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Legislative Wrap-Up of Partnership Policy Priorities

2021 Legislative Wrap-Up

May 25, 2021

Each year The Greater Des Moines Partnership elevates a handful of legislative priorities from the state policy agenda in which to focus advocacy and lobbying efforts. Based on the work of the Government Policy Council (GPC) and the feedback of Partnership Investors and Members, these top priorities are typically where the policy team focuses when the Iowa Legislature gavels in each January. From there, each issue and piece of legislation consists of a series of conversations and decisions to help us determine how we can best represent the needs of the Greater Des Moines (DSM) business community.

Thanks to the leadership of GPC — Chair Matthew Ahmann, assistant vice president of government relations at Principal Financial Group, Vice Chair Onnalee Kelley, director of government affairs at MidAmerican Energy Company and the many leaders who spent time developing the state policy agenda — The Partnership can point to both legislative successes in 2021 and opportunities to continue the conversation in 2022. All this work is supported by the team at Nyemaster Goode, P.C. who focus on the day-to-day at the Capitol.

Where Did We Start?

At the start of the 2021 Legislative Session, The Partnership outlined the following key priorities:

  • Broadband: The Partnership supports policies that aim to bridge the digital divide by expanding access to affordable broadband in both rural and urban areas of the state through private investment, supporting education, small business, health care, agriculture and the quickly changing workforce.
  • Invest in Iowa: The Partnership supports passage of the Invest in Iowa proposal, which would fund Iowa’s Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (IWILL) and provide needed support for the mental health system in Iowa.
  • Child Care: The Partnership supports expanded access to affordable child care and policies that aid in that effort, including addressing the child care “cliff effect” and programs that support public-private partnerships to provide options to Iowa parents and guardians.
  • Justice Reform: The Partnership supports the recommendations of the Governor’s FOCUS Committee on Criminal Justice Reform and further efforts to create an equitable environment for all Iowans.
  • Community Placemaking: The Partnership supports the creation of a large-scale investment program that aims to transform Iowa’s communities, main streets and local economies through creative placemaking and community development.

How Did It Go?

The Partnership can point to some clear wins when it comes to the 2021 Legislative Session.

Child Care

While there were a number of child care proposals to come before the Legislature, a few proposals made it successfully to the Governor’s desk and await a signature. House File 302 addresses the “child care cliff effect,” ensuring families do not have to make the choice between a raise at work or losing child care assistance. To learn more about the “cliff effect,” listen to the DSM USA Policy HQ podcast episode on child care here.

As part of Senate File 619, the tax package signed at the end of session, there were two programs expanded to support child care needs for Iowans. The legislation increased the income threshold from $45,000 to $90,000 net income for qualification of the Early Childhood Development Tax Credit. The legislation also permits a licensed child care facility to be considered when determining eligibility for a project through the High Quality Jobs Program.

Broadband

Signed by Governor Reynolds on April 28, House File 848 expanded the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Fund by creating tiers of speed levels and funding, prioritizing those needs throughout the state. House File 867 is the Administration and Regulation budget bill that appropriates $100 million to the Fund for FY 2021. Signed by the Governor, the Legislature agreed to three years of that funding level. The DSM USA Policy HQ podcast highlighted broadband earlier this year in an episode linked here.

Anything Else?

A number of other bills The Partnership’s team worked on and advocated for during the session were successfully passed. Those priorities include:

Housing: Also passed in the tax package, Senate File 619, were provisions to support housing needs in the State of Iowa. The bill provides an increase to the Workforce Housing Tax Incentives program from $25 million to $40 million for FY 2021-2022, to $35 million in FY 2022-2023 and subsequently to $30 million. The legislative package also increased the State Housing Trust Fund cap from $3 million to $7 million annually. Finally, the bill created a Disaster Recovery Housing Assistance program to be administered by the Iowa Finance Authority. Interested in learning more about housing needs in Iowa? The DSM USA Policy HQ podcast recently had a conversation on addressing those needs. Listen here.

Tax Changes: The Partnership followed and supported the removal of the tax growth triggers, originally laid out in the 2018 Individual and Corporate Income Tax bill, which were also addressed in Senate File 619. Additionally, the bill exempts state income tax on COVID-19 grants from various state agencies along with Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness.

Economic Development: In addition to avoiding any changes to Iowa tax increment finance laws this legislative session, there was an increase from $10 million to $15 million in the Brownfield-Grayfield Tax Credit Program in Senate File 619. The tax package is the creation of a Manufacturing 4.0 Technology Investment program, and will be administered by the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Another long-time priority of The Partnership has been to provide support for the Future Ready Iowa program. This year, the Legislature increased the appropriation to the Employer Innovation Fund from $1.2 million to $4.2 million in House File 871 with a portion of the increase being allocated to the Iowa Child Care Challenge Fund. Lastly, the Future Ready Iowa Last-Dollar Scholarship Program received $23 million, up from $13 million, in House File 868.

Mental Health: While the Invest in Iowa proposal was most known for the goal to fund Iowa’s Natural Resource and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund (IWILL), it had also included plans to transition mental health funding from counties to the state. Another element of Senate File 619 was to make that transition, phasing out the county mental health property tax levies over two years.

Is That It?

While plenty of other pieces of legislation made it through the legislative process this year, the conversation does not end here. The Policy team will continue discussions with legislators, the Governor’s Office and Partnership Investors and Members to determine priorities going into 2022. The Partnership knows it is important to support policies that keep Iowa’s reputation as a welcoming state, encourage growth and send the message that Iowa is open for business. We advocated this idea with our government partners throughout the session and will continue to do so as we work together toward a better future for all Iowans.

The Partnership's Public Policy team engages with local, state and federal officials to create public policy that generates economic growth, business prosperity and talent development in Greater Des Moines (DSM). The Partnership is a nonpartisan organization.

Andrea Woodard

Andrea Woodard is the senior vice president of government relations and public policy at the Greater Des Moines Partnership.