Under the Golden Dome

Carrie Koelker
Iowa State Senator, 29th Dist.

The End of the 2020 Session

     The legislature adjourned for the year on Sunday, June 14. I’ve taken a week to get organized, take a break from the chaotic schedule and enjoy numerous baseball and softball games. This year’s session was definitely different than previous years. We held a few late night debates and one into the wee hours of the morning. We knew we needed to get a lot done in the short amount of time. While we didn’t get to all the legislation we wanted, we were still able to accomplish a lot in the time we did have. The official ending of session brings a variety of emotions.

     We said good-bye to seven retiring senators in the chamber. Each of them and their families gave their heart, soul, and dedication to Iowa. It was a sad day for me because it has been so great to work with Senators Breitbach, Behn, Feenstra, Greene, Kapucian, Segebart, and Schneider. I wish them well on their next chapter of life and know I have a forever friend in each of them.

     Before we paused the session in March, the Senate passed legislation to lower barriers to some professions and bring unemployed people back into our workforce and encourage them to build careers for themselves. We worked to expand the governor’s Empower Rural Iowa and Future Ready Iowa initiatives, and passed bills to improve access to and availability of affordable health care in our state, especially in our rural areas. We passed bills that would put victims first in Iowa, and make sure their rights were just as important and protected as those who have committed crimes against them. We were able to hold true to our word and fund an increase of almost $100 million in new funding for K-12 schools, including transportation equity and per pupil equity, while also working to protect teachers and giving them additional tools to work with students who become violent in the classroom.

     At the beginning of the year, many had high hopes of continuing our work on tax reform for Iowans. The pandemic has had a major effect on what type of tax reform was possible this year, but we were still able to make some reforms and changes to the tax code. One of the most important parts of this bill is ensuring the stimulus payments many people received a few months ago would not be taxed at the state level. It also ensures any loans that are forgiven through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and payments universities and colleges received to help students with expenses would also not be taxed. Payments received under the governor’s Iowa Small Business Relief Program to provide financial assistance to small businesses economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic will also be exempt from tax at the state level. Additionally, the tax bill ensured companies doing business in Iowa would not be punished for stepping up to help their communities during the pandemic, and eliminated the additional tax liability for companies that switched their production outputs to make masks or gowns instead of their normal products.

     One of the main things we had to do upon coming back into the session was pass a budget for the next fiscal year. We wanted to pass a responsible budget that we knew the state could afford. We did not want to be in a situation where we would have to cut money we appropriated when the legislature reconvenes in January. Many of us felt the state should be tightening the budget just as Iowans across the state have had to tighten their budgets as a result of the pandemic. In the end, the budget we passed appropriates $7.778 billion for the next year. This budget focuses state spending on the areas that matter most – health care, K-12 education, and public safety.

     I do want to thank you for all your calls, notes, card, emails and messages throughout the legislative session and pandemic. I look forward to being back home, talking with constituents, spending time with the kids, and hearing your thoughts and ideas about what is needed to help our state thrive once again.


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