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Ragan: Education budget boosts key job creation efforts

From Sen. Amanda Ragan:

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.

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