Capitol Comments by Rep. Hanson
State Rep. Curt Hanson, represents Iowa House District 82, which includes most of Jefferson County and Davis and Van Buren counties, in the state Legislature.
The 2014 legislative session ended in overtime in the early hours Thursday, more than a week after legislative personal staff was sent home and legislators’ per diem pay ceased.
The beginning optimism of ending the session early ended as it became apparent debate of possible bills were not timely scheduled.
Public school funding was not addressed this session, as was required by law.
I am sorry to report that our public schools will not receive a much needed increase in what we once called allowable growth but is now labeled supplemental funding.
By our own rules this number was to be set in February so local school boards would have adequate planning time to set local budgets and staffing numbers. Our failure to support our schools is a great disappointment and the reason a number of school districts find it necessary to issue “pink slips” notifying employees of possible layoffs.
Many people do not realize how much the public school education of Iowa’s children is improving.
However, the education of children in other states seems to be improving at a faster rate. Many other states continue to increase their efforts to improve education. Without our best effort at the state level to support our local schools, our children’s educational gains may fall short of the demands of our economy and the education of children in other states.
Our rural economy depends on transportation of both goods and information. Without an adequate road and broadband internet infrastructure, the Iowa economy will be stifled. The legislature seems unwilling to address these critical issues at this time.
The Department of Transportation Omnibus bill, Senate File 2355, passed on a 94-0 margin without an amendment that would have added what is referred to as a “hybrid gas tax.” The amendment would have added an estimated $225 million to the road use fund.
The amendment offered by Rep. Byrnes (R) was ruled ineligible for debate by Speaker Paulsen (R). A similar bill was not brought forward in the Senate. While many wait for a perfect solution, our infrastructure continues to decay. To address the repair of roads and bridges in rural Iowa, it will take the combined effort and support of leaders of both political parties and the Governor next year.
Even though I am a strong supporter, a bill to aid the expansion of rural access to broadband internet fell short in the House. Many felt that the bill offered did not allow Iowans an opportunity to increase their internet speed, others felt the bill was tilted to the favor of large corporations who may not be interested in the serving the needs of rural Iowans.
Iowa’s very successful Resource Enhancement and Protection (REAP) program will be funded at a record level of $25 million. The REAP program is celebrating its 25th anniversary of funding water and soil protection programs, which are widely supported by both rural and urban Iowans.
Iowa is a leading state in the production of renewable energy. This year the legislature encouraged more production of wind, solar, and biofuels.
Iowa college tuition rates of the three state universities will remain frozen in an effort to keep college education affordable to all families.
Expanded childcare assistance will become available to parents trying to pull themselves up the ladder of success by gaining new job training skills.
We must continue to offer job training opportunities to close the Iowa skilled worker gap and attract more employers to create good paying jobs.
Funding was also increased to Indian Hills Community College to keep tuition low and help grow Iowa’s skilled workforce.
The legislature also passed a very narrow medical cannabidiol act. The bill allows the rare treatment of children who have intractable epilepsy, a severe seizure disorder, to be treated by the use of medical oil made from marijuana. This oil can only be used if all other treatments have failed and must be prescribed by a neurologist. This oil must not have a THC level of more than 3 percent, so it is not the type of drug people can abuse to “get high.”
There are many restrictions on the prescribing, transportation and possession of this prescription.
It is truly a humanitarian effort to help those few children who suffer from as many as 50 seizures per day. The bill passed on a bipartisan vote of 75-20.
Protecting people is a big part of state government and the following are some of the bills passed this legislative session.
As people live longer, with many suffering from long physical and mental illnesses, we passed a law that protects our vulnerable seniors from neglect and abuse.
Secondly, new state troopers will be added to the force to help keep Iowa roads safe.
Thirdly, funds for more prison guards will be provided for the protection of our communities and prisoners.
Next, our children will be better protected by closing a loophole to prohibit coaches from engaging in sexual activities with minors.
A law protecting our local pharmacies from price fixing should be of great value in keeping rural pharmacies open.
Finally, an increased tax credit for volunteer fire fighters and EMS personnel should help rural communities recruit the volunteers needed in small communities.
The important news is that Iowa does have a balanced budget including a large unspent balance. The fiscal management of the nearly $7 billion Iowa budget is the envy of many of our surrounding sister states.
Iowa taxpayers did receive money back as a tax credit this year and the property tax reform enacted last year continues to help property taxpayers.
Feel free to contact me in the interim with any questions and concerns you may have.
Contact Hanson anytime by email at email@example.com or by phone at 641-919-2314
Hanson serves on the House Agriculture and Education, Natural Resources committees, as well as the Education Appropriations Subcommittee.