Republicans pushed a bill that to gut energy efficiency programs, a bill to require supermajority on state Supreme Court cases, and moved forward a bill that would require republicans to appear first on the ballot for most Iowans.
Watch week 9 recap video here.
KEEP PROMISES TO IOWA TAXPAYERS
A bill moving through the Iowa Senate would break promises that the Legislature made to taxpayers just five years ago.
In 2013, the Legislature approved the largest property tax cut in Iowa history. At the same time, the law was changed to require the state to reimburse cities, counties and school districts for lost revenue that came from reducing property tax rates.
This year, SF 2081 would end the money that the state agreed to pay to cities, counties and schools for those property tax decreases.
The bill could cut reimbursements by up to one-third each year until they’re phased out completely. This would force communities to raise property taxes or make drastic cuts to police, fire and other emergency services, road and bridge maintenance, drinking water systems and other important services.
Our small towns and rural communities especially count on the “backfill” dollars. Of Iowa’s 942 cities, 82 percent have populations below 2,000.
The Iowa League of Cities, the Iowa Association of Counties and many others oppose the Legislature breaking its promise to Iowa taxpayers.
You can find how much your school district, city and county will lose through a searchable list on the Iowa Senate Democrats website.
The Iowa House is also working on a proposal to go back on promised dollars to local governments (HSB 678).
If you are concerned about the state taking back this $152 million commitment to property taxpayers and local governments, contact your legislators to let them know how this broken promise impacts you.
IMPROVING HELP FOR CRIME VICTIMS
The Iowa Senate has approved more help for crime victims (SF 2165). Sandra Rohrer’s story helped make it happen.
Sandra was 19 when her mother was brutally murdered in Johnson County in 1995. Iowa’s Crime Victim Compensation Program paid for her mother’s funeral and helped in other ways.
The murder went unsolved for 20 years. When he was a Deputy Sheriff, Senator Kevin Kinney was part of the team that helped send the murderer to prison.
VIDEO: See what Senator Kinney had to say about this bill during debate.
During court proceedings, Sandra realized that crime victims often need additional help. The state’s assistance is currently limited to the initial trial, so Sandra wasn’t eligible for help during the hearings that actually put her mother’s murderer in prison.
The bill would ensure that the Crime Victim Compensation Fund—which is made up of criminal surcharges and other sources—provides compensation for:
Loss of income and dependent care expenses when a survivor attends the funeral, memorial or burial.
Cleaning a crime scene. Current law limits compensation to cleaning a residence.
Replacing or installing new locks and other residential security items.
Additional expenses due to a retrial, change in offender custody status or a new appellate court decision.
SF 2165 is now under consideration in the House.
KILLING JOBS & RAISING UTILITY BILLS
Despite "no" votes from Democrats, Republicans and one independent Senator, Senate Republicans voted to kill thousands of jobs and raise utility rates by $500 million on Iowa families and businesses.
Senate File 2311 will eliminate an energy efficiency and rebate program that has saved Iowa consumers billions of dollars, avoided costly new power plants, attracted businesses looking for low electric rates and created thousands of Iowa jobs.
VIDEO: See what Senate Democrats had to say about how this bill will hurt Iowans.
SF 2311 significantly deregulates gas and electric public utilities in Iowa and limits the Iowa Utilities Board oversight of energy efficiency, rate increases, coal plant emissions and consumer protections.
Iowa has some of the lowest energy rates in the Midwest and the country, while developing one of the strongest clean energy economies. This bill undermines many of the policies that have led to Iowa’s cost-effective clean energy leadership.
SF 2311 is now under consideration in the Iowa House.
FIND YOUR FLOOD RISK
March is Flood Awareness Month. Iowa suffered more than $13 billion in flood-related property losses between 1988 and 2015.
That’s why the Legislature created the Iowa Flood Center in 2009. The center uses the expertise at IIHR Hydroscience and Engineering at the University of Iowa to improve flood prediction and preparedness. It’s the nation’s only center devoted solely to flood research.
