Words from Windschitl

Second funnel week


The legislative session is grinding on as we approach the end of week 10 which is also our second funnel week, a self-imposed deadline between the chambers to have bills out of committee in order to remain eligible for further consideration this session.

So far this session, House Republicans have passed roughly 175 bills and sent them to the Senate for consideration. In comparison, the Senate has passed around 60 bills for consideration in the House.  This contrast may seem stark, and people may ask why a disparity is there. The simplest explanation is that House Republicans have a 64-member majority, and each one of those members have listened to their constituents and brought forth proposals based on that feedback. We have worked tirelessly to get those proposals enacted into law. The House chamber has had thoughtful and thorough debate on each of those pieces of legislation. We’re proud to work hard for our constituents every year in the Iowa House, even if it means long hours and late nights, and this session is no different.

Protecting our students

One of the main themes House Republicans have been working on this session is school safety and security for our students and staff in educational settings. We have brought forth numerous proposals surrounding this topic and will continue working on multiple ways to accomplish this goal.

One of the bills we have advanced to the Senate for consideration allows schools flexibility to protect students by arming staff. For a staff member to qualify for this responsibility, they must undergo specific training regarding active shooters and emergency response strategy, and they must obtain a professional permit to carry that requires elevated firearm training. The training laid out in the bill is extensive and rigorous. Keep in mind this would be on a voluntary basis for schools and staff to choose if they want to use this option. No one will be forced to undergo training if they do not want to have the responsibility, and no school is required to arm staff.

Another proposal we have put forth deals with school infrastructure and creates grants for schools to utilize technology to equip schools and detect bad actors with harmful intentions. This bill creates a task force to develop school safety building codes to determine what makes school buildings safer. Currently none exist.  With new standards, school officials will be able to make sure they are doing what they can from an infrastructure standpoint to make buildings safe for students and teachers. Along that same line, the bill prevents districts from bonding to build athletic stadiums or facilities unless and until their facilities are up to date with the school safety building standards from the task force.  Safety and security should be the priority.

This bill also deals with how schools can get help or send for help if an emergency arises. Schools are allowed to have a mobile panic alert system if it can connect to emergency services and integrates with local public safety answering points. This is a mobile phone application districts can utilize. The Governor’s office previously developed a grant program for emergency radios. Many schools took advantage of that grant, but some did not.  The Governor’s office has said that they plan to re-open that grant program to make sure all schools can have access to funding for the radios. If schools do not take advantage, they will be required to use their own funds.

This bill establishes two grant programs. The first is a three-million-dollar Firearm Detection Software grant program run by the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The grant program provides funds to school districts of varying sizes to help offset the cost associated with purchasing, installing, operating software that meets these requirements:

  • Designed to alert and detect district employees and first responders if there is a visible, unholstered firearm on a property owned by the school district.

  • Designed to integrate with a district’s existing security camera infrastructure.

  • Was developed in the U.S. without any of third-party data or open-source data.

The second grant program is the School Security Personnel Grants for Infrastructure, Equipment, and Training. This grant program states that if the bill is passed, it will provide school districts grants to purchase infrastructure and equipment related to employee permits to carry weapons, facilitate the training associated with employee permits to carry weapons, and to provide stipends to employees who participate in the training associated with employee permits to carry weapons. Districts who choose to enhance school security this way will have additional expenses and House Republicans want to help cover those costs to truly make schools a safer place for students and staff.

Rep. Matt Windschitl (R-Missouri Valley) represents Iowa District 15 in the Iowa House as Majority Leader. He can be reached at matt.windschitl@legis.iowa.gov.