The State ended Fiscal Year 2017 on June 30 with a $105 million budget shortfall. Analysis by Iowa’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency indicates that hole could grow.
Because Governor Reynolds did not keep her promises to increase family incomes by 25 percent and to bring more than 200,000 new jobs to Iowa. In addition, the Legislature has not made it a priority to create jobs, prepare Iowans for the skilled work that’s available, or ensure our communities thrive with successful small businesses, and cultural and recreational opportunities.
Instead, they’re attempting to balance the budget with cuts that hurt Iowa families. We see more evidence of the damage with each passing week:
Delayed income tax returns because the state didn’t have the money to repay Iowans in a timely way.
Denying kids hearing aids and vision screening, a major setback when it comes to succeeding in school and in life.
Eliminating initiatives that have created excellent jobs and made Iowa a leader in renewable energy and other cutting edge fields.
Slashing investments in natural resources, which are key to maintaining a strong agriculture economy and quality of life.
Senate Democrats continue to oppose cuts that hurt and mislead Iowa families. Recent cuts will not make things better. They threaten family incomes, our economy, public safety, quality education, and help for seniors, children and vulnerable Iowans.
MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD ON HEALTH CARE CHANGES
Our U.S. Senators in Washington are working on big changes to our country’s health care system. Their latest plan would cover fewer Iowans, cost more money and provide less health care.
Iowans want health care we can afford and that covers things we need, but Congress is talking about:
Nixing an initiative that has helped more than 150,000 Iowans get health insurance.
Hurting thousands of kids who rely on our children’s health insurance program at a time when the state has just eliminated funding for children’s hearing aids, vision screening and autism treatment.
Limiting options for low-income Iowans by banning Planned Parenthood from being reimbursed through Medicaid for health care services. That means fewer health care providers to choose from when we already have a shortage.
Make your voice heard on the major changes Washington is proposing for Iowa health care. Call the U.S. Senate Switchboard at 202-224-3121, and share your thoughts with Senator Ernst and Senator Grassley. They work for you, so your opinion matters.
IOWA MUST ACT TO PROTECT VULNERABLE KIDS
More children like Sabrina Ray and Natalie Finn will suffer if we don’t get moving on changes to better protect kids under state care.
On June 5, the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee met to consider how and why Iowa has failed these children, after months of public pressure and unofficial meetings organized by Senate Democrats. The official hearing was called following the starvation death of a second Iowa girl adopted out of foster care and into an unregulated “homeschool” setting.
Senate Democrats on the Government Oversight Committee say what they learned at that hearing warrants further investigation by the committee, changes in state policy and restored funding to better protect kids at risk of abuse. They submitted recommendations to committee leaders last month calling for:
1. Continued oversight: The Legislature relies on its investigative arm to get to the bottom of problems in state government and how to fix them. The Iowa Department of Human Services has hired an out-of-state consultant to help review its child protective system, but Iowans deserve an independent analysis from the Government Oversight Committee.
2. Changes at DHS: Child protective workers must be able to freely discuss their concerns and ideas for improvements without fear of retaliation. Checks and balances should be in place to ensure case plans are reviewed and follow-up on reports of abuse.
3. Better budget and policy priorities: We must prevent further budget cuts to DHS child protective services and get them the funding they need to maintain manageable caseloads; require foster care children to attend school; and require homeschooled kids to register yearly with the Department of Education and have an annual physical exam.
All children deserve the chance to grow up in safe and loving homes. Sadly, Iowa’s law that removed any regulation on homeschooling has given bad parents the power to isolate, abuse and starve children. We must make changes to prevent any more kids from suffering.
BETTER COMMUNICATION CAN KEEP IOWANS SAFE
Emergency responders in Iowa and throughout the U.S. operate on a patchwork of communication systems that often are not compatible. The horrific attacks of 9/11 exposed the problems of poor communication among law enforcement officers, firefighters and other first responders, including difficulty sharing information and confusion from conflicting information.
Since then, Iowa has made significant progress to ensure all public safety agencies can talk with each other in real time during emergencies.
The 9/11 Commission recommended public safety “interoperability,” described as “the ability of public safety and public services personnel to communicate and to share data on an immediate basis, on demand, when needed, and when authorized.” In response, Iowa created a Statewide Interoperability Board in 2007 to develop a plan that allows emergency responders at the state and local levels to have seamless communication during disasters.
Iowa’s plan includes:
1. Radio interoperability: Several parts of the state now have public safety radio interoperability, and work continues to implement seamless radio communication statewide. Secure, reliable radio communication among public safety personnel will better protect Iowans in critical times.
2. Broadband: The U.S. Congress created “FirstNet” to build a nationwide wireless broadband network to improve first responder communication during emergencies, as well as in the course of daily public safety work. It will allow public safety agencies to share data, such as photos and real-time audio and video feeds. Because the possibilities for enhancing public safety are tremendous, our Statewide Interoperability Board is actively working to bring FirstNet to Iowa.
For more information about radio interoperability, First Net broadband and how they can improve the lives and safety of Iowans, go to https://isicsb.iowa.gov/.
5 NEW LAWS TO KNOW WHEN YOU HIT THE ROAD
On July 1, several updates to Iowa law went into effect, including new traffic rules designed to make our roads safer. Here are five you’ll want to remember when you get behind the wheel:
1. Fender benders: If you’re in an accident that results only in vehicle damage, you’ll need to move your car to the nearest shoulder, emergency lane or median, if possible. This will help keep traffic from getting backed up and prevent additional accidents (HF 313).
2. Slow down to get around: Motorists must slow down, change lanes if possible and be prepared to stop when passing garbage and recycling trucks with their safety lights flashing. This is similar to Iowa laws for driving through construction zones and passing public safety or emergency vehicles (HF314).
3. Turns on red: When stopped at a red light, you can now make a right turn from all lanes designated for right turns, or a left turn from all lanes designated for left turns on a one-way street. This new law reflects current road design and traffic signaling. It also helps eliminate confusion and keeps traffic moving (HF 372).
4. Texting while driving: Law enforcement can now pull you over and ticket you if they see you texting while driving. This includes using e-mail, webpages, social media and gaming. Under the old law, officers could only cite you for texting if they pulled you over for another traffic violation (SF 234).
5. Reckless driving update: If a driver seriously injures or kills someone because they’re texting while driving, they’ll be guilty of reckless driving, a Class C felony (SF 444).
The new texting laws are aimed at combatting distracted driving, a big factor in traffic fatalities. A recent AAA study shows that drivers view texting as a very serious threat to their own personal safety and consider it completely unacceptable. Yet nearly 1 in 3 admits to sending texts and more than 40 percent report reading texts while driving.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Certification available to volunteer organizations
Through August 31, Volunteer Iowa is accepting applications from organizations that want national certification as a Service Enterprise. The Service Enterprise Initiative helps organizations put volunteers and their skills to work more effectively to achieve their mission. Iowa has 18 certified organizations and many more working toward certification.
Through the Service Enterprise Initiative, an organization gets:
An assessment of existing capacity and volunteer engagement
Training on how to better engage volunteers
Individualized feedback to address unique opportunities and challenges
More information is available at www.volunteeriowa.org/SEI.
Provide feedback on state education plan
The Iowa Department of Education has posted a second draft of the state’s plan to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. Through July 18, Iowans are invited to offer feedback. A third and final draft of Iowa’s ESSA plan will be released in August, and a final version will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Education by September 18.