The Center’s Iowa Flood Information System is an online tool that provides up-to-the-minute, community-specific information on rainfall and stream levels. It uses a large network of sensors and weather information to predict floods and help local officials and emergency planners keep their communities safe. For example, the system can show where to deploy barriers during flooding to prevent property damage and save taxpayer money.
Iowans are free to use the models to see what could happen under different rainfall and weather scenarios.
The system also includes maps for Iowa’s most flood-prone communities, including Des Moines. These maps allow users to see what a forecasted flood crest would mean for their home or business. Other maps allow users to estimate the cost of damage to buildings under various flooding scenarios for seven Iowa communities, including Des Moines. The Flood Center continues to develop maps for additional communities every year.
GETTING STUDENTS FROM SCHOOL TO WORK
Iowa’s Jobs for America’s Graduates (iJAG) is responsible for the success of many students who might otherwise drop out of school.
iJAG teachers and students recently told members of the Senate Education Committee about the program’s comprehensive school-to-work help for students in 7th grade through college. Relying on real-world, project-based instruction and personal connections with students, iJAG teachers show students how to achieve the next step in their education and career.
The program forms close working relationships with businesses, giving students a chance to learn what a company does, the employment options available, and the education and skills needed to do various jobs.
iJAG has grown from six programs in 1999 to 49 programs this school year, and it has a waiting list of 40 middle and high schools who want to take part in the program. iJAG has achieved impressive results, including a 93 percent high school graduation rate.
Learn more about iJAG in its 2017 report.
IMPROVING CARE FOR STROKE PATIENTS
The Senate unanimously approved SF 2299, which establishes a system of care for stroke victims. The bill is now under consideration in the House.
Stroke is the #1 cause of disability and the #5 cause of death nationally. In Iowa, 6,200 people have a stroke each year. Since 2000, we’ve seen a 44 percent increase in strokes for people ages 20 to 44.
Improving the system of care will ensure stroke patients get the treatment they need as quickly as possible.
Minutes are critical following a stroke. Every minute ages the brain 3.1 weeks; 10 hours ages the brain 36 years. After about 4 minutes without blood and oxygen, brain cells become damaged and may die, causing:
Changes in behavior
Learn more about stroke symptoms, effects and prevention at www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG.
CRACKING DOWN ON SKIMMERS AND SPOOFERS
Have you ever found unexpected and unexplained charges on your credit card or debit card? You are not alone.
Criminals use technology to steal payment card information. They can access your cards remotely through your clothes, wallet or purse, or place nearly undetectable devices on gas pumps and other card readers that steal your information. Your card information can even be transferred to another card for the thieves to use later.
House File 2199 enhances the penalty and updates Iowa’s law on illegal use of skimming devices. The bill makes it a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison to use a scanning device to take payment card information without authorization, or to use an encoding machine to transfer information from one card to another.
It would be an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison to possess a scanning device with the intent to use it to obtain payment card information without authorization.
HF 2199 has been sent to the Governor for her signature.
In other consumer protection legislation, SF 2243 makes it illegal to use false or misleading caller ID information to telephone Iowans. This will strengthen laws on “spoofing,” where a caller sets up a fake name, area code and telephone number, frequently with the same area code and prefix as the customer. This encourages you to answer what looks like a local call. The “spoofer” may try to sell products or services or get personal information from you. A violation will be an unlawful practice under Iowa’s Consumer Fraud laws.
SF 2243 passed the Senate and is now under consideration in the House.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
USDA can help rural Iowans
Representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture told legislators about the $581 million it invested to revitalize rural Iowa in 2017. USDA money helps families with housing loans and rent assistance, helps businesses install renewable energy systems, helps communities improve their water operations, and much more. Iowa has 11 USDA Rural Development offices, including in Des Moines. Learn more about what they have to offer at www.rd.usda.gov/ia.
Artist Fellowship applications due March 15
Through March 15, the Iowa Arts Council is accepting first-round applications from writers, musicians, filmmakers and artists for Iowa Artist Fellowships. Those selected will receive professional development opportunities, promotional support to enhance their career and a $10,000 grant to support new work. Get