Posts Tagged ‘Courtney report’
When looking ahead to the 2013 session of the Iowa Legislature, continuing to create jobs and grow Iowa’s economy tops my priority list.
We need to do what we can to help more Iowans recover from the national recession. Ensuring that workers can get the training they need must be part of our statewide effort.
This is important because the current skill shortage is proving to be a serious drag on Iowa’s economy. By 2018, 62 percent of all jobs in Iowa—1.1 million jobs—will require some training or education beyond high school. Yet nearly 10 percent of Iowa’s working-age adults do not have a high school diploma.
By investing now in worker training and retraining, we can make sure Iowans are ready to step into new jobs as the economy rebounds.
Last year, we took a step in the right direction by approving the biggest single-year increase in state general aid to community colleges. We also created new opportunities to earn non-credit skill certificates and launched the new Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant, also known as “Kibbie Grants.” (More on the grants below!)
Here are other ways we can invest in Iowans and in Iowa businesses:
• Cutting commercial property taxes for every Iowa business, especially for small businesses.
• Cutting taxes for working families struggling to make ends meet, thereby boosting the local economy.
• Making it more likely that Iowa and U.S. companies will get state and local government contracts when their bids are cost competitive.
We’ve made bipartisan progress on these issues in the last couple of years. My hope for 2013 is that we’ll keep working together and take some big steps forward.
The new legislative session starts on January 14. Please tell me what you think should be done to boost economic growth and job creation here in Iowa. Call or e-mail me with your ideas.
NEW WORKFORCE GRANT HELPS IOWANS GET JOB TRAINING
Iowa ranks 13th in overall business friendliness but only 40th when it comes to labor supply. That’s why I’m working to help Iowans get the skills they need to fill in-demand jobs.
Iowa’s agricultural manufacturers need more welders, and Iowa businesses in almost every field can’t find enough people to run computers and manage software. When employers can’t find the skilled workers they need in Iowa, they lose business to competitors, hire people from another state or some other country to do the work, or move their business out of Iowa.
By 2018, 62 percent of all jobs in Iowa will require some training or education beyond high school. In addition to credentials, employers need workers with the professional skills necessary to succeed in the workplace, such as dependability, time management and initiative.
That’s why I fought this year for $5 million in Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grants for students attending Iowa’s community colleges. Senate File 2321, approved by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, provides grants to Iowans studying full- or part-time at one of our community colleges and are in need of financial help to cover their tuition. Grants are awarded for study in areas where Iowa doesn’t have enough workers with the right skills.
About 4,500 students are eligible for the grants this school year. The maximum Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant is $2,040 for eligible Iowa students who enroll on a full-time basis during the 2012-13 academic year. Grants for full-time students are intended to cover one-half of the average tuition and fees at Iowa community colleges.
A complete summary of the Skilled Workforce Shortage Tuition Grant is available at http://tinyurl.com/SWSTG. For a list of the areas of study eligible for these grants, check out pages 7-10. To find out which programs are available at Southeastern Community College and Eastern Iowa Community College, contact the financial aid offices.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Donate to your local food bank this holiday season
Over the holidays, Iowans will be gathering around the dinner table to celebrate with family and friends.
But for many Iowans, it’s a real struggle to put food on the table each day. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 12 percent of Iowa households often lack enough food, or must choose between buying food or buying medicine and other essentials. That means thousands of Iowa children and seniors are not getting the food they need.
During the 2012 session, legislators worked together to make sure Iowans have enough to eat by making a modest $500,000 investment in Iowa’s food banks. Our idea passed the House and Senate with overwhelming support but was vetoed by Governor Branstad.
In the meantime, Iowans have faced rising food prices and food banks have seen an increase in the number of Iowans in need.
With about a billion dollars in our savings accounts, Iowa’s state budget is in good shape. When the 2013 session rolls around in January, we ought to take another look at how we can help our food banks feed hungry Iowans. It’s the right thing to do.
During this season of giving, let’s all pitch in to stock the shelves of our local food banks and make sure no Iowan goes hungry. Please join me in supporting our community food banks and local charities.
Nominate an employer for the Support Freedom Award
Through January 17, nominations are being accepted for the Employer Support Freedom Award. This annual award, presented by the Secretary of Defense, is the highest recognition given by the U.S. Government to employers who show outstanding support for employees serving in the Guard and Reserve.
Almost one-half of the U.S. military is comprised of the Guard and Reserve. The Department of Defense shares these citizen warriors with their civilian employers, who often go to great lengths to support employees who serve our country. Do you know an employer who fits this bill? What sets them apart from others?
Any Guard or Reserve member can nominate their employer. If a service member does not have access to submit a nomination, a family member can nominate the service member’s employer on their behalf. For more details on the award or to nominate a great employer, go to https://esgr.csd.disa.mil/fa/NominateYourEmployerView.aspx.
Online resources for Iowa entrepreneurs
Thinking of starting or expanding a business?
Entrepreneurs have a new online business tool to assist them in developing their products and ideas. IASourceLink.com is a one-stop shop to help Iowans access the technical and financial resources that best meet their business needs. In addition, MyEntre.Net, a service of the University of Northern Iowa, provides timely, expert webinars, blogs and resources dedicated to Iowa small businesses.
Take advantage of expert help with these great online resources available to Iowans—and get your business idea off the ground.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Mark your calendars to join in local discussions of STEM .
Community conversations focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and economic development will take place in our area on October 8. All Iowans are invited to attend the hour-long, town hall style meetings. Here are the details:
•12:30 p.m. – Muscatine County STEM Community Conversation at Muscatine Community Schools Administrative Center, 2900 Mulberry Ave.
