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Iowa legislative session gets mixed reviews

DES MOINES, Iowa – Many laws and budget priorities passed by the Iowa Legislature soon will be implemented, but a nonpartisan research and policy group says the recent session didn’t do much to improve the lives of Iowans living on the margins.

Lawmakers wrapped up their work a few weeks ago, but groups such as Common Good Iowa have said the effects could be felt long-term, and not necessarily in positive ways. Anne Discher, Common Good’s executive director, described it as a disappointing session for those working to make life better for all Iowans.

“There were certainly a few policy wins,” she said, “but on balance, I think it was a session that makes us appear to be a less inviting, less caring state.”

She said a big concern is the tax-cut plan pushed through by Republican leaders, who argued it will make Iowa more attractive to job creators. However, Discher countered that the lost revenue will hurt schools, public health and environmental protections.

Lawmakers are getting praise, however, for such actions as boosting the state’s child-care system and increasing access to mental-health services by requiring telehealth parity among insurers.

Discher noted that Republicans and Democrats did come together on certain issues. But with the GOP in firm control, she said it feels as though the state is laser-focused on only a handful of priorities – which also creates transparency concerns.

“When you do have one-party control of, really, all the branches of government,” she said, “I think it becomes much easier for that transparency to be lacking, because decisions get made within caucuses.”

She said that prompts groups such as hers to apply more pressure for open-air decision-making with ample public input.

Supporters of the tax cuts have said they’ll save taxpayers $1 billion over the next eight years, but Discher said there were good uses for those tax dollars, and wanting to keep that revenue isn’t meant to prey on people’s income.

“You know, it’s not about raising money for the sake of raising money, right? It is about us, as a state, providing services that are important to communities,” she said.

She added that public-policy advocates were happy to see a plan defeated that had called for a one-week waiting period for jobless benefits.

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