Doing more to create jobs for Iowans and grow our state’s economy is still my top priority as the 2012 session winds down.
The Iowa Senate is working to invest $62 million in job creation and economic growth. The Republican-controlled Iowa House, however, is only willing to invest about half that much.
The Senate also agreed that Iowa should help businesses create jobs through targeted incentives. The House does not.
The Senate wants Iowa’s three state universities to keep working with businesses on technology commercialization, marketing, entrepreneurship and technical assistance for businesses.
The House budget, on the other hand, would cut advertising for Iowa tourism and close Small Business Development Centers and Workforce field offices. If the House gets its way, it will be more difficult for Iowans to looking for work and for Iowa businesses to get started, expand and find the employees they need.
I hope we can agree to put job creation first as the 2012 session wraps up. Other efforts to boost our economy that I’m pushing for include:
** Fixing Iowa’s skilled worker shortage. It’s the best thing we can do for our economy, according to business leaders. Partnerships between community colleges and local businesses are a proven way to help Iowans gain the skills needed for hard-to-fill job openings that are locally available right now.
** Cutting commercial property taxes for every Iowa business—especially for small and Main Street businesses—without increasing residential property taxes.
** Requiring more effort to buy American and buy Iowan first when your state and local tax dollars are spent.
** Cutting income taxes for 260,000 working Iowa families by boosting Iowa’s Earned Income Tax Credit.
** Reducing health insurance costs for 60,000 Iowa small businesses with a state tax credit on employee coverage.
** Boosting alternative energy investment through consumer rebates for residential and business solar and wind projects that save money and are environmentally friendly.
Enhancing accountability on economic development projects
The Iowa Senate has voted to increase accountability and transparency when your tax dollars are spent for local economic development.
I support Tax Incremental Financing — better known as TIF — because it is an important economic development tool for cities and counties. After a TIF district is created, the property tax income generated from increased property values in that area are diverted from schools, cities or counties and used instead for economic development efforts in the TIF area.
House File 2460, as amended by the Senate, requires robust reporting, increases transparency and puts some restrictions on how communities use TIF. For example, the legislation would prevent TIF dollars in certain instances from being used to “steal” businesses away from a neighboring community. The bill also ensures taxpayers know how their property taxes are affected by TIF projects.
HF 2460, as amended by the Senate, now goes back to the House for their further consideration.
Open government helps all Iowans
To work well, democracy requires that citizens know what government is doing and why.
In 2007, work began on fundamental reforms of Iowa’s open records and open meetings laws. The goal was to make the proceedings and records of state and local government open and accessible to citizens. The Legislature has now approved Senate File 430, giving Iowans better access to government information and public records.
The bill, which goes to the Governor for his signature, helps make sure officials obey open meetings and open records laws in an efficient and cost-effective way. SF 430 creates the Iowa Public Information Board to address and resolve complaints. The board will provide informal assistance, mediation and settlement, formal investigation of grievances and determination of when violations have occurred.
Keeping Iowa seniors safe
In response to an assault at an Iowa nursing home, the Senate voted to toughen protections for our seniors living in nursing homes and other care facilities.
A sexually violent predator who’d served his sentence was released from a state-run facility directly into a northwest Iowa nursing home. There he assaulted an elderly woman, who was also a resident.
House File 2422, as approved by the Senate, would:
** Prohibit any sexually violent predator from being released from a state-run facility to a nursing home or residential care facility;
** Allow nursing homes and residential care facilities to refuse to admit registered sex offenders; and
** Permit facilities to discharge sex offenders who are current residents.
The legislation also establishes a task force on the need for a nursing care facility specifically for sexually violent predators.
Workers Memorial Day, April 27
During 2011, 43 Iowans died from injuries sustained while working and 10 Iowans lost their lives while serving our country in the military. On April 27, we’ll pay tribute these Iowans and renew our commitment to safe and healthy workplaces for all. A Workers Memorial Day ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. at Iowa Workforce Development, 1000 E. Grand Ave., Des Moines. All are welcome to attend.
Vietnam Veterans Ceremony, May 7
On May 7, Iowa will mark the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War and remember those who served. A ceremony will take place at noon at the Vietnam Memorial on the South Grounds of the Statehouse in Des Moines. For more information, contact the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-838-4692 or visit https://va.iowa.gov.
Screen-Free Week encourages healthy activity
Did you know that doctors recommend no more than 2 hours of screen time per day for young children? Yet preschool kids spend on average 32 hours a week watching TV or playing on a computer, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Screen-Free Week from April 30 to May 6 is a time to encourage kids to spend more time away from the screen, in active play that increases their fitness. For further information on Screen-Free Week, visit http://tiny.cc/screenfree.
Travelers recycle at Iowa rest areas
The Iowa Recycles on the Road pilot project, started at eight central Iowa interstate rest areas, has already collected more than 38,000 pounds of bottles, cans and other drink containers. At a recycling facility in Des Moines, they’re processed and shipped to factories, where the materials can be used to manufacture new beverage containers and other recycled products.
Iowa Recycles on the Road encourages recycling by making it easier for drivers to help reduce litter and keep Iowa beautiful. The Iowa Department of Transportation hopes to expand the program to an additional 32 rest stops that serve more than 13.2 million drivers each year.
Apply for state boards, commissions
Local Iowans are encouraged to apply for a position on one of Iowa’s boards and commissions. These panels advise the Legislature and Governor on a variety of issues of statewide importance.
Citizen participation is what makes our democracy strong. Those who volunteer their time, knowledge and skills in this important capacity help to build a stronger, brighter future for all Iowans.
Twenty-five boards and commissions have about 125 positions opening up on June 30. To view all boards and commissions and to learn more about the work they do and how to apply, go to www.openup.iowa.gov.
BOARD WITH POSITIONS OPENING UP JUNE 30
Agricultural Education, Council on
Arts Council, Iowa
Brain Injuries, Advisory Council on
Building Code Advisory Council, State
Centennial Memorial Foundation, Iowa
College Student Aid Commission
Criminal Justice Information Systems Advisory Committee
Developmental Disabilities Council, Iowa
Early Access, Iowa Council for
Fire Service and Emergency Response Council
Health, State Board of
Historical Records Advisory Board, State
Historical Society of Iowa Board of Trustees, State
Homelessness, Iowa Council on
Independent Living Council, Statewide
Juvenile Justice Advisory Council
Medical Assistance Advisory Council
Preserves Advisory Board
Public Broadcasting Board, Iowa
Student Loan Liquidity Corporation
Terrace Hill Commission
Uniform State Laws, Commission on
Vertical Infrastructure Advisory Committee, Iowa
Vocational Rehabilitation Council
Volunteer Service, Iowa Commission on
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601