District 53 Newsletter: Feb. 1, 2024 Edition

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour)

As week four of the session comes to a close, the discussion on the governor’s bill to restructure the Area Education Agencies (AEA) appears to be coming to a resolution, at least for now.

This week, Iowa House Republicans held a subcommittee on the Governor’s amended AEA proposal. In the end, the subcommittee decided not to advance the bill to the full committee, citing the need for more conversations on the matter. It has become clear that after taking feedback from Iowans, there is not the support in the House to move this bill forward in its current form. I share the Governor’s goal of improving special education outcomes in Iowa. And as I’ve learned more about this topic, it is clear some improvements must be made to our current system. Despite Iowa spending over $5,300 more per pupil on special education funding than the national average, we’ve ranked 30th or worse in 9 of the 12 national assessments on special education performance. In a nutshell, we’re buying a Chevy at Cadillac prices, and that’s not acceptable to me as a legislator because it does not serve our children, or the taxpayers, well.

One of the primary reasons that I believe is allowing this big disconnect between the cost and the performance is the fundamental structure of the AEAs. The school districts are mandated by law to send their special education funds to their AEA, the school districts have no discretion on those funds. The school districts, by law and by the practical matter of the mandated funding, therefore, have to procure the services for special education from that one source, their AEA. This is a big government mandate dating back to the 1970’s, and it’s not been reviewed or changed since. No other state does their special education this way.

We will continue to work with stakeholders and get feedback from Iowans to ensure that anything we pass in the House will truly help improve special education in our state.

This week, the House Judiciary committee took action on bills to address the issue of pornography created through artificial intelligence. This modern technology has the ability to insert a specific person’s likeness into images, including video’s, which of course could include pornography. This is a disturbing scenario where anyone could be denigrated or even blackmailed using these images. The first bill, now HF 2240, ensures a person can be charged with harassment if they share AI-generated pornography without the permission of the person it is created to look like. Violation of this law is harassment in the first degree and is an aggressive misdemeanor, punishable by confinement for no more than two years and a fine of at least $855 but not more than $8,540. The second bill, now HF 2049, addresses AI-generated porn related to minors. This bill makes it a felony to create or possess an AI-generated pornographic content of a minor. As technology has advanced, this is unfortunately an update to code that needs to be made to protect Iowans. With these bills, we can ensure that there is no loophole in the law that would allow someone who commits this disturbing offense to avoid proper punishment.

A bill that I voted for in the Public Safety Committee, HSB 545, seeks to increase the penalty for false reports to Public Safety officials. This bill is in response to the increase in “Swatting” calls in Iowa and nationwide. Swatting is when a person calls the authorities and reports a serious crime in an attempt to get them to swarm a residence or business with police even though there is no crime being committed. The incidence of these types of Swatting calls has increased dramatically in Iowa over the last few years. The penalty for these false reports becomes a Class D penalty if claims are made of an assault, murder, sexual abuse, or other serious crimes. If the response to the call results in injury or death, it becomes a Class C felony.

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.