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Capitol Digest 3-29-12

James Q. Lynch, CR Gazette –

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Thursday, March 29, 2012:

REPLACEMENT LICENSES: The Iowa Department of Transportation will implement a 10-year license plate replacement cycle beginning April 2.

The design of the standard blue and white plates with the town and country landscape first issued in 1997 will not change. However, the DOT realizes there are plates in circulation that are faded, worn or damaged, making them difficult to read. So the DOT will implement a “rolling” replacement cycle replacing only those plates that have reached an age that is beyond the usual lifespan for a plate.

Under the replacement cycle, all currently issued license plates will be replaced over the course of the next 10 years, with the oldest plates being replaced first. The DOT will replace plates issued in 1996 and 1997 this year, plates issued in 1998 through 2003 in 2013, 2004 plates in 2014 and older plates after 2014.

Specialty plates will be replaced with the current version of the same specialty plate.

Annual registration renewal notices will inform customers if their plates are due for replacement.

OPTIMISTIC FOR REFORM: “I remain optimistic and encouraged that we will have a significant education reform bill this session,” Department of Education Director told the State Board of Education at its monthly meeting Thursday. Glass said he had “a very productive meeting” with Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, March 28. Quirmbach, an economics professor at Iowa State University, is chairman of the Senate Education Committee and expected to move a Senate version of the reform package this week.

FLOOD PROTECTION: SF 2217, which would create a Flood Mitigation Program that would allow communities to use growth in sales tax revenues to fund flood protection projects, was approved 19-5 by the House Ways and Means Committee. It’s likely to be debated by the full House April 3.

SF 2217 has been approved by the Senate 50-0.

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE: Students from Iowa’s three regents universities encouraged lawmakers to invest in Iowa’s future by providing adequate funding for those universities.

Universities are a great value to the state, according to Cedar Rapids Washington graduate Spencer Walrath, student government president at the University of Northern Iowa. He noted the schoolhouse on Iowa quarters symbolize the importance of education to Iowans.

“But it will take more than quarters” to maintain the current standards at the universities, he said.

Walrath and other speakers encouraged the Iowa House to adopt the funding increases proposed by the Senate and governor. The House and Senate education budgets are about $116 million apart.

CONFERENCE NEXT WEEK: The 35th annual Governor’s Conference on Substance Abuse will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at the Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center at Veterans Memorial in Des Moines.

The conference, sponsored by the Iowa Department of Public Health, will focus on substance abuse prevention, treatment and recovery, while offering recommendations for best practices. About 500 people are expected to attend. According to state officials, alcohol is the substance most abused by Iowans. Of the adults admitted to substance abuse treatment in fiscal 2011, 45.4 percent reported alcohol as their primary problem. Marijuana was second at 26.3 percent, followed by methamphetamine at 11.3 percent. State data show recovery is possible with treatment. According to client interviews conducted six months after discharge, the abstinence rate in 2010 rose from 0 percent at admission to 57 percent at six months, the full-time employment rate went from 25 percent to 41 percent, and 84 percent of treatment clients were arrest-free during this time period as compared to 45 percent at admission.

For more information on the conference, visit For information about how IDPH is working to combat substance abuse, visit

LOTTERY JACKPOT GROWING: Strong sales have pushed Friday’s Mega Millions lotto jackpot to an estimated $540 million. Iowa Lottery officials were calling it a “monster jackpot” that already is a world record and continues to move even higher. As of Thursday, the multi-year annuity prize being offered had climbed to $540 million, while the cash payout for a potential lucky winner was $389.8 million for Friday’s drawing. That is the largest prize ever offered in a lotto game. The Mega Millions jackpot was last won in the drawing on Jan. 24, so it has been growing for more than two months. The previous record for a lotto jackpot also was in the Mega Millions game. That $390 million prize was split in March 2007 by two tickets purchased in Georgia and New Jersey. The largest Powerball jackpot to date was a $365 million prize won in February 2006 by eight co-workers at a Nebraska meatpacking plant.

Quote of the Day: “We firmly believe the future of Iowa starts with the three public universities and depends on the three public universities. The students here and on campus really are our doctors, our veterinarians, our engineers, our educators, the future. The students here actually are going to leverage and ensure the future of this state through their entrepreneurship, the folks they hire, the creativity they deliver.” – Iowa State University President Steven Leath at a Capitol news conference organized by university students

–Compiled by the Des Moines Bureau

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