•3:30 p.m. – Des Moines County STEM Community Conversation at Greater Burlington Partnership’s Winegard Board Room, 610 N 4th St., Suite 200, Burlington.
The goal of the meetings is to get input on what priorities the STEM Advisory Council should focus on as the STEM initiative continues to build across Iowa. The Advisory Council is a public-private partnership that aims to create greater student achievement in science, technology, math and engineering and a stronger STEM workforce.
Local businesses celebrate anniversaries
Southeast Iowa has some long-standing companies that have played an important role in job creation, community development and economic growth over the years. A few in our Senate District are celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2012. Congratulations and a big thank you to:
•CVC Financial – 25 years
•Heartland Corrugated, Inc. – 25 years
•Joanne Plastics, Inc. – 25 years
•Miller Trucking – 25 years
•Rapp, EC Insurance Ltd. – 25 years
•Burlington Wilbert Vault Works, Inc. – 75 years
Keeping state government accountable to Iowans
In a democracy, citizens deserve to know what government is doing and why.
The good news is that Iowans are among America’s most active citizens, with high levels of volunteerism and community involvement. We elect officials to work for us; we want a chance to offer input into government decisions; and we want to know how our tax dollars are spent.
Iowa ranked 7th last year in the nationwide, nonpartisan “State Integrity Investigation,” scoring well on laws dealing with openness and vulnerability to corruption (www.stateintegrity.org). Initiatives we approved during the 2012 session should push Iowa even higher in the rankings by ensuring state government works for you.
This year we built on Iowa’s strong foundation of open, transparent, accountable government by:
• Creating a searchable online database of the state budget so that you can get a look at how your tax dollars are invested to create jobs, improve student achievement and boost quality of life for Iowans throughout the state. (SF 2316)
• Requiring an ongoing, comprehensive review of all state department rules to eliminate those that are outdated, redundant, inconsistent or incompatible, and putting online a searchable database so that Iowans can see what rules are in place. (HF 2465)
• Giving Iowans better access to government information by creating the Iowa Public Information Board to address and resolve complaints related to our state’s open meetings and open records laws. (SF 430)
• Requiring funders of automated “robo-calls” to identify themselves so that Iowans know who is paying for campaign spending, and improving oversight to ensure campaigns are run fairly (SF 2236, SF 2313).
• Urging the U.S. Congress to regulate and restrict unlimited corporate campaign contributions that drown out the voices of living, breathing people. (SR 113)
• Increasing accountability and transparency when your tax dollars and property tax rates are affected by local economic develop projects funded by TIF (tax incremental financing). (HF 2460)
Expanding your right to be informed
About two-thirds of Iowans believe government should be more open in making records available and holding meetings, according to a poll released earlier this year by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. The same percentage said the Legislature needed to create a board to enforce the public records and public meetings laws.
During the 2012 session, we took that input to heart. Legislators culminated six years of work with concerned Iowans, local governments and news organizations to create the Iowa Public Information Board. This nine-member panel will ensure government is more responsive and transparent than ever by giving Iowans better access to government information and public records.
The Iowa Public Information Board is already meeting and will be fully operational next summer. This Board will provide Iowans and government officials with an efficient and free method to address public information issues without requiring citizens to hire an attorney.
The Board will help government officials comply with Iowa’s open meetings and records laws, and help citizens who have questions or concerns about their rights. It will provide informal assistance, offer mediation and settlement, conduct formal investigations, determine when violations have occurred and levy penalties. What makes Iowa’s Public Information Board exceptional is that it is one of the few state agencies in the country that has the power to enforce laws.
I’ll keep an eye out to make sure the Board gets off to a good start. The Board will report to the Legislature on complaints, proceedings, investigations, hearings, decisions rendered and recommendations for improving public access to government information. To find out more about the Iowa Public Information Board, go here.
To learn about your right to information under the law, check out the Open Meetings, Open Records Handbook from the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Seeking nominations for 2012 Iowa Nonprofit Awards
Iowa’s annual Nonprofit Awards recognize a variety of nonprofit organizations, professionals and volunteers for their efforts to help Iowa communities thrive. Nominations are accepted in several categories and are due September 28. (editor’s note: the date has past. I am late in posting this newsletter. My apologies.) Winners will be recognized during the Iowa Nonprofit Summit to be held November 7-8 in Des Moines. For more about the Nonprofit Summit, go here.
Online hunter safety course now available on the go
Students who need to complete a hunter safety course to get their Iowa hunting license can now take the first step on their smart phone, tablet or laptop here. The new mobile-ready site features the same state-approved training taught in the classroom through realistic illustrations, interactive animations and a variety of hunter safety videos.
Studying at www.hunter-ed.com/iowa is free. Students who must be certified before buying a hunting license pay a one-time fee, which is due only if they pass the test. After passing the online portion of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources hunter education course, students will need to sign up for the required field day here.
Farm vehicles hauling heavy loads this harvest season
As Iowa’s annual harvest heads to market, the Governor has signed a proclamation allowing oversized and overweight loads of soybeans, corn, hay, straw, silage and stover on Iowa roads. The proclamation took effect on September 4 and expires after 60 days. The Iowa Department of Transportation will monitor the situation to ensure the public’s safety and facilitate the movement of harvest vehicles.
All drivers should use caution during this time. In 2011, Iowa saw a total of 198 crashes involving farm equipment, including seven fatalities and 15 major injuries. You can help keep crashes down this year by:
• Giving your full attention to the driving task.
• Putting additional space between your vehicle and those ahead.
• Being patient; do not assume the equipment operator can move aside to let you pass.
• Slowing down when you see the triangular-shaped, red and fluorescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
These days there is a lot of talk about improving health care nationwide. In Iowa, it’s not just talk. We’ve taken big steps toward making sure all Iowans have access to the best possible health care.
