The following is a new update from Iowa Democrats:
Veterans Day on the Hill; Condition of the Iowa National Guard
This week, veterans and their families traveled to Des Moines for Veterans Day at the Capitol. Throughout the day, veterans met with legislators to discuss the priorities of the Veterans Commission.
The Veterans Commission is a group of representatives from various veterans’ organizations across Iowa who work collectively to develop and advance policy ideas to assist veterans and their families.
For the 2019 Legislative session, the Veterans Commission will work to protect programs and agencies such as the Iowa Veterans Home, the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund, and the Military Home Ownership Program. The Commission is also interested in supporting any legislation regarding helping veterans with mental health issues and increasing the Military Property Tax Exemption from $1852 to $3700.
Condition of the Guard
As part of his annual Condition of the Guard, the Adjutant General, Major General Orr spoke of the continued work of the Iowa National Guard. More than 19,000 soldiers and airmen from the Iowa National Guard have been mobilized around the globe since the start of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Currently, there are approximately 300 members of the Iowa National Guard deployed around the world.
Major General Orr reiterated the importance of young Americans choosing to serve in the National Guard. Right now, only three of ten 17 to 24 year-olds are eligible for military service. This low number could impact the readiness of military forces to defend the nation in the future. National Guard members are able to get leadership and training opportunities, learn occupational skills for future careers, and can graduate debt-free with a two-year, four-year or technical school degree, making the Guard a great option for some young adults.
The Iowa National Guard also worked to strengthen the Midwest Counter Drug Training Center and their Counterdrug program. This federally-funded program began in 1989 and works to reduce the supply and demand of illegal substances in our state. The program also provides training to local law enforcement personnel and drug prevention and treatment professionals at no cost. This has been especially important in the fight against opioid abuse in Iowa. In partnership with Counterdrug specialists, the National Guard were able to seize one pound of fentanyl (or about 180,000 fatal doses), and almost fifteen pounds of heroin. More than $63 million in drugs were taken off the streets because of the men and women of the Iowa National Guard.
Chief Justice Highlights Diversity of Court
Chief Justice Cady delivered his annual Condition of the Judiciary, where he took the opportunity to praise the diversity of Iowa’s Courts. He noted that last year the number of female and male judges appointed was equal. In addition, Justice Susan Christensen was the first woman appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in nearly a decade. The Chief Justice stressed that Iowa “has a strong, national reputation for fairness and impartiality.”
Iowa utilizes a merit selection process for selecting judges. The merit selection process is required by the Iowa Constitution. The judicial nominating commissions review each applicant for their background, education, and experience, and then nominate a slate of qualified candidates to be appointed. The law requires judicial candidates to be chosen by the commissions based upon their qualifications without regard to party affiliation. The goal of the merit selection process is to emphasize professional qualifications and minimize partisan politics.
Judicial appointees serve an initial term of office that is one year from the appointments. Judges must then face a retention election. If a judge is retained by the voters in the state, the judge then serves a term of 6 to 8 years before facing retention elections after each term. A judge must retire by age 72.
The Governor’s higher education budget provides the requested level increases to Iowa State (ISU) and the University of Iowa (U of I) at $7 million. The University of Northern Iowa’s (UNI) request for $4 million would also be funded.
If these requested levels are approved by the Legislature, there would still be tuition increases of 3% for students attending ISU or the U of I. UNI’s tuition increase next school year would be from 0 to 1%. Otherwise, tuition increases could be significantly higher at a lower increase or if current levels were cut even deeper.
Iowa’s three public universities were forced to raise tuition twice in 2016 to deal with Republican lawmaker’s budget cuts. In 2017, the Legislature cut them mid-year by $8 million during the budget year then approved an additional $10 million cut for the 2018 budget. After these significant cuts of nearly $30 million, the Legislature passed an increase last session of just over $8 million which did not make up for previous cuts. With this lack of state support, students and their families bear the brunt of higher tuitions and fees.
The Governor’s budget also provides an increase to community college for job training programs of $4.6 million. Iowa’s community college tuition is the 3rd highest in the Midwest and in the top 10 nationally. Iowa’s average tuition of its 15 community colleges during Fiscal Year 2017 was $4,924.81. This is above the national average of $3,453.58.
Yet another for-profit college has been taken to task by a group of attorneys general, including Iowa’s Attorney General Tom Miller, over their deceptive practices with students. Career Education Corporation has agreed to forgo collecting on student loans and change their practices due to information they provided students on cost of enrollment and recruitment as well as enrollment practices.
CEC agreed to forgo collection of amounts owed by former students living in the states participating in the agreement. In Iowa, 715 students will get relief totaling over $1.4 million. In addition they agreed to pay $5 million to the states. Iowa’s share will be over $264,000.
The college is based in Schaumburg, Illinois, and mainly offers online courses through American InterContinental University and Colorado Technical University. Some of the items CEC is required to make through the agreement are, no misrepresentations concerning accreditation, financial aid, graduation rates, or placement rates. They are not to enroll students in programs that do not lead to state licensure when required for employment, or not prepare graduates for jobs in their field.
The college is also required to establish a risk-free trial period. All undergraduates who enter an online CEC program with fewer than 24 online credits shall be permitted to withdraw within 21 days of the beginning of the term without incurring any cost.
Former students with debt relief eligibility questions can contact by phone at CEC at 844-783-8629 or by email: CECquestions@careered.com.
In 2018, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office received an 18% increase in consumer complaints, relating to vehicles, home improvement projects, and imposter scams. The Office of Consumer Protection Division received 3,495 complaints total, an increase from 2,961 in 2017. The highest number of complaints received related to automobiles. The Attorney General’s Office received 493 customer complaints relating to auto repairs, financing, warranties, and sales practices for cars, motorcycles, ATV’s, and trailers.
This session, Attorney General Tom Miller is proposing the following bills to strengthen consumer protection:
• Require education loan debt management companies to obtain a license from the Iowa Division of Banking and provide disclosures and other protections for borrowers.
• Add motorcycles to Iowa’s Lemon Law, which protects buyers of new or used vehicles. Another proposal would increase the amount of the surety bond that travel trailer dealers must carry in case of loss or damage suffered by buyers.
• Strengthen Iowa’s law governing notifications of data breaches and expand the definition of personal information that can be affected by such security breaches.
• Increase penalties for elder abuse, including financial exploitation.
Iowa Consumers with questions or complaints may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (515) 281-5926.
For more consumer tips, please visit the Attorney General’s website.
Two Iowa high school seniors will have the opportunity to receive full scholarships to attend the 2019 National Youth Science Camp in Washington, D.C. The camp is a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) program with lectures and hands-on research projects presented by scientists from