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Legislative update from Rep. Sharon Steckman

From Rep. Sharon Steckman –

"I had the pleasure to meet with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, April 15th," Rep. Steckman said.
“I had the pleasure to meet with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Wednesday, April 15th,” Rep. Steckman said.

As I think about what to share with you this week, I am finding it difficult to think of  something new to say.  Only two committees were scheduled to meet this week – Appropriations; also Ways and Means, on which I serve.

Both committees met on Tuesday; however, scheduled meetings for Wednesday were cancelled and Ways and Means will not meet again this week.  I know that we have many bills in both of those committees that could be discussed and voted upon, so I really do not understand why we are not conducting business.

When asked why we were not addressing school funding, the Majority Leader in the House stated that a bill had passed the House in February, thus implying that the work was done.  Since the 1.25% allowable growth in the bill fell woefully short of addressing the needs of our schools and our kids, the work is not done.

The Senate has definitely not concurred.  Democrats on the Joint Conference committee have moved from 6% to 4% to a 2.625% increase in state aid while Republicans haven’t moved at all and still insist on 1.25%.

My email is full of entreaties from school officials, teachers, parents and, yes, even kids asking me to do all that I can to make sure that schools don’t have to increase class size, lay off teachers and implement other scary scenarios.

I just had a conversation with a self-described “conservative accountant” and he stated that the money is available in our budget.  He felt so strongly about it, he was handing out buttons that said “4%”!

School districts across Iowa were forced to start issuing pink slips to teachers and hundreds of Iowa kids and parents rallied at the State Capitol again this week to support a 4% increase in basic state funding for K-12 public schools.

Please note the story on the balanced budget plan offered by the Senate.  The bottom line is the same as the Governor’s…with some differences in priorities.

Other news this week:

  • With a bi-partisan support, the Iowa Senate passed a bill that would fix and expand the state’s medical cannabis law to help more Iowans suffering from debilitating diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. A recent poll found 87% of Iowans support medical marijuana.  It looks like the House will refuse to take it up.
  • Hospitals and other medical professionals are raising new questions about the Governor’s plan to privatize the Iowa’s Medicaid program, which serves seniors, disabled Iowans, and low-income families.
  • In response to Westboro Baptist Church members protesting at military funerals, the House & Senate have both approved a bill to set a 1,000 buffer zone for protestors around funerals in Iowa.
  • Legislators are working on a bi-partisan Safe at Home bill that would protect the confidentiality of domestic abuse victims.
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