This year in the Legislature, we kept Iowa moving forward by:
• Attracting more doctors to rural Iowa. We’re helping medical students repay their student loans when they practice in areas of the state that need more doctors (HF 2458).
• Reforming Iowa’s mental health system. This is a major undertaking that will ensure all Iowans get high-quality mental health care regardless of where they live (SF 2315).
• Ensuring your treatment preferences are respected by making them part of a medical order that healthcare providers can rely on (HF 2165).
• Helping seniors live independently and safely through community based services and less dependence on institutional care (SF2336).
• Making sure Iowa’s nursing homes are safe (SF 2316).
• Establishing statewide standards so that Iowans, including returning soldiers, who need prosthetics and orthotics get top-quality products and services (SF 364).
• Supporting local health care services to make Iowa a healthier place, help Iowans quit smoking and provide low-income Iowans with access to preventive health screenings (SF2336).
There is still plenty to do, especially when it comes to reducing the high cost of health care and health insurance. Many working Iowans have no health insurance, making them reluctant to see a doctor until they’re desperate enough to go to the emergency room. That’s expensive and doesn’t produce the best results.
When uninsured Iowans can’t pay their medical bills, the price of everyone’s health care goes up to cover the unpaid expenses. A study by the Iowa Hospital Association found that uncompensated care cost Iowa hospitals—and ultimately you and me—more than $851 million in 2010.
If we want to keep the cost of health care in check, we must keep working on solutions. Thank goodness Iowa health care providers, business leaders and consumer advocates have been proactive in solving our state’s challenges over the years. By working together, Iowa can continue leading the nation on the health care front.
New funding for SE Iowa airport
The Iowa Transportation Commission has approved funding for the State Aviation Program, which seeks to maintain a safe air transportation system statewide. Funding will go to improve local airports from aircraft registration fees, aviation fuel taxes and with dollars from the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund.
The Burlington–Southeast Iowa Regional Airport was awarded $94,903 to replace a 70-year-old hangar. For more on aviation in Iowa, visit www.iowadot.gov/aviation.
Improving Iowa’s Mental Health and Disability Services
A major step in our efforts to improve health care in Iowan came this year when we approved a sweeping overhaul of how our state provides mental health and disability services to Iowans who need them. It was a bipartisan effort, with legislators working together and taking suggestions from consumers, health care providers and other concerned Iowans on how to best organize the new system.
The redesigned Mental Health and Disability Services system will provide Iowans better access to mental health services through a regional system, rather than the county system that is currently in place. Senate File 2315 creates a new structure in which the state sets standards and designates regions to administer the services, which will be provided in local communities. This arrangement will save money, eliminate administrative duplication and offer consistency in both rural and urban counties.
Thanks to this redesigned system, more Iowans will get high-quality services, whether they live in rural or urban Iowa.
What do federal health care changes mean for Iowa?
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal Affordable Care Act. This federal initiative has already helped thousands of Iowans by expanding access to health care, lowering costs and increasing preventative care. This includes:
• Helping Iowans with pre-existing conditions get coverage.
• Ensuring Iowans no longer have lifetime caps on health insurance policies.
• Providing Iowans with preventative health services without co-pays. This includes well-child visits, cancer screenings and immunizations.
• Allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ health insurance policy up to age 26.
• Saving Iowa seniors on Medicare thousands on prescription drugs.
Federal efforts could also expand Medicaid coverage to more than 80,000 additional Iowans, many of whom work fulltime. This will lower health care costs for everyone by ensuring more Iowans are able to get regular checkups and preventive care, rather than relying on expensive emergency room visits.
With the federal commitment to pay for almost all of the cost, Iowans might save as much as $316 million annually if we participate in the Medicaid Expansion offered under federal health care reform, according to the non-partisan Urban Institute.
Rural Iowa needs more doctors
Having a primary care doctor in your community can save lives, save money and improve everyone’s quality of life. But in some rural parts of our state, we have a critical shortage of doctors.
When students get done with medical school, their first priority is often paying off tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. The higher pay they often can earn in urban areas is an attractive lure. They may not even consider practicing medicine in small towns and rural areas.
We addressed that problem this year by creating the Rural Iowa Primary Care Loan Repayment Program (HF 2458). This state and local partnership will help new doctors repay their student loans, provided they agree to work in rural Iowa for at least five years.
It’s just one more way we’re helping all Iowans get the health care they need, no matter where they live.
News you can use
Sales tax holiday, Aug. 3-4
The new school year is rapidly approaching. You can make your money go farther for your kids’ school clothes when you take advantage of Iowa’s annual sales tax holiday on Friday, August 3, and Saturday, August 4.
You’ll pay no sales tax on any clothing or footwear item under $100 at any business that is open during these two days. Items put in layaway are not taxable no matter when you pay them off. Items already in layaway that are paid off during the tax-free weekend are also tax exempt.
For more information, go to www.iowa.gov/tax/educate/holiday1.html.
Emergency grazing due to drought
In response to high temperatures and drought, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) is authorizing emergency grazing on Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land. So far, emergency grazing has been authorized for 25 counties and more counties are expected to be added to the list.
Livestock producers interested in grazing CRP land must get approval. For more information and the latest updates on counties approved for emergency grazing, contact your local FSA office or go to www.fsa.usda.gov/ia.
Protect yourself from whooping cough
The Iowa Department of Public Health is urging Iowa adults to talk to their health care provider about getting vaccinated for pertussis, or whooping cough.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, whooping cough is causing the worst epidemic in the U.S. in more than 50 years. Iowa is among the states seeing a spread of pertussis, with cases nearly 500 percent higher than last year at this time.
