Another session has arrived! This is my first off-season experience since my election. Having the extra time off the offseason to meet with groups and get a feel for the needs of the district has been rewarding and beneficial.
Generally, election years are quieter on Capitol Hill. This year, I expect the environment to be somewhat different due to the various circumstances facing the state. We see great opportunities, but also challenges that lawmakers need to pay close attention to before we take the plunge. I think this session will be marked by three common themes: unemployment reform, tax reform and education.
Unemployment reform should be a bipartisan issue. When a person is driving in any part of Iowa, signage asking for help is handed out in large numbers. Businesses are forced to make tough choices because of this problem. We must do everything in our power to ensure that people who are available and able to work re-enter the labor market. I believe that one of the topics that we will focus on to help solve this problem will be to start by indexing the number of weeks in which one can claim unemployment benefits to the unemployment rate. We have a standard of 26 weeks for how long a person can claim benefits for decades. With an indexation system during a period of low unemployment and a high number of available jobs, the number of weeks that can be claimed for unemployment benefits would be more limited. An indexing system during periods of high unemployment and low job availability, the number of weeks would be extended. There have been other states that have experimented with a concept of indexation, and it has shown positive results. The money indexation saved in combination with getting people back to work put these states in a much stronger fiscal position.
Other labor force topics that will be discussed will include topics such as increasing job search requirements as well as eliminating non-competition clauses for low wages.
Tax reform will be at the forefront this year. We currently have over $ 1 billion in surplus. Most of us believe that the best way to invest this overpayment for government services is to reinvest that money back into the taxpayer in the form of tax relief. We have made significant progress in lowering the income tax rate as well as removing inheritance tax, for example, but we must continue to reduce income tax. In order to compete with states like South Dakota and Florida, this strategy must be in the foreground until income tax is gone!
Education will again be another hot topic. Regardless of the party, education is our state’s number one priority and the importance of education is reflected in our budget. Most people do not realize that the actual investment by taxpayers in education exceeds $ 15,000 per student. When we pulled the numbers together last year, the total spending per student was $ 15,574. The state’s share of this pie is approximately $ 7,300. The rest of the pie consists of federal and local dollars. More than half of our budget is invested in education. I am grateful that due to consistent and sound budgeting, the state has been able to provide consistent increases to this priority.
Due to the pandemic, more and more parents are finding other sources of education. Is the state’s most responsible response to invest dollars in these private environments as well? In my head, yes! I can’t make this statement any simpler than that: the greater the choice in education, the greater the responsibility in education, the easier it is to have these sensitive conversations. Hopefully the finance conversation will tie into the topic of choice as well. If these two parts of the conversation are tied together then I think this session will end smoothly and most people will be happy with the results.
One of the advantages of going into my second year is that I will now be more comfortable dealing with legislation. During the off season, I met with constituents and got ideas for bills. Bills that I will personally introduce will range from greater liability for drivers to show proof of insurance, to eliminating date requirements for baling hay from road ditches, and to a draft law that covers the subject of tattoos.
Yes, you heard me right, a conservative Christian farmer will introduce a tattoo bill! This bill is designed to help reduce regulations that hamper the ability of tattoo companies to manage food and beverages. For example, there will be a big tattoo convention taking place this year in Des Moines. Due to current rules, tattoo establishments cannot serve, consume, or sell food and drink at these events. Hope to help this convention so that they can have a more successful conference but also extend this help to all tattoo companies.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any issue you are facing. The most rewarding experience in public service is talking to constituents about their thoughts and helping them navigate the complex environment of government so that they can find potential solutions to the problems that hamper their daily lives. Thank you again for giving me this opportunity to serve you.
Jesse Green State Senator R-Harcourt represents Boone, Greene and Hamilton counties, southeast Webster County and northwest Story County.