Johnson County legislators to address education in Iowa City

IowaWatch and The Daily Iowan Ethics and Politics Initiative are hosting a forum Dec. 5 with Johnson County legislators.


Ben Allan Smith

The Capitol building in Des Moines is pictured on April 29, 2019.

Julia DiGiacomo, Politics Reporter

In the run-up to the upcoming legislative session, eastern Iowa legislators will meet to discuss education policy and other relevant topics with the public on Wednesday in the Iowa City Public Library, 123 S. Linn St.

Nonpartisan news organizations The Daily Iowan’s Ethics and Politics Initiative and IowaWatch will host the forum, which will feature a series of moderated questions as well as comments and questions from the public.

The conversation will take place from 6:30-8 p.m. in the Public Library’s Meeting Room A.

The focus will be on the future of education policy and other potential issues such as minimum wage, business tax credits, tax policy, workforce training, recreation policy, and public transportation.

Legislators who have confirmed their attendance at the event include Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City; Reps. Dave Jacoby, D-Coralville; Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton; Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City; and Amy Nielsen, D-North Liberty.

The approaching legislative session, which begins on Jan. 14, will build off of a number of changes and developments from the preceding 2018 session.

On May 4, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the “fetal heartbeat bill,” which made headlines for being one of the most restrictive of its kind in the U.S. The bill, which is currently not in effect due to a pending lawsuit, bans abortions once a heartbeat is detected at about six weeks into pregnancy.

RELATED: Local Legislators meet with constituents during public forum on education

House File 2230 increased basic aid for Iowa’s K-12 schools by 1 percent throughout the current school year. This contributed around $32 million of state aid to Iowa’s schools.

The University of Iowa and Iowa State University split $10.9 million dollars of state cuts in appropriations. By the session’s end, Reynolds approved a bill that provided for a $8.3 million funding increase in fiscal 2019, leaving $2.6 million unrestored.

On the final day of the 2018 session, the Legislature approved a tax-policy package that will cut around $400 million from Iowa small business owners and individuals state income taxes in 2019 and more in 2023 if certain benchmarks are met.

Although these are just a few bills that the Legislature stamped for approval, the lawmakers in attendance will be available to address how a plethora of topics in the last session will impact future lawmaking in addition to new issues that could arise.

Mascher, a Democrat, is the longest-serving legislator attending the forum, starting her 25th year working under the golden dome. She served on the Education, Human Resources, and State Government Committees— the last of which she served as a ranking member this last legislative session.

RELATED: Local Legislators meet with constituents during public forum on education

Bolkcom, a Democrat, has served in the Iowa Senate for the past 20 years and was a ranking member on the Appropriations Committee in the 2018 session. While representing Iowa Senate District 43, he has served the Human Resources and Ways & Means Committees. Iowa Senate Democrats announced Bolkcom as one of six assistant leaders for the minority party for the 2019 session.

Jacoby, a Democrat representing Iowa House District 30, has spent seven two-year terms in the Iowa House. Last legislative session, he was a ranking member of the Ways & Means Committee in addition to sitting on the Commerce, Natural Resources, and Transportation Committees.

Kaufmann has spent five years representing House District 73, which comprises all of Cedar County, as well as parts of Johnson and Muscatine Counties. Kaufman is currently Johnson County’s lone Republican representative in the Iowa Legislature. Last year, he served as chair of the Government Oversight Committee, and this year, he’ll chair the State Government Committee.  He’ll also be on the Judiciary, Ways & Means, and Government Oversight Committees.

Nielsen, a Democrat, recently completed her first term in the Iowa House representing District 77, where she held seats on the Education, State Government, and Local Government Committees.