March 31, 2023

School choice and SNAP benefits

On Monday, the Iowa House passed the Governor’s school choice proposal and on Tuesday, the Governor signed the bill into law. Under this proposal, the state will contribute $7,598 to an educational savings account for students attending private schools. $1,205 per student attending a private school in the district would be allocated to the public school. Every parent deserves the option to send their child to the school they think is best for them.

On Thursday, members of the Health and Human Services committee held a subcommittee on House File 3. The intent of HF 3 is to ensure Iowa’s welfare programs are sustainable and available for the Iowans who truly need it. It does this through a variety of means including codifying practices to authenticate the identity of applicants and verify information prior to enrollment.

I’m concerned about the list of foods available to be purchased using SNAP benefits as outlined in the original draft of the bill. The intent was to ensure food stamps weren’t being used for unhealthy foods. During subcommittee, we learned an amendment would be introduced to only prohibit candy and soda from being purchased with taxpayer funds. This better aligns with the bill’s intent.

SNAP is meant to be the “supplemental nutrition assistance program” and the legislature would like to emphasize the nutrition aspect of these taxpayer funds. That is why, if we receive federal approval on this change, the state will provide a $1 million appropriation to support additional purchases of fruits and vegetables.

Like all bills, I believe more work will be done before it comes to the House floor. The “asset test” portion of the bill will also certainly be addressed by members.

One of the next big action items on our agenda will be determining the SSA (State Supplemental Aid) funding increase for schools. The Governor has proposed a 2.5% increase, the Senate is proposing 2%. Because our teachers and schools are feeling the impact of Washington’s inflationary policies, I’ve been meeting with legislators to propose a 3% increase.

Other issues I have been having discussions on this week…

• Medical Tort Reform

• Virtual Net Metering (Solar)

• ESG Legislation

• Preschool Funding

• Refugee Assistance

As always, let’s keep the conversation going. I invite you to join me on one of my Facebook Live/Zoom “All Things Capitol” updates. Unless a legislative conflict arises, they are every Thursday night at 7:00 PM.