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Legislative update from Rep. Sharon Steckman

From Representative Sharon Steckman –

State Rep. Sharon Steckman
State Rep. Sharon Steckman

Congratulations to Iowa schools, students, teachers and parents!  For the fourth year in a row, Iowa’s graduation rate has continued to climb and is now over 90%, the highest ever.  Along with that, Iowa’s dropout rate continues to decline.  That’s the good news!   However…
We really tried!  This week, the Democratic members of the Conference Committee on school funding offered to meet the Republican members halfway.  The exact figure offered was 2.625% –  halfway between 4% and 1.25%.  With a 6% increase in state revenues, the offer was responsible and affordable (although not adequate).  The vote was 5 to 5, along party lines, so the stalemate continues.

The compromise offer was the first new proposal by either side.  Legislative Republicans have thus far refused to offer any alternative to their initial figure of 1.25%.

A few members of the Education committee paid a visit to the Des Moines Area Community College Urban Campus.  We learned that, while serving 6000 students per semester, they have the largest ELL program in Iowa.  We heard wonderful testimonies from several students!   However, due to lack of funding, they have to turn away hundreds of students needing ELL classes every term.

This week, the majority party in the House blocked an attempt to bring up SF 269 (raising the minimum wage) despite its being approved on a bipartisan vote in the Senate.  Polls have shown that Iowans solidly support increasing the minimum wage (65% to 31%).  That support extends to both rural and urban areas.  There are 181,000 Iowans currently earning the minimum wage which has not been raised in eight years.  The bill will no longer be eligible for debate after this week due to legislative rules.

Other News:

•    The Senate’s Human Trafficking bill died in the House Judiciary committee.

•    Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped again in February down to 4.1%, well below the national average.

•    A bill to stop bullying is gaining momentum in both chambers after a strong bi-partisan vote in the Iowa Senate this week.  It passed the House Education committee as well with only four dissenting votes and will be eligible for debate on the floor..

•    A bill requiring schools to start the year after August 23 is on the way to the Governor’s desk.  After the Governor told local schools they couldn’t set their own date last fall, the bill is seen as a compromise that the Governor has said he will sign.  However, it still does not allow a year-round option for high school students.

•    Lawmakers are working on a bill that would ban the use of hand-held electronic devices while driving.  The Senate prefers a ban on texting while driving.

•    The House and Senate have both approved a bill to allow schools to use EpiPens when students or staff suffers from a life-threatening allergic reaction that cuts off breathing.

One more thing:  I highly recommend that you contact both Governor Branstad and Lt. Governor Reynolds if you have concerns about closing the Mental Health Institutes in Clarinda and Mt. Pleasant, privatization of Medicaid, and school funding.  These are decisions that the governor has made without legislative input and/or is threatening a veto if the Legislature disagrees.

Remember that Democracy is a participatory sport.  You can…
1.     Participate in local forums.
2.     E-mail me with your comments and/ or concerns.
3.    Let me know if you plan to visit the Statehouse while we are in session.
4.    Stay informed about the important issues of the day.

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