IPERS, OPIOIDS, ECONOMY & MORE
KEEP IOWA’S ECONOMY GROWING: SHOP AT LOCAL BUSINESSES
The latest financial picture for Iowa shows slow growth. Here’s one way we can give our economy a boost: shop local!
Small businesses are central to Iowa’s economic vitality. Studies show that when you buy from an independent small business, far more money recirculates locally, building connections and prosperity that strengthen the entire community.
Travel Iowa is devoted to all things uniquely Iowa, and has great search tools to find activities, places and products that fit your schedule and interests. You’ll find special events like Sew Iowa, farm-to-table dinner experiences and local gifts.
The site’s Made in Iowa section showcases Iowa artists, craftspeople and homegrown, handmade items. It also highlights opportunities to be a maker yourself, through art classes, craft workshops, cooking and more.
If you know of something uniquely Iowa that should be featured on Travel Iowa, submit listings and events for inclusion on the site.
I’ll be pushing for more support for Iowa’s independent small business when I return to the Statehouse in January. The goal is to support businesses owned by Iowans and employing Iowans—people who are truly invested in their local communities and economy.
A good place to start is with an initiative I supported in 2015 to give Iowans seeking to sell products and services to the state the chance to match competing out-of-state bids for projects under $500,000, provided the Iowa firm is within 5 percent or $10,000 of the lowest bidder. That bill never made it to the Governor’s desk, but I’ll keep trying.
EXPERTS SAY IOWA NEEDS MORE EDUCATION, JOB TRAINING
Recommendations released Oct. 17 by the
Future Ready Iowa Alliance lay out a plan to enhance the skills of Iowa workers so that they can fill local job openings. The recommendations build on our bipartisan work over the past several years.
Iowa business leaders continually tell us that the #1 problem facing our economy is a shortage of skilled workers. In response, Senate Democrats have pushed for more skilled worker training, apprenticeships, internships and STEM learning to prepare students at all levels for their future in increasingly technical jobs, especially in our small towns and rural areas.
Unfortunately, the 2017 Republican budget cut many of the efforts needed to accomplish the Future Ready goal of education or training beyond high school for 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce. That’s an additional 127,700 Iowans who need to earn post-secondary degrees and other credentials. Continued cuts will move Iowa in the wrong direction.
To be Future Ready, we must put MORE resources toward education and job training. Iowa business leaders, schools, communities and organizations have signaled they’re on board. They’re ready to commit their time, money and expertise to building prosperity throughout Iowa.
Future Ready Iowa recommendations include:
Establishing scholarships and grants for Iowans preparing for high-demand jobs at Iowa colleges and universities.
Better aligning support to help Iowans pursue college or career training. This could mean better access to child care or flexible class schedules.
Expanding work-based learning for high-demand jobs, including apprenticeships, internships and career exploration through hands-on, real-world projects.
Enhancing collaborations among businesses, schools and organizations so that workers, employers and communities get the most out of local and regional partnerships.
KEEP UP ON POTENTIAL IOWA RETIREMENT CHANGES
Every worker deserves a secure retirement. That includes the hundreds of thousands of Iowans who contribute part of each paycheck to one of Iowa’s public retirement systems.
Our public retirement systems are well managed and fiscally sound. The Iowa Public Employee Retirement System, for example, has shown strong returns for the last year (with a significant increase over the year before) and is doing well in the long term. State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald says major changes could jeopardize the retirements of Iowans who spent their careers contributing to a pension they’re counting on.
Iowans whose families depend on one of our public retirement funds have become rightfully concerned in recent months that their pensions could be at risk. Here are three reasons why:
1. As soon as she became Governor, Kim Reynolds said making changes to IPERS was one of her top priorities.
2. Legislation to end IPERS, Senate File 45, could be debated this January. In recent months, an out-of-state think tank (the so-called Reason Foundation) has come to Iowa to argue against IPERS.
3. The 2017 session repeatedly saw extreme legislation approved without meaningful public input. The same rushed process could quickly eliminate IPERS. It’s happened in other states.
I want to make sure Iowa’s public employees know what they can do to protect their retirements and their families. Sign up for Iowa Public Retirement Alerts, a joint project of Iowa House and Senate Democrats, to get the information you need to take action and maintain our state’s widely respected, fiscally sound public retirement systems.
Changes to IPERS or any of Iowa’s public retirement programs must be approved by the Legislature. I will not support proposals that shortchange Iowans on their well-earned pensions. We must keep our promises to workers and retirees.
FIGHTING IOWA’S OPIOID CRISIS
The growing number of Iowans struggling with addiction to opioids is a public health crisis—and a very personal one for the thousands of Iowans who’ve lost a child, parent, spouse, friend or neighbor. Last year, 200 people died of opioid overdoses in Iowa.
Why are opioids so dangerous? They slow your breathing and can bring on heavy sedation that makes it impossible to wake up.
About 90 prescription opioid pills are expected to be sold per Iowan this year. That’s a decline from recent years, but still way too high. Even worse, heroin overdoses and deaths are on the rise. Iowans ages 25 to 49 have been hardest hit.
The epidemic brought legislators to the Statehouse this week to look at ways to curb addiction. The bipartisan Opioid Epidemic Evaluation Study Committee heard from health care, public safety and public health professionals, insurers and Iowa citizens. They learned about how opioid medications are prescribed, the problems they may cause and treatment options for those who become addicted.
The committee is expected make recommendations by November 15 on how we can best tackle the problem.
In the meantime, Iowa has been awarded a $400,000 grant to upgrade our Prescription Monitoring Program, a health care tool to keep track of controlled substances and prevent abuse. The money is critical to making the program easier for doctors, dentists and nurses to use and helping more Iowans get treatment before it’s too late.
Andrew Funk, director of the Iowa Board of Pharmacy, says the current prescription monitoring system is like “operating with an Atari, when there are PlayStation 4s available.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, please seek help. Call Iowa Prevention, Treatment & Recovery Resources at 1-866-242-4111 or find help close to home with the Iowa Treatment Facility Locator.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Volunteers needed for tax-prep program
AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is looking for volunteers
to help with free tax-filing assistance for those who can't afford tax-prep services. Every level of experience is welcome, and training is provided. Tax-Aide volunteers assist many older, lower-income taxpayers who might otherwise miss out on the credits and deductions they've earned.
Last year, 183 Tax-Aide volunteers helped more than 16,500 people file their federal and state tax returns. The program is offered at sites throughout Iowa, including senior centers, libraries and other convenient locations. Learn more at www.aarpfoundation.org/taxaide.
5 things to remind your teen driver
Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the U.S. During National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 15-21), talk with your teens about staying safe behind the wheel. Why? Here are some stats from 2015:
Alcohol: Almost one out of five teen drivers involved in a fatal crash had been drinking.
Seat Belts: 58 percent of passengers who died in an accident with a teen driver were NOT wearing a seat belt. In 84 percent of cases when the teen driver was unbuckled, passengers were also unbuckled.
Speeding: Close to one-third of all teen drivers involved in fatal crashes were speeding.
Distracted Driving: 10 percent of teen drivers involved in fatalities were distracted at the time of the crash.
Passengers: The risk of a fatal crash goes up in direct relation to the number of passengers in a car. The likelihood of teen drivers engaging in risky behavior triples when traveling with multiple passengers.