The most common symptoms of pertussis in children are fits of coughing, followed by vomiting, a ‘whooping’ sound as air is inhaled, and difficulty sleeping. Adults, however, may experience only a lingering cough that lasts for weeks. Many adults may be contagious without even realizing they have pertussis.
For more information about pertussis, visit www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/default.aspx?group=3#DI.
New online mobile Iowa jobs site
Iowa Workforce Development’s statewide job bank is now available 24/7 in a mobile version at http://workiniowa.jobs. Job opportunities can be searched by city, employer name and key word. The site only lists available jobs from employers verified by Iowa Workforce Development, so you can be sure you’re searching legitimate job openings.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Good news for Burlington! The transit system in Burlington has been honored as the “Most Improved Urban Transit System of the Year” by the Iowa Department of Transportation.
During 2011, ridership on Burlington Urban System—BUS—increased 18.15 percent. At the same time, the cost per ride dropped by 16.27 percent.
Doug Roelfs, transit manager with BUS, attributes the gains to an increase in demand for transit service and to loyal riders.
This is the third time Burlington has received the award. The first time was in 2009.
Encouraging job creation and economic growth
With the Iowa economy on the mend, the Legislature focused this year on continuing job creation and economic growth.
We approved expanded job training, smart tax breaks, investments in the industries of the future, strengthening education, and ensuring workers and businesses have the resources they need.
Not every good idea made it to the Governor’s desk, but those that did will have a positive impact. They include:
• Jumpstarting new Iowa energy industries through tax credits for the construction and installation of solar energy systems and geothermal heat pumps (SF 2342)
• Continuing the tax break for consumers filling up with ethanol-blended fuel at the pump (HF 2472)
• Improving the flow of commerce by extending Iowa’s commercial and industrial highway network (SF 2153)
• Boosting Iowa’s agriculture economy through year-round farmers’ markets (HF 2092)
• Keeping businesses in our communities by making it easier for an employer to sell their company to local workers through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (HF 2465)
• Investing in innovative local economic development ideas that create good jobs and growth in Iowa communities (SF 2239)
• Expanding opportunities for local auto dealers to offer vehicles for sale at fairs, shows and other exhibitions (SF 2249)
The Senate also approved several job creation initiatives that the House did not take up. I’ll keep pushing for these and other common-sense efforts to boost Iowa’s economy:
• Ensuring more publicly funded projects in Iowa use American-made goods.
• Allowing Iowa businesses the chance to match out-of-state bids when selling products and services to the state.
• Helping communities clean-up and revitalize their business districts and industrial parks.
• Leveling the playing field for Iowa businesses by collecting sales tax on Internet purchases from large, out-of-state companies.
• Cutting taxes for low-income, working Iowa households by increasing the state Earned Income Tax Credit.
• Increasing tax credits to encourage local wind energy projects.
U.S. Chamber puts Iowa in the top 10
Iowa ranks in the top 10 for growth, productivity and livability, according to a new report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Iowa placed fifth in growth of economic productivity, sixth in per-capita income growth, ninth in exports growth and eleventh in growth of gross state product.
Iowa is succeeding by expanding in business and commerce, with the greatest job increases in management, transportation and warehousing.
The report, Enterprising States: Policies that Produce, ranks states based on long-term and short-term growth, expansion of gross state product, productivity, income growth and livability. To read more, go here.
Saving money, growing jobs with clean energy incentives
It’s been a hot summer so far and Iowans are thinking about more efficient ways to cool and heat their homes and businesses.
The solar energy option will be more economical than ever thanks to the new solar energy tax credits I helped approve this year. Increasing Iowa’s use of solar will help create jobs installing solar projects throughout the state.
Senate File 2342 provides state tax credits for solar electric, solar hot water and geothermal energy systems. Iowans can get solar tax credits up to $3,000 per project for homeowners and $15,000 for businesses.
The legislation also provides a state tax credit up to 20 percent of a federal tax credit for geothermal heat pumps, and a ten-year property tax exemption for any increase in value due to installing a geothermal system.
Let’s level the playing field for local business
As Iowa communities continue to recover from the national recession, we should do all we can to ensure our local businesses have a fair chance to compete.
If a company wants to sell their goods to Iowans, they should play by the same rules as Iowa companies with Iowa employees.
That’s why I believe Iowa needs to collect sales tax on Internet purchases. Failing to collect sales tax from online businesses—some of the biggest corporations in the world—gives them an unfair advantage.
Large, out-of-state companies should help support our schools and community services just like local businesses.
Senate File 2330, which got bipartisan approval in the Senate this year, would have helped level the playing field by collecting sales tax from online companies. This effort didn’t make it to the Governor’s desk, but I’ll continue to fight for fairness for our local businesses.
Recreation is a win-win for Iowa
Lots of families take advantage of the summer to visit the many parks, trails, lakes, rivers and community attractions that make living in Iowa so great.
You can get all kinds of ideas for your Iowa vacation at www.traveliowa.com, the state’s informative, colorful, interactive tourism Web site. You’ll find a calendar of events, regional attractions, places to stay and trip planning tools.
Travel and recreation have a lot of offer Iowans of all ages—and it boosts our economy too. Tourism in Iowa generates more than $6 billion in expenditures annually, supports 62,000 jobs statewide and generates $321 million in state taxes.
During the 2012 session, we worked to increase recreational opportunities stimulate Iowa’s economy by:
• Helping communities promote local attractions
• Investing in watershed projects that improve the quality of Iowa streams, rivers and lakes
• Expanding recreational trails for walking, biking, boating and snowmobiling
So get on out there this summer and enjoy all that makes Iowa a great place to live, work and play!
