Sunday, April 29 at 12:36 a.m. the first session of the 82nd General Assembly of the State of Iowa adjourns for the year. 2007 will go into the history books as a year of landmark changes for our state. 2007 marks the first time in over forty years that the Democratic Party has held the Governor's office and a majority in both chambers of the Legislature. 2007 will be remembered for the changes it brought about in how we pay our teachers and run our public schools. 2007 brought about changes in Iowa's civil rights laws and discrimination in our schools.
Issues that would not move when the governing bodies were divided between the parties were suddenly front and center. Union issues such as our Right to Work Law and Worker's Compensation were trotted out the first week but then languished for the rest of the session. Teacher pay and state mandates on public and private schools faired better for the year. Civil rights mandates also saw success as new rules where mandated in both the public and private sectors.
By year's end, the State will employ about 600 more full time workers than it does today. The first time that Iowa's budget broke through $1 billion was in 1970, in 2008 and 2009; Iowa's budget will increase by $1.3 billion. Due to the hard work and good fortune of Iowa's taxpayers (and cigarette smokers), we have the cash to fund the 2008 budget, 2009 could be an entirely different matter. Fiscal year 2009 has about $750 million in spending increases built in if the Legislature takes no action. I do not foresee an improvement in Iowa's economy that will supply $750 million in new tax revenue; something has to give next year.
Iowa's public schools did very well in this year's session. When totaled, the increase in appropriations for our public school system will be in excess of $400 million. Most of the increase will raise teacher salaries an average of $5200 over the next two years. The Teacher Quality bill that supplies for the bulk of this increase also removed much of the authority for setting teacher salaries from our local school boards and gave it over to collective bargaining. Also included in the bill were provisions that removed the authority of the school board to make decisions on such items as attendance at in-service days, enhanced pay for difficult to fill positions, and increased pay for beginning teachers.
In the last week of the session, a rarely used parliamentary tool was used to add sexual orientation and gender identity language to Iowa's civil rights laws. On Wednesday evening, Speaker Murphy issued a "Call of the House" order. A Call of the House requires that the doors to the House chamber be locked and guarded and any House member present anywhere in the state be found by the State Patrol and returned to House chamber to vote on the issue at hand. In the end, the effort appeared unnecessary the bill passed with 59 votes.
This will be my last regular article until the Legislature convenes again in January. I will write updates through the interim as the situation warrants. Until next January, I can be reached at 712-732-6340 or emailed at email@example.com\"