The Capitol Report by Rep. Curt Hanson
Session report for week 3.
Jan. 28 started with a meeting with Iowa Department of Human Resources Director Charles Palmer and several members of his staff.
The discussion centered on the regionalization of mental health services that were provided at the county level in the past. At this time, Iowa counties are grouping together in an effort to meet the new law and provide services on a more equitable basis.
It appears there is a possibility some counties may not be able to afford the needs of mental health patients today. If the county has a small population, the costs of expensive treatment for even one or two patients could exceed the county’s ability to pay.
I’m concerned the present system is a terrible mess that is being replaced by another terrible mess!
After lunch, the Education Committee heard a report of Competency Based Education taking place in Muscatine. When studying under a CBE program, the learning is constant and the time is variable, just the opposite of what is now the industrial system of education.
In a recent historical article, it was reported Iowa’s earliest county schools used the concept of CBE – children were assigned to their level of reading competency, rather than a grade based on their age.
That evening an education subcommittee learned of the governor’s proposal for K-12 online learning reform. Computer online learning is expected to change education in many ways. It is important Iowa regulate the education provided and make sure it meets Iowa standards. We wish to protect Iowans and not have students fleeced who avail themselves of this new form of education.
Jan. 29 at the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, we learned of the plans colleges and universities are making to assure their online classes are of quality and are accepted in other states. The presentation was very similar to the report we heard Monday in the Education Committee.
The Legislative Service Agency also made a presentation on the data about state government now online. As more information becomes available online, government becomes more transparent.
For a wealth of information about Iowa, check the 2012 Iowa Factbook, online at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/DOCS/LSA/FCT/2012/FCTMMT000.pdf.
At the Natural Resources Committee meeting, we heard an update of the efforts to control the outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease among the deer on a Davis County Game Preserve.
I am co-sponsoring a companion bill to better regulate deer breeding farms and hunting preserves. Should CWD spread from the confines of the private captive deer herd to our wild herd, the devastation could be enormous and would likely cause a large economic down-turn in our local economy.
In the evening I attended “Tourism Night” at the state fairgrounds. Iowa tourism was showcased at the many exhibits.
The Villages of Van Buren and the Fairfield exhibit showcased tourism in our area. I was impressed by their representatives and their promotion of traveling to our area of the state.
In 2011, tourism brought $6.36 million to Davis County; $36.55 million to Jefferson County; and $6.02 million to Van Buren County. Tourism has obviously impacted the area in terms of both money and jobs.
At a meeting of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, we were updated by the Board of Educational Examiners director. This board issues certificates to practice and investigates ethics violations and complaints. They wish to resolve most cases within 180 days, but of course, some complicated cases may take longer. The most important thing is to remove the person from the classroom immediately and resolve complaints as quickly as possible, while giving due justice to all parties.
We also discussed the possible hiring of superintendents without any experience in education. This is a controversial proposal by the governor and will be debated vigorously before any final action.
At a meeting of the House Education Committee, we heard the Instructional Time Task Force’s final report. The task force recommended Iowa lawmakers keep the 180 days requirement, but also require 1,080 hours of instruction per school year. I have long favored an instructional requirement such as this. At present, if the buses run and then the students are sent home, the time is counted as one day, when in fact it may be but one or two hours of instructional time. It was further recommended the school year start date remain a local school board decision.
The annual Hy-Vee Legislative Reception was held Wednesday evening. Hy-Vee has grown to 235 stores, the largest grocer in the Midwest, and now employs 63,000 people. In 2012, Hy-Vee had another record year with retail sales of $7.7 billion, yes billion! Hy-Vee is the largest private employer in Iowa.
On Thursday, a joint session of the Iowa Legislature heard Iowa National Guard Adjutant Gen. Timothy Orr report the guard remains, “Mission Focused and Warrior Ready.”
The Iowa National Guard consists of 9,400 servicemen and women and operates at one-third the cost of regular forces. The costs of the guard are 97 percent funded by the federal government.
In the Iowa Guard, 80 percent of the troops serve part time with the Guard and full time in the business community. Last year 1,400 members of the Guard received their tuition paid by the state. Orr also reported thanks to a state and business partnership, the unemployment rate for members of the Guard has gone from 28 percent down to 6 percent. This is a remarkable achievement.
At the afternoon Natural Resource Committee meeting, we learned of the tremendous economic value of Iowa’s natural resources.
In Iowa, these economic benefits amount to about $3 billion and 31,000 jobs. We must use our best stewardship to preserve these resources for future generations.
Thursday evening, I hosted a Fairfield listening post on soil, water and environmental issues. The meeting was attended by several area senators and representatives, as well as wide-range of interested citizens. The objective was to let members of the Legislature hear the environmental concerns, ideas and possible solutions of area constituents, as well as to let various interest groups hear the view of others.
Feel free to keep in contact with me. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 919-2314.