We just completed second funnel week, which is the week where all non-tax or non-spending bills must make it through at least one chamber of the legislature and through a committee in the other chamber to stay alive. I’m happy to report we’ve made great progress on a number of fronts.

For weeks, House Republicans have been fighting to ensure that Iowans weren’t socked with a $95 million retroactive tax increase by coupling Iowa tax code to federal changes, as has been done for years. The Senate had threatened to hold taxpayers hostage on this issue, but agreed this week under enormous pressure from college students who deduct student loan interest, teachers who deduct classroom expenses, home owners who deduct mortgage insurance, farmers who deduct equipment purchases, and small businesses who make capital improvements to pass coupling. This agreement provides certainty for more than 177,000 Iowa taxpayers currently working on their 2015 taxes.

Along with the deal on coupling, the House and Senate agreed on the way forward for taxation of consumables. The agreement provides manufacturers with a clear and consistent definition of what is exempted from sales tax in accordance with language Republicans worked to pass in 2014. This provision ensures that the state is not unfairly taxing supplies and replacement parts during the manufacturing process, which amounts to double taxation on manufacturers.  As a result, manufacturers will have a level playing field to compete with those in other states, encouraging these important job creators to come to and stay in Iowa.  This is a big win for our state.

With resolution of these two issues complete, agreement on school funding is imminent.  I began this session committed to setting education funding in a timely manner, providing school districts with the highest responsible increase that the state can actually fulfill. I’m optimistic we’ll achieve that as early as the next week.

My child endangerment bill, which imposes a mandatory penalty for those who brutalize children to death, made it through the second funnel and has a high probability of making it to the Governor’s desk. Unfortunately, my bill to protect the privacy and liberty of Iowans by extending Fourth Amendment protections to Iowans’ electronic communications and data, passed unanimously in the House but died in the Senate. We’ll try again next year. My child custody and joint care bill met the same fate of dying in the Senate, which would have set a level playing field for parents going through divorce.

On a more positive note, I chaired a bill that protects the custody rights of deploying military members through the funnel and am optimistic we’ll get that to the Governor’s desk soon. Another bill with potential to make the Governor’s desk is my synthetic drug bill, which makes it easier to prosecute synthetic drug cases while reforming penalties for cocaine in accordance with the Public Safety Advisory Board’s recommendation. I also worked hard on a bill to protect non-profit board members’ private information from being given to the managed care companies, as well as advanced a bill that would ensure that patients with serious mental illness receive their medications so as to prevent them being a threat to themselves or others. Both are still alive and on their way to final passage.

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