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Des Moines Gazette Office

DES MOINES — The state is making more than half a million dollars available to prepare K-12 teachers to teach computer science.

“Computer science is a core skill set necessary for student success and an added advantage for recruitment into high-demand careers in a rapidly changing, technology-driven workplace,” Governor Kim said. Reynolds. “These scholarships equip more teachers with the tools and resources to prepare K-12 students in computer science.”

“Through computing, students learn critical thinking, problem-solving, and reasoning skills that are transferable across disciplines and academic fields,” added Ann Lebo, director of the Department of Education at the Iowa.

Reynolds and the department announced $506,084 in annual awards to prepare K-12 teachers in 136 school districts and nonpublic schools to teach computer science.

The Computer Science Professional Development Incentive Fund scholarships are part of a commitment to expand computer science education in K-12 schools. In 2017, SF 274 established the fund to pay for teacher professional development, including training to teach specific computer science courses and earning in-depth college credentials to teach computer science. In 2020, Reynolds proposed and the Legislature passed HF 2629 requiring K-12 schools to provide computer training to all students, beginning with high schools in 2022-23.

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BRONSINK: Memories of a fallen colleague started the day in the Iowa Senate on Wednesday.

Josh Bronsink, who worked on the staff of Senate Republicans, died March 11 of COVID-19, according to his obituary. Brosnick, who is survived by his wife and two children, died less than a week after his 48th birthday.

On Wednesday morning, senators honored Bronsink with a Senate resolution, which was read by Republican Senators Jeff Edler of State Center and Mark Costello of Imogene.

Next, two democrats, the senses. Amanda Ragan of Mason City and Joe Bolkcom of Iowa City spoke in memory of Bronsink.

Bolkcom said Bronsink will be remembered for his knowledge and work for the state, as well as his sense of humor.

“Josh was one of the smartest, kindest, most caring people in this building,” Bolkcom said. “That made him the perfect person to handle anything related to human resources. He has become an expert on all things caring for Iowans in need. We could count on Josh for good advice. …

“Josh,” Bolkcom added, “we miss you. We love you. Rest in peace.”

ANTISEMITISM DEFINED: Governor Kim Reynolds has signed into law a bill that defines anti-Semitism in state law, and another that prohibits the state pension fund from owning stock in a company that boycott Israel.

House File 2220 places in state law the definition of anti-Semitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. This bill was unanimously approved by the Senate, 48-0, and passed by the House, 66-31.

House File 2373 is designed to target the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s, which announced last July that its ice cream would no longer be sold in disputed territories in Israel. This bill was passed by the Senate, 40-5, and the House, 61-35.

“Today we express Iowa’s enduring support for the State of Israel and our categorical rejection of anti-Semitism,” Reynolds said in a press release. “Together, these bills send an important message: Iowa continues to stand with the State of Israel, one of America’s most important and trusted allies, while fighting against all forms of religious and ethnic discrimination.

Reynolds also signed the following bills: SF 2119, a law relating to cosmetology and the practice of threading; SF2266, a law relating to compensation limits for school corporation board members; HF2466, a law regarding signature requirements for appointments of county supervisor candidates; and SF2325, a Workforce Housing Tax Incentive Program Act.

COLLEGE SAVINGS PLAN: For the ninth time in 16 years, the Iowa 529 College Savings Plan has reduced its fees for participants.

“By reducing fees, we’re allowing families to keep more money in their accounts,” said Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald. “Every little bit saved can go a long way toward helping Iowans afford the educational adventure of a lifetime.”

Effective April 1, the annual asset-based fee for the plan’s investment options will decrease by 5.5%, bringing the price down from 0.19% to 0.18% or $1.80 per $1,000 invested annually.

Since Fitzgerald launched the plan, College Savings Iowa has grown to more than $6.3 billion in assets, of which more than $3.8 billion has been used for education expenses.

Iowa taxpayers who are participants in College Savings Iowa can deduct the first $3,522 they contribute per beneficiary account from their taxable income in the state in 2022, subject to federal tax regulations.

For more information, visit https://www.collegesavingsiowa.com/.

TITLE FEES: A bill to increase the cost of registering vehicle titles and obtaining a certificate of title has passed the House Ways and Means Committee over Democratic objections. HF 870 would allow Iowans to register their vehicle titles with any county treasurer’s office.

The fees, which in some cases have not increased since 1989, would provide $22 million to county budgets, relieving pressure for property tax increases, said Rep. Jane Bloomingdale, R-Northwood.

However, Rep. Chuck Isenhart, D-Dubuque, pointed out that the fee is based on vehicle prices, which have increased significantly over the past two years.

“Now is not the time to nickel and dim Iowans with $5 and $10 raises for the privileges of paying much more to register their vehicles,” he said.

The bill, approved Aug. 14, would increase fees for new registration, new title, replacement title and salvage title, manufacturer buy-back and security. Fees now range from $1 to $11, with most being $7.50.

LEGALIZED MARIJUANA: Senate Democrats attempted to propose the legalization of recreational marijuana in Iowa during a debate on a bill on criminal penalties for heroin possession.

Since minority Democrats are unable to set the legislative agenda, they chose the heroin bill for their amendment that would regulate marijuana the same way alcohol is regulated in the state. Majority Republicans rejected the proposed amendment with a procedural ruling, ruling it was irrelevant to the original bill.

Bolkcom was among Democrats who spoke in favor of the proposal. He called the marijuana ban a “costly failure.”

“He broke up too many families, upended too many livelihoods, pushed too many children into poverty,” Bolkcom said of marijuana law enforcement. He also noted data that shows marijuana laws disproportionately impact black Iowans, who are seven times more likely to be arrested for possession of marijuana, the nation’s worst disparity, even though blacks and Whites use marijuana at similar rates, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The bill, HF 2462, passed the Senate by a 44-5 vote.

TAX CODE CHANGES: The Senate passed legislation that would address a myriad of elements of the state’s tax code, including exempting certain products from state sales tax, expanding sections and services used in the manufacture of food that are exempt from sales tax, the exemption up to $20,000 in the National Guard, pay from state income tax, extend an exemption personal income tax on capital gains for certain stock sales and reduce the bank franchise tax rate.

SF 2372 passed 43 to 6.

Senator Dan Dawson, R-Council Bluffs, called the legislation “a continuation of the rebuilding of Iowa’s tax code for a better tax code for the 21st century.”