District 53 Newsletter: April 4, 2024 Edition

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour).

We have finished week 13 of the session, but we are continuing to pass policy bills, including bills that have come back from the Senate with amendments, as work on the budget continues.

Senate File 2391, known as the Meat Integrity Act, is a bill to establish fair labeling standards on the sale of protein products. It’s really quite simple – if it’s not meat, it should not say that it is meat. If it’s not an egg, it shouldn’t be labeled as an egg. As new products such as “lab-grown meat” come on the market, accurate labeling has become extremely important to make sure Iowa consumers know what they are buying and eating. These new labeling requirements are applied in the processing stage, not in the grocery store. Iowa is a top state for meat and egg production and all products processed in Iowa will need to be labeled correctly. It will also protect Iowa egg and livestock producers from bad actors who are mislabeling their foods, taking advantage of the longtime popularity of real meat and egg products and the hard work of generations of livestock farmers and egg producers. Nothing in this bill prohibits the sale or purchase of lab grown protein, it only prohibits mislabeling those products as meat or eggs.

We also passed House File 2618 which deals with Early Literacy in our schools. Reading is the foundation of learning. Students in Iowa are holding steady in reading scores, but we can do better. Currently, 35% of Iowa’s third graders aren’t reading proficiently. Children who can’t read by third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school, which dramatically increases their chances of being arrested, using illegal drugs, and having poor health. We’re the only state in the country that doesn’t require competency in early literacy instruction for teacher licensure. This bill would require students in teacher prep programs to have to take the Foundation of Reading assessment. It also states that the schools must report to parents if their student is not reading proficiently in grades 1-6. Parents will then have the option to retain their student in the current grade level if they choose. It also states that schools must provide students in K-6 with a reading plan until the student is reading proficiently.

This week, we passed HF 2674 to create a new program called the Iowa Rural Development Tax Credit. It creates tax credits awarded by the IEDA for specific capital contributions made to certified rural businesses growth funds for investment in qualified businesses. Through these tax credits, this bill will incentivize investment into new or expanding businesses in Iowa’s 88 smallest counties. It allows up to $27 million in tax credits for investors in projects that will reap at least $45 million in economic activity. By incentivizing investors to put their money into projects in rural Iowa, we can create more jobs, lift up local economies, and build back vibrant communities.

We also passed Senate File 2251 to expand Medicaid postpartum coverage to one year after birth. Iowa currently provides free health insurance to pregnant women up to 375% of the federal poverty level ($117,000/year for a family of 4) through pregnancy and two months postpartum. This bill lowers the eligibility for pregnant women to 215% ($67,080/year for a family of 4) and provides health insurance for a full 12 months after birth instead of the current 2 months. This change would make Iowa 13th highest in the nation for eligibility for pregnant women. It will ensure that those receiving state support are the women who need it most. This bill builds on the Legislature’s efforts to support new mothers. In the last few sessions, we have worked to expand maternal regional centers of excellence, fund family medicine obstetric fellowships, limit extremely high damage awards against birthing hospitals, and increase loan forgiveness to attract and retain OB/GYNs.

As always, I look forward to seeing you at the capitol, or in the district.

Dean Fisher, a Republican from Montour, represents District 53 in the Iowa House of Representatives including the communities of Clutier, Garwin, Gladbrook, and Lincoln.