imageBy State Representative Kraig Paulsen

This week, a conference committee on Senate File 209, the federal tax code coupling and FY 2011 supplemental appropriations bill, met several times to work out the differences between the House and Senate of the bill. If a bill is amended by one chamber and then rejected by the other, it often is sent to a conference committee comprised of Republicans and Democrats from both the House and Senate to work on a resolution. The conference committee met twice last week and four times this week.

Both versions include changes to state tax laws to reflect the changes made at the federal level, and supplemental appropriations. The Senate version includes an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, while the House does not. Conversely, the House version makes the federal tax changes retroactive to 2010, providing additional tax relief to Iowa families and small businesses and it includes a key provision important to providing immediate and long term tax relief to Iowans, the Tax Relief Fund. The Tax Relief Fund is designed to capture the general fund ending balance, which is the balance Iowans overpaid in state taxes, and put that back into the pockets of Iowans.

We also spent time this week on a number of bills important to improving Iowa’s education system that will increase opportunities and strengthen the ability for families to choose where to send their children to school.

HF 583 – Independent Accreditation of Nonpublic Schools. Iowa is the only state in the country requiring state accreditation of nonpublic schools. This bill makes it voluntary like 18 other states, and would allow for a nonpublic school to be accredited by nonpublic accrediting bodies.

HF 584 – Driver Education by a Teaching Parent. Allows a parent teaching a student under competent private instruction to teach driver’s education to the student over which they have custody and control. The course of instruction must be approved by the department of transportation and must meet at least the standards taught in public and private schools. Applying for an intermediate license requires a signed form designed by the department showing evidence of completion of the course. Regular requirements apply as far as a driving test for intermediate license and full license are concerned.

HF 585 – Charter Schools. HF 585 amends the charter school and innovation zone school chapter of Iowa law. It separates the approval process for the two types of schools by requiring charter schools to be approved by the local school board, as opposed to the state board of education. Innovation zone school applications are still to be approved by the state board. It allows more entities to apply for a charter school, including community colleges, regents universities, nonpublic schools, private colleges, and nonprofits. Current law only allows for a principal, teachers, or parents to apply for converting an existing school into a charter. The bill also allows for the charter to be established in a new building and not just an existing attendance center, as allowed in current law.

HF 588 – Independent Private Instruction. Allows for independent private instruction, which is a parent providing home school education to students that are not related. The bill limits enrollment to no more than four unrelated students. Independent Private Instruction is exempt from all school-related statutes and rules except compulsory attendance. Additionally, independent private instruction must provide private or religious based instruction as its primary purpose and must provide enrolled students with instruction in math, reading, language, science, and social studies.

All of these bills passed the House and are on their way to the Senate for their consideration.

State Representative Kraig Paulsen (R-Hiawatha) is Speaker of the Iowa House.

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