District 53 Newsletter: April 18, 2024 Edition

State Rep. Dean Fisher (R-Montour)

We are in week 15 of the session with the intention of finishing up the budget and policy work yet this week, possibly working through till Saturday. As I finish this newsletter at 7:30 Thursday evening, we are preparing to debate five of these budget bills this evening.

The first budget we passed through the Iowa House for Fiscal Year 2025 was the Transportation budget, House File 2683. This budget operates a little differently than any of the other budgets because the Transportation budget funds don’t come from the general fund, but from the Road Use Tax Fund (RUTF) which is money generated by the gas tax and other driver fees. The bulk of the RUTF funds the construction and repair of roads and bridges in the cities, counties, and state, but this budget bill first funds the DOT and specific projects. This fiscal year’s budget spends about $2 million less than last year. This is made possible by reaching the completion of implementing RealID and extending the driver’s license renewal cycle from five years to eight years. These efficiencies leave additional money available for essential road projects.

There is a great need to support veterinarians serving Iowa livestock farmers in rural Iowa. There aren’t enough food animal veterinarians, leaving livestock farmers without timely access to veterinary services. In many cases, veterinarians have continued working long past their preferred retirement year because without them their communities and patients would be vastly underserved. House File 2688 passed this week seeks to address this crisis and reward the veterinarians who have stuck around by creating the Rural Veterinary Practice Innovation and Revitalization Program. This program would provide grants up to $25,000 to veterinary practices in rural counties to improve or expand existing facilities, acquire existing equipment and tools, and incorporate new methods and technologies. This bill came out of a roundtable with rural veterinarians.

House File 626 prohibits health insurers from switching someone’s prescription drugs to a less costly alternative when the individual is stable on the drug and their doctor continues to prescribe the same drug. This bill prioritizes quality care for the patient over the insurance industry’s profits. This is a bill the House passed last session. Thankfully the Senate decided to take it up this year and it is now sent to the Governor’s desk.

Last year, the Iowa House passed a bill, House File 255, to create additional pathways to license teachers in Iowa in an effort to address the teacher shortage. Unfortunately, the House’s version of the bill died in the Senate last session. However, this session they have revisited the idea of creating an alternative teacher licensure and sent the bill back to the House with an amendment. To qualify to participate in the program to attain this alternative teacher license, a person must have graduated from college and meet requirements for an endorsement area approved by the BOEE. They must also have already received an offer of employment from a school upon attaining the license. If a person has already graduated from college with a different degree, they may have transferrable skills that give them a head start on the training required to become a teacher. Rather than send them back for another expensive four-year degree, this alternative teacher licensure program will allow more folks to change career paths and help fill the teacher shortages we face.

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.