In Week 4, The FAMiLY Leader team testified on about 10 important bills, including FOR Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Students First Scholarships bill, and AGAINST two dangerous gambling bills.

There are only two weeks before the first funnel legislative deadline, when most bills need to pass out of a committee to stay alive for the year, so the next two weeks will be full of reading new bills, conversations with legislators, and testifying before subcommittees.

Bad bills – Gambling expansion

This week, The FAMiLY Leader team testified against two gambling bills, HSB 604 and HSB 578. HSB 604 would legalize online casino gambling (called “igaming”), while HSB 578 would legalize gambling on video games, allow casinos to take money through phone applications like Apple Pay and Venmo, and remove liability from casinos for failing to enforce the voluntary exclusion laws. Both bills advanced to the committee stage this week.

Legislators indicated in the subcommittee that HSB 604 is not expected to pass this year, but HSB 578 appears to be a serious threat. As currently written, the bill would allow a gambler to empty his or her bank account without ever getting up from the blackjack table. Gambling preys on weakness and addiction and leads to numerous suicides, divorces, bankruptcies, embezzlements, etc.

You can let your legislators know you oppose expanding gambling by clicking this link.

A good bill – Parental choice in education

On Monday, Gov. Reynolds filed her education proposal for the Session, SSB 3080. The two most important pieces of the bill are school transparency and Student First Scholarships. For transparency, SSB 3080 would require public schools to post curriculum, textbook, and other educational materials online so parents can review the material taught to their student. Additionally, school libraries are required to post the full list of books they have available to students and the procedures for reviewing and removing books from the library.

The part of the bill attracting the most attention – and the part we are most excited about – is the Student First Scholarships proposal. This is a program where families could use a portion of the state funding that would otherwise go to their public school on the education of their choice, a scholarship of just under $5400 in the current proposal.

Unfortunately, the proposal does not apply to all students. To qualify for a Students First Scholarship, the student must be currently attending a public school and either have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or their family income must be at or below 400% of the federal poverty line. There is also a limit of 10,000 scholarships available.

The FAMiLY Leader supports this bill, but we recognize that the program should be truly universal, including offering scholarships to students currently succeeding in nonpublic education. But the governor’s proposal is a major step in the right direction, and passage this year will make it easier to expand the program to include more students next year.

This will be a difficult fight. If you haven’t already, please reach out to your representatives and let them know what Student First Scholarships will mean to you, or why you support school choice.

Here’s a good summary of reasons why TFL supports Student First Scholarships: https://www.edchoice.org/school-choice/types-of-school-choice/education-savings-account/

You can reach your representative with only one click using this link!

Finally, The FAMiLY Leader now has a podcast! Every Monday we post an episode of Capitol Connection, with a discussion of the previous week’s action at the Iowa Capitol! Listen now on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For the family, The FAMiLY Leader Team

P.S. – You can get the inside scoop on this week at the Iowa Capitol – including a discussion on why TFL supports parental choice in education – in this week’s video episode of “TFL’s Capitol Connection.” Click here to watch now!