Your input needed on rest areas
The Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to know what you think of Iowa’s interstate rest areas. Your input will help the DOT plan for future rest area needs. You can take the short survey online at www.IowaDOTRestAreaStudy.com through July 16. Printed surveys will also be available at all rest areas and weigh stations.
Planning grants for watershed projects
Watershed management authorities can apply for a new grant to develop a comprehensive watershed plan to reduce flood risks and improve water quality. Award recipients will receive up to $187,330 and 18 months to develop their plan.
Proposals are due August 24. Complete details on this and other watershed planning opportunities are available here.
Taking care in the summer heat
With the record high temperatures we’ve seen here in Iowa this year, the Iowa Department of Public Health is reminding us all to take precautions in extreme heat and humidity.
Anyone can suffer from heat-related illness, but those at greatest risk include seniors, babies and small kids, and people who are overweight, work outdoors or have chronic health problems.
To protect yourself:
• Drink lots of water.
• If you sweat, add salt and minerals to you diet with bananas, salty crackers or sports drinks.
• Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
• Wear sunscreen and hats that shade your face.
• Stay in the shade or air conditioned areas.
• Work slowly and stop immediately if you feel weak or dizzy.
For more information on how to best handle the summer heat, go to www.cdc.gov/Features/ExtremeHeat.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
2012 successes for jobs, education, economy
The 2012 session resulted in some significant successes for Iowans.
We’ve once again balanced the state budget without raising taxes. And we’ve approved measures that will move this state forward, create jobs, grow our economy, increase student achievement and expand educational opportunity.
The Legislature did its best work when we refused to be distracted by divisive issues and instead worked together on the top priorities of Iowans. Highlights include:
** Encouraging economic growth and job creation through targeted business incentives, university-supported business development, and funding for local Workforce Development field offices that help out-of-work Iowans find jobs and local businesses find employees.
** Expanding training to ease Iowa’s skilled worker shortage by developing and enhancing programs at our community colleges, which have a tradition of working closely with local business to meet workforce needs.
** Launching education reform that reinforces the importance of early grade literacy, increases parental involvement, establishes annual teacher performance reviews, expands student assessments, and continues funding for smaller class sizes for kids learning to read.
** Making tuition more affordable at community colleges, state universities and private colleges, as well as expanding tuition grants for returning National Guard soldiers.
** Intensifying STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) efforts in K12 schools, along with expanding career-oriented engineering education.
** Jumpstarting Iowa’s solar and geothermal energy industry through targeted tax credits.
** Reforming Iowa’s mental health system to ensure all Iowans receive high-quality services regardless of where they live.
I also voted to increase support for local schools and to significantly cut commercial property taxes. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough support to make these investments that so many Iowans wanted.
Thank you to all who took the time to contact me during the session. Your ideas, suggestions and priorities are reflected in many of the bills that made it to the Governor’s desk.
Education budget boosts key job creation efforts
In the last days of the 2012 session, the Legislature approved a bipartisan compromise on the state’s Education Budget that includes key job creation measures.
Most importantly, we voted to boost investment in our outstanding community colleges so that they can help Iowans fill skilled job shortages. When Iowa employers can’t find the skilled workers they need, they’re left with three choices: lose business to competitors, hire from out-of-state, or move their business out of Iowa.
Under Senate File 2321, investment in workforce training will increase to $8 million next year, a hike of 60 percent. That includes $2 million for the new GAP Tuition Fund, which helps Iowans earn certificates in welding, information technology and other in-demand jobs. And $6 million will go to the Accelerated Career Education (ACE) program.
In addition, general community college funding will increase by $13 million, and the institutions will receive an additional $5 million for maintenance.
The Education Budget also boosts funding for Iowa’s public universities by $23 million, an amount the Board of Regents has said will help prevent future tuition increases. Tuition grants for private colleges increase by 4.6 percent, and funds for the National Guard tuition program go up by 7 percent.
By keeping tuition costs down, we increase educational opportunity and make it possible for Iowa’s families to afford a great future for their kids. Ultimately, investing in education and job training helps Iowans become more productive, competitive workers, grows our economy and boosts job creation.
SF 2321 now goes to Governor Branstad for his signature.
Tackling designer drugs
The abuse of harmful “designer drugs” is on the rise in Iowa.
You may have heard of some of these substances, which are concocted in chemistry labs and sold under such names as K2 and spice (types of synthetic marijuana) and bath salts (synthetic stimulants). These drugs have caused an alarming rise in emergency room visits among those who use them.
That’s why legislators have worked with law enforcement to ban these drugs through Senate File 2343, part of a larger effort to reduce dangerous drug use in Iowa.
Bath salts are stimulants that are ingested or snorted to get high. Poison control centers report that bath salts can lead to extreme paranoia, suicidal thoughts, agitation, combative and violent behavior, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and serious injury or death.
The effects of synthetic marijuana, such as K2, spice and Black Blaze, can vary significantly from person to person. Ill effects can include paranoia, agitation, vomiting, seizures, lack of pain response and uncontrollable body movements.
SF 2343 passed the House and Senate and has gone to the Governor for his signature.
Participate in parade to honor vets, service members
A parade called “A Salute to our Veterans and Service Members” will be held on June 30 in downtown Des Moines. The parade is being coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Iowa National Guard and the Governor’s office to recognize the achievements and dedication of Iowa’s service men and women. For more information or to participate in the parade, call the Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs at 1-800-838-4692.
2012 Iowa Transportation Map available
Showing roadways, rivers, rail lines and more from Larchwood in the northwest to Keokuk in the southeast, the new 2012 Iowa Transportation Map is now out—and it’s free!
