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Legislative update from Iowa Democrats



This news story was published on February 10, 2018.
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Iowa capitol

DES MOINES – The following information is from Iowa Democrats:

Home Foreclosure Timelines Could Be Shortened

Iowans who are facing foreclosure may soon have less time to save to stay in their home. Legislation that has passed the House Commerce Committee will cut most time periods in half for those facing foreclosure. Iowa foreclosure law calls for judicial foreclosure which requires the lender to file in court to close on a property, most states in the country have some type of judicial foreclosure laws.

Proponents of the shortening of the time believe that the current process is too long and federal law already has time period requirements. Current federal law requires a minimum 120 day waiting period on homes being foreclosed on. The changes proposed in the legislation would essentially move the time periods back to before the law was passed on a federal level.

Opponents of the change argue that those facing foreclosure could be in the situation in various situations and should be given every opportunity to stay in their home.

The legislation now heads to the Iowa House floor to be considered by the entire Iowa House of Representatives.

Water Quality Improving with Local Efforts

Water quality in some of Iowa’s streams has improved because of local water quality efforts. Buffalo Creek in Northeast Iowa had stream segments listed as impaired waters since 2008. The streams, which did not meet state water quality standards, were on the impaired water list because aquatic life, specifically mussels, could not be supported in the streams. Those five stream segments were removed from the impaired waters list this year when the DNR found a significant increase in the number of mussels in the stream, including four mussels that are on the state’s threatened species list.

The improvement in water quality came because of the local efforts of the Upper Buffalo Water Quality Project, spearheaded by the Buchanan Soil and Water Conservation District. Landowners and farmers were encouraged to create grassed waterways and filter strips and improved farming practices that led to significantly reduced sediment reaching the creek. The reduced sediments led to improved habitat and a return of mussels to the water.

The water quality improvements were discovered as part of the DNR’s statewide freshwater mussel survey. The DNR sampled over 813 sites over seven years statewide as part of the mussel survey. The department found 39 different species across the state, including two that were thought to be extinct from the state. Because of the survey, 12 stream segments across the state were delisted from the impaired waterways list and another two will be proposed for delisting.

School Districts Could be Allowed to Share Social Worker Positions

Iowa currently has an operational sharing program which allows school districts to share positions to reduce administration costs with a state incentive. This reduces education costs, and is used particularly in rural areas, to allow school districts to agree to hire some positions that they could not hire by themselves.

A bill has passed the House Education Committee that would add social workers to the list of positions that could be shared. Through the state incentive, a school district could receive weighting of three pupils under the school aid formula.

Considering the urgency of mental health issues, it could make a big difference for a school district to have a social worker. Such a position could help students cope with mental health issues including suicide and possible violent actions that would threaten the safety of themselves or others.

A separate bill has already passed the House and is being considered by the Senate that would extend the entire operational sharing program. Currently the program would be eliminated without legislative action at the end in 2019.

Supreme Court Holds Evening Session

On Monday, February 12, the Iowa Supreme Court will hold a special evening session in Des Moines as a part of their “Court on the Road” series where they hold sessions in the community. The sessions provide the public, and specifically schools, and opportunity to watch oral arguments presented to the Supreme Court. The evening session will begin at 7pm in the Judicial Branch Building, 111 East Court Ave, in Des Moines. After the session, the Supreme Court Justices will host a public reception.

The Supreme Court first began holding “Court on the Road” in 2011, and every year they work in an evening session in Des Moines in the month of February. In consultation with these sessions, the Justices take the opportunity to visit multiple schools in the area. Since 2011, they have visited 26 communities and 170 schools.

Persons who are interested but can’t make it to witness Monday’s oral arguments can view the live stream on the Iowa Judicial Branch YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCL6EU7W8kqDKnKPUzMdxr_g. The streaming will begin at 6:50pm.


Condition of Iowa’s Education Released

The latest Condition of Iowa’s Education Report (2017) has been released by the Department of Education. It gives a snapshot as to how Iowa is doing in key areas of enrollment, student achievement, staff and items such as early childhood. When it comes to teacher student ratios, teacher salaries and student achievement, the House leadership plan of minimal growth in school funding, has yielded predictable results.

The latest report shows that last year, the total number of teachers in Iowa increased by 396 compared to two years ago. That is just over one teacher more per Iowa’s 333 school districts, and many school districts, particularly in rural areas, have reduced teachers and increased class sizes. (See link to the report below on the number of teachers, (Pages vii, 26 and 27).

While last year’s teacher salaries did increase slightly, they still are not keeping pace. According to the report, Iowa ranks 5th compared to neighboring Midwest states in teacher salaries. This will lead our new teachers to continue to go to other neighboring states to find a job. (See link to the report below on teacher salaries, (Page vii and page 33).

The report also showed:

      • There was a decrease in the composite ACT score for the class of 2017 (21.9) compared to the class or 2016 (22.1).
      • Grades 4, 8 and 11, in both reading and mathematics, biennium proficiency rates are slightly down from the prior biennium period.
      • Class sizes statewide increased this year for students in first and second grades.
      • The number of students in Iowa’s public school districts continues to climb, now for six years in a row. The slight gain statewide was 1,700 students.
      • The percentage of students eligible for free-or-reduced priced lunch declined slightly in the 2016-17 school year to 41.3%.
      • The percent of students who are English language learners (ELL) increased from 5.7 to 5.9% percent in 2016-17. This is up from 2.3% of ELL students in 2000-01.
    • Here is the link to the latest Condition of Education report:

https://www.educateiowa.gov/sites/files/ed/documents/2017ConditionOfEducation.pdf

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