 million from the current budget year. Entities such as the Iowa Economic Development Authority, Iowa’s community colleges, and the state’s public universities experienced millions of dollars of cuts.

As a result of the budget situation, many initiatives the legislature had hoped to tackle in the wake of the November election were put on hold. Most significantly, comprehensive tax reform was not advanced. However, legislative leaders have already indicated that tax reform will be a leading priority for 2018 with the hope that the state’s budget situation will become more favorable.

The Partnership thanks the Governor and the Iowa General Assembly for coming together despite the bleak budget scenario to pass many initiatives that will make a difference in communities and businesses throughout the state. The Partnership appreciates the willingness of the Governor and the General Assembly to hear from our members as we work together to make Iowa better for all Iowans.

Learn more about The Partnership’s legislative efforts and The Partnership’s upcoming annual DMDC trip to promote its federal agenda. 

Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy is the Executive Director of the Iowa Business Council. In this role, he leads an organization comprised of 20 CEOs and top executives from some of the largest employers in Iowa. The Iowa Business Council serves as a catalyst to elevate Iowa’s long-term economic vitality through global thought leadership, research, and advocacy.