NEARING THE END OF THE 2018 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
ENHANCING RURAL INTERNET WILL BOOST ECONOMY
Earlier this year, Senate Democrats announced a plan to revitalize Iowa’s small towns and rural areas.
Our proposal includes expanding job creation in all 99 counties, ensuring safe, affordable housing, and increasing cultural and recreational opportunities. Another cornerstone of the plan calls for improving Internet service in rural Iowa.
I’m happy to report that we’re taking a big step toward that goal. This week, the Iowa Senate approved a tax cut to phone, cable and Internet companies (SF 2388) so that they can invest more in expanding high-speed Internet.
I voted for the bill because I know our small towns and rural communities will reap great rewards with more reliable Internet service at homes, schools, businesses and farms. It’ll spur modern agriculture, connect small businesses to the global marketplace, and allow students to learn anything in the world from anywhere in the world.
LET’S STRENGTHEN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, NOT WEAKEN THEM
In the last eight years, we’ve seen record-low funding increases for K-12 education. A proposal in the Senate would even further erode that investment.
SSB 3206 would create a new system of private school vouchers, also known as Education Savings Accounts. Private school vouchers divert tax dollars away from public schools.
Despite what supporters of private school vouchers say, the complicated proposal offered by Senate Republicans would not benefit current private school students (only future enrollees) or homeschool students. In addition, it would not expand choices for students in the many parts of Iowa that simply don’t have access to private schools.
VIDEO: See why Senator Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls, lead Democrat on the Senate Education Budget, gives this proposal a failing grade.
The millions in tax dollars this plan would cost should be invested in our public schools, which educate more than 92 percent of Iowa students. That’s 485,000 kids. Iowa’s strong private schools educate 34,226 students, and the state already provides $53 million a year to support them.
Iowa’s public schools offer many educational choices, including open enrollment, online classes and virtual academies, college credit, Career and Technical Education, STEM opportunities and much more. Instead of taking money out of public schools, let’s continue to make them better for all students by further investing in smaller class sizes, improving teacher training and increasing parental involvement.
WHAT’S TO BECOME OF A UNIVERSITY DEGREE?
Many Iowa students take on a lot debt for a college education. Iowa ranks ninth among states most affected by student debt, according WalletHub. That’s why it makes no sense to further cut funding for higher education.
Last week, leaders in the House and Senate made a last-ditch effort to balance their current state budget by immediately cutting $35 million from many agencies and programs.
Among the hardest hit are our public universities. Our three state universities account for about 7 percent of the state budget. However, the legislation (SF 2117) signed this week by the Governor forces the University of Iowa and Iowa State to bear the burden of 44 percent—almost $11 million—of the late-year budget cuts.
All told, Iowa’s public universities have been cut nearly $50 million in the past 12 months, a reduction of almost 10 percent. Funding for our public universities is less than it was in 1998.
These cuts will make college more expensive and less accessible for many kids from working families. That’s bad news when we’re trying to boost our number of skilled workers to fill immediate Iowa job openings.
Our universities are economic engines for our economy. Iowa must invest in them to create more opportunities for our children and grandchildren.
SCHOOL TRAINING CAN PREVENT IRREVERSIBLE CONSEQUENCES
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among school-age youth, but it is preventable. Kids contemplating suicide often show signs of distress. Those closest to them – parents, teachers and friends—are in key positions to pick up on cues and get help.
That’s the goal of SF 2113, which passed the Legislature unanimously. The bill requires training for educators on suicide awareness and prevention. Local school boards will include an hour of evidenced-based training on suicide prevention and “postvention” as part of a licensed educator’s professional development each year.
In addition, licensed school personnel who have regular contact with students will get an hour of training to help them identify adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) so that their impact can be minimized. ACEs can have negative effects on a person’s health and wellbeing throughout life. These experiences can include enduring abuse, witnessing domestic violence or substance abuse in the home.
DOING MORE TO PROTECT YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
In the Equifax security breach last year, hackers stole Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and other personal information from an about 143 million Americans, including 1.1 million Iowans.
Wary of identity theft, many consumers requested a freeze on their credit reports. They then learned that they had to pay a fee to get the freeze and pay again if they wanted to lift the freeze.
SF 2177 bans such credit reporting agencies as Equifax, Experian and TransUnion from charging fees when Iowans freeze checks on their credit reports. The bill has been approved by the Legislature and awaits the Governor’s signature.
Freezing prevents anyone, including an identity thief, from opening a new line of credit in your name. If you need to apply for a credit card, loan or job that requires a background check, you can have the freeze lifted, even temporarily.
In other consumer protection news, the Iowa Attorney General hopes to learn how Iowans were affected by the recently revealed Facebook privacy breach.
The data of at least 50 million Facebook profiles may have been misused by software developers. If you use certain apps, Facebook’s policies allowed developers to access the personal data of your Facebook friends without their knowledge or consent.
Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller has joined a bipartisan nationwide coalition demanding answers from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about these practices, including:
Were Facebooks terms of service clear and understandable?
When did Facebook learn of the privacy breach?
How did Facebook monitor developers?
Did Facebook have safeguards to ensure developers didn’t misuse data?
What other applications could access the data of unsuspecting Facebook users?
LETTER: Read the letter to Zuckerberg and the full list of signatories.
INDUSTRIAL HEMP OFFERS GROWTH OPPORTUNITY FOR IOWA
The economic potential for industrial hemp in Iowa took a step forward when the Senate Ways and Means Committee approved SF 329. The bipartisan effort will create a program in the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship to research, regulate and market hemp.
This low-input, sustainable crop holds great promise for Iowa agriculture and economic growth. Thousands of products can be made from hemp, which does not contain measurable amounts of the chemical intoxicant found in illegal marijuana. Iowa’s farmers, rich soil and great growing weather could make us a leader in this emerging market for homegrown seed, fabric, feed, fuel and hygiene products.
Industrial hemp was widely grown in North America for centuries. While it is still used in the United States, most hemp product manufacturers import hemp seed, oil and fiber from other countries because the Controlled Substances Act prohibited American farmers from growing the crop for decades. Learn more about industrial hemp in this article from Forbes.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Arlington tomb guard coming to Military Museum
The Iowa Gold Star Military Museum at Camp Dodge in Johnston will host former U.S. Army tomb guard Tom Tudor for a presentation on the history of Arlington National Cemetery and The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, on Tuesday, April 3, at 6 p.m. The program is free and open to the pu