Maps are available throughout the state at driver’s license stations, Department of Transportation offices and Iowa’s rest areas and welcome centers. You can also get a complete Iowa travel packet that includes the new map and 2012 Iowa Travel Guide by calling 1-800-345-IOWA or visit www.traveliowa.com.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
The legislative session is going longer than scheduled. I hope it will wrap up soon, but we won’t gavel out until Iowa has a balanced state budget that keeps our commitments to students, working families and local communities on education, job creation and economic growth.
While it is true that some legislative Republicans have floated the idea of just giving up and going home, rest assured, that won’t happen.
A recent Sioux City Journal editorial stated: “Voters sent representatives and senators (Republicans and Democrats) to Des Moines to do a job. Arguably, the most important job for our legislators is passage of a budget (a budget for the full fiscal year) before they gavel their session to a close. Iowans expect nothing less.”
I agree 100 percent! That’s why I will continue to make the case for investing in Iowa’s future while being fiscally responsible. Our state’s economy has rebounded from the national recession stronger and quicker than most states. The state budget is in good shape, thanks to sound bipartisan management.
Here are some budget facts. The state of Iowa is expected to have a budget surplus of about $258 million on June 30, the end of the current budget year. In addition, we have $617.1 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history. On top of that, we’re putting an additional $60 million into the newly created Taxpayer Trust Fund.
In short, there is no reason for any legislator to give up and go home without making the tough decisions they were sent to the Statehouse to make.
Just a few things on our 2012 to-do list
As we near adjournment of the 2012 session, there are a handful of important issues to be resolved. They include:
• An increase in our state’s investment in education at the local level, at our community colleges and at our state universities. The Senate blocked Republican demands to close preschools, eliminate support for smaller class sizes and extra help for kids learning to read, cut community college funding and force more of the cost of college onto the backs of families.
• A significant cut in commercial property taxes that reduces taxes on every commercial property in Iowa. We need to help small businesses the most and does not shift taxes onto residential property.
• A tax cut for working families—one that will also help local businesses when families purchase milk, gas and school clothes, make car repairs and pay bills.
What else still needs to be done?
Legislation that will help create jobs and strengthen our economy tops my list. Many ideas passed the Senate with bipartisan support but weren’t taken up in the House. These ideas—developed by working closely with local business and community leaders—need to be given another look:
• Giving Iowa’s community colleges more tools to help fix our state’s shortage of skilled workers.
• Intensifying efforts to make sure state and local tax dollars buy American and buy Iowan.
• Reducing costs for 60,000 Iowa small businesses with a state tax credit on employee health insurance costs.
• Providing consumer rebates to create jobs on solar and wind projects at residences and businesses.
How are we improving Iowa education?
When it comes to education, three key issues are still being worked out.
The first is education reform. This session, we’re building on Iowa’s tradition of excellent local schools by working to raise academic standards, increase the effectiveness of educators, and provide for innovations that enhance learning. Senate File 2284 was developed with the help of parents, teachers and students, as well as state and national experts.
While differences in the House and Senate approaches to education reform remain, we’re working to find common ground on:
• Establishing annual teacher and administrator evaluations
• Expanding the educational standards and key concepts students should know
• Competency-based education that allows students to learn at their own pace and advance quickly in subjects they enjoy
• Creating higher requirements for students entering the teaching profession
• Helping principals put more focus on improving teaching rather than non-educational administrative duties
Second, basic state funding for local school districts must be reliable and adequate to meet needs. In the Senate, we’ve approved a 4 percent increase in basic state support for local schools for the 2013-2014 school year. These dollars are used for textbooks, heating bills, technology and other necessities so that students, teachers and schools can be successful.
Iowans expect and want great local schools. The state budget has recovered and it’s time to help our schools do the same. Unfortunately, the House is again insisting on no new funding for local students.
Third, we must ensure that all Iowa students are good readers by third grade. This is a centerpiece of the Governor’s reform proposal that I wholeheartedly support. Class size affects student success, especially when children are learning to read.
We need to continue efforts to limit class sizes for kindergarten through third-graders by extending Iowa’s Early Intervention Block Grant Program—more commonly known as the “class size reduction” program—so that students get the one-on-one attention they need to get a good start in school.
New alert system protects victims of domestic violence
New alerts from the Iowa Attorney General’s office will ensure that victims of abuse are better informed about protective orders against their abusers.
In Iowa, victims of abuse must request that the court issue a “no contact” order to legally prevent an abuser from approaching them. A “no contact” order is not enforceable until the abuser is served with the order.
The new Iowa Protective Order Notification for Domestic Abuse Program (IPONDA) will provide near real-time, around-the-clock notifications by telephone or e-mail. Registered victims will know if a “no contact” order has been served or if a “no contact” order is about to expire.
The alert system is paid for through a grant from the Federal Department of Justice. Those who wish to register for notifications should call 1-888-742-8463 or go to www.registervpo.com.
Support for our emergency workers
Iowa has 20,000 firefighters organized in 871 fire departments. Each year, these men and women respond to more than 40,000 emergency calls.
To help them get the training they need, we’re working to create a shared facility to support the training of Iowa’s firefighters, law enforcement and emergency medical responders. By pooling local, state and federal funds, we can develop a high-quality, efficient center. Given Iowa’s tradition of national leadership in fire service training and safety education, this project makes perfect sense.
Every Iowan will likely receive help from our volunteer emergency workers at some point in their lives. As a small token of appreciation, the Legislature approved and the Governor signed a “thank-you” to volunteer firefighters and EMTs.
Starting next year, they’ll get a $50 state tax credit on their personal tax returns. It’s the first time that the state has recognized the financial contribution of our volunteer emergency workers, who also donate their time and sometimes risk their lives.
Please be sure to thank your local firefighters and emergency medical responders the next time you see them.
Teacher Appreciation Week, May 7-11
May 7-11 is Iowa’s annual Teacher Appreciation Week, a time to thank teachers for their hard work. On May 8—Teacher Appreciation Day—school children can show appreciation for their teachers by sharing kind words, a special card or a small gift. During the week, students may also get the chance to learn more about the daily routine of their teachers and what kind of work goes into teaching and education.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
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
Retiring Senate President Jack Kibbie of Emmetsburg helped create Iowa’s nationally recognized community college system. I’m working closely with him so Southeastern Community College and Eastern Iowa Community College as well as other community colleges can do even more to ease Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers. Business leaders say that would help grow Iowa’s economy. Unfortunately, deep cuts in state funding over the last 10 years have caused sharp increases in tuition and fees, according to a new report by the Iowa Fiscal Partnership.
Act now to keep Iowa’s economy growing
The recent report of rising state revenues is another sign that Iowa’s response to the national recession is working. Our economy is improving, and now’s the time to strengthen the foundations of a lasting recovery.
When the deep national recession hit, we reduced the annual state budget by hundreds of millions of dollars by reforming and downsizing state government and putting the focus on job creation and long-term growth.
We’ve made a good start, one that has put Iowa ahead of other states. Now is the time to invest in education, job creation and other opportunities to build a strong Iowa economy for the future.
Local Iowans to serve on state boards, commissions
This spring, Governor Branstad appointed many local Iowans to serve on boards and commissions. These statewide panels are responsible for advising the Governor, the Legislature and state agencies.
Most of the members are regular Iowans from all parts of the state. Their participation is what makes our democracy strong. Thank you to all who volunteer their time to build a stronger, brighter future for all Iowans, including:
** Real Estate Commission: Carol Haines, West Burlington
** Tobacco Use Prevention and Control Commission: Thomas Greene, Burlington
To learn more about Iowa’s boards and commissions and how you can serve, go to http://openup.iowa.gov/boards/.
Controversial legislation to fund a new nuclear power plant will lead to significantly higher electrical rates if legislation to build a new nuclear power plant becomes law. That was the message I and other legislators brought to a Statehouse news conference on March 20. The legislation puts consumers at risk in order to finance a project that Wall Street investors see as too risky. See video from the event at http://youtu.be/eLMcqWT0W7w.
Education reforms to prepare students for 21st century jobs
I share Governor Branstad’s education goals of raising academic standards, improving the effectiveness of educators and using innovation to enhance learning.
As we choose the best ways to reach these goals, my colleagues and I are listening to parents, teachers, students and concerned Iowans. Their suggestions are the basis of the education reforms contained in Senate File 2284. This legislation is still a work in progress but key elements include:
** Focusing on early reading and small class sizes in the younger grades so that teachers can help struggling students catch up.
** Helping students learn at their own pace to master the basics and advance more quickly in the subjects they love most.
** Expanding the core curriculum to include arts, music and technology.
** Expanding teacher-to-teacher collaboration and coaching.
** Using online learning to enhance and extend offerings in our local schools.
** Pilot projects to extend the school year and school day to measure the impact on student achievement.
** Parent liaisons for schools with struggling students.
I am passionately interested in creating world-class schools here in Iowa. I believe that by working together, we can take several steps forward this year to provide Iowa students with the best educational opportunities.
Please continue sharing your ideas as we build on what our schools do right and improve in areas where we can do better.
Community colleges can help strengthen Iowa’s economy
Iowa’s skilled worker shortage hurts our state’s economic growth. Governor Branstad and I agree on that point.
To solve the problem, we need to change direction. Specifically, we need to make it easier—not harder—for Iowa workers to improve their skills.
Since 1991, enrollment at community colleges has more than doubled to nearly 106,000. At the same time, a 21 percent drop in state investment has made getting an education more expensive for Iowa families by forcing sharp increases in tuition and fees.
We need to turn this trend around. Our community colleges already work closely with Iowa businesses to identify local and statewide needs. Our community colleges have shown they can help Iowans gain the skills to fill those job openings and earn industry-recognized certificates in welding, technology, direct care and other areas.
Given that record of success, it’s time to ask community colleges to do more. That means providing enough state funding to get the job done, without making tuition unaffordable.
As the 2012 session winds down, I’m working with my colleagues in the Legislature on the best ways to grow Iowa’s economy and create jobs. At the top of my list is more investment in Iowa’s community colleges. This is a win-win opportunity for Iowa businesses looking for employees and Iowa workers looking for jobs.
For a new report on how funding is impacting our community colleges, go to the Iowa Fiscal Partnership Web site.
Bipartisan effort restores help to unemployed Iowans
Unemployed Iowans will continue to get the help they need, thanks to an agreement by the Senate, the House and Governor Branstad to restore funding to Iowa Workforce Development and ensure all remaining field offices stay open through the end of the current fiscal year.
Senate File 517, approved with overwhelming, bipartisan support during the 2011 session, included specific funding to keep open dozens of local workforce offices. These offices help Iowans search for jobs, prepare for interviews and improve their skills, while helping businesses find the qualified employees they need.
Governor Branstad item-vetoed restrictions and conditions on appropriations in the legislation that would have kept all 55 workforce field offices open. Recently, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the Governor’s veto was illegal, making all funding for the Department of Workforce Development void.
While the agreement to restore funding to Iowa Workforce Development cleans up the immediate mess created by the Governor’s illegal veto, it will be difficult to repair all the damage. For example, I am skeptical about the effectiveness of offering essential employment services through computer kiosks, and am looking at reopening some of the closed workforce offices where they are most critically needed.
Part of Iowa’s recovery from the national recession includes doing the best job possible to help unemployed Iowans find work.
April is National Donate Life Month
Iowa is consistently recognized as one of the most “donation friendly” states in the country when it comes to organ and tissue donation. Sixty-seven percent of adult Iowans are registered donors—much higher than the national average of only 33 percent.
Almost 113,000 Americans currently wait for a life-saving organ transplant. Over 630 of those people are Iowans. More than 100 people can benefit from one person’s decision to be an organ and tissue donor.
During National Donate Life Month, I encourage you to register aws an organ, tissue and eye donor by marking “yes” to donation on your driver’s license or identification card. You can also register online at www.IowaDonorRegistry.org.
Young people wanted for Youth Council
The State of Iowa Youth Advisory Council is currently taking applications for its 2012-2013 council. The council is made up of young people between the ages of 14 and 20 with an interest in government. Members will gain leadership and civic engagement experience, training and opportunities to network.
Applications received by May 1 will receive priority consideration and new council members will be selected by June 30. For more information and how to apply, visit www.icyd.iowa.gov/SIYAC.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
Everyone welcome at education reform discussions
How can we help our students do even better? Which of Gov. Branstad’s education reform ideas will help our local schools—and which might hurt? I want to know what you think.
I’m organizing public meetings on these issues for parents, teachers, students and all interested citizens. Everyone is welcome to attend, regardless of where you live.
If you can’t make it, I still want to hear your ideas and concerns. Contact me at 319-759-5334 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for taking the time to help me better serve you.
Danville: November 15 from 6 to 7 PM in the Danville High School chorus room, 419 South Main Street.
West Liberty: November 16 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM in the meeting room of the West Liberty Public Library, 400 North Spencer Street.
Muscatine: November 17 from 6:30 to 7:30 PM in Strahan Hall room 27 at Muscatine Community College, 152 Colorado Street.
Honoring our veterans, service members
Over the past year, Iowa has experienced the largest overseas deployment of National Guard troops since World War II. It’s a powerful reminder this November—the month of Veterans Day—of the sacrifice that thousands of our fellow Iowans are making.
Iowa is a national leader in supporting our veterans, soldiers and their families. The Iowa Veterans Council called a recent legislative session the best for Iowa veterans and service members since the 1950s. And last year, Iowa became the first state to approve 10 measures that the U.S. Department of Defense says would do most to improve the quality-of-life for our military.
We built on those successes this year by:
Eliminating state taxes on military pay: We made military pay exempt from state taxes for soldiers on active duty in the reserves or National Guard. This tax exemption is retroactive to January 1 of this year.
Preventing “stolen valor”: It is now a serious misdemeanor to impersonate a decorated military veteran with the intent to receive monetary gain, such as a job, promotion or political office.
Protecting veterans from unnecessary fees: Any company or individual that charges a fee to help veterans file benefit appeals is now required to disclose that these services are provided for free at local veterans’ affairs offices.
Helping soldiers go to college: We protected funding for the National Guard Education Assistance program, which helps our soldiers attend Iowa colleges and universities.
Divesting from Iran: We voted to divest public funds from companies doing business in Iran to better prevent Iowa tax dollars from being invested in a country that supports the enemies of the United States.
Establishing Purple Heart Day: August 7 is now officially “Purple Heart Day” in Iowa. State and local governments—and ALL Iowans—are encouraged to honor our military men and women who were killed or wounded in enemy action.
Expanding Injured Veterans Grants: A veteran who previously received an injured veteran’s grant may now be eligible for an additional grant for a subsequent serious injury received in the line of duty.
Protecting posthumously conceived children: When a service member is deployed to a war zone or when a person becomes seriously ill, injuries or treatments could prevent that person from conceiving a child. That’s why a person’s genetic material is sometimes saved by military families for later use. We ensured that children who are conceived using the genetic material of a parent who has died will be considered a legitimate child.
Creating new veterans’ license plates: We established new Iowa license plates honoring recipients of the Combat Infantryman Badge, Combat Action Badge, Combat Action Ribbon, Air Force Combat Action Medal and Combat Medical Badge. Proceeds benefit the Iowa Commission on Veterans Affairs.
These are just a few small ways we are showing appreciation and saying “thank you” to those who’ve served and sacrificed.
AmeriCorps grant gives veterans “green” jobs skills
The Iowa Commission on Volunteer Service has awarded a federal AmeriCorps grant to a new Iowa Department of Natural Resources program that will help put veterans to work. The Iowa Green Veterans AmeriCorps program will help returning veterans in their transition to civilian life while learning new job skills.
From October through March, veterans will learn energy efficiency-related job skills and assist rural, low-income and elderly Iowans in making energy improvements in their homes. From March through September, they’ll help with disaster recovery and stewardship activities in Iowa’s state parks. The goal is to connect military veterans with meaningful employment opportunities in the green jobs economy and natural resources.
Full-time AmeriCorps members receive a modest living allowance and an education award of up to $5,550, which can be used for higher education tuition or loan repayment after completing a full year of service. The DNR’s Veterans Program was awarded $290,000 to support the hiring of 20 veterans for 2011-2012.
To learn more, go here.
Bringing workforce services directly to veterans
The Iowa National Guard and Iowa Workforce Development have partnered to bring workforce services directly to veterans with workforce access points at Iowa armories.
This effort will make career-enhancing resources and job prospects more accessible for our soldiers returning from active duty. Maj. Gen. Tim Orr, Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard, says that more than 25 percent of those returning from combat in Afghanistan are seeking full-time employment.
The National Guard partnership will add 42 new access point locations for veterans. Services include job search and résumé assistance, unemployment claims and labor market information, educational and veteran specific resources, access to workforce specialists via live chat and more.
Des Moines, IA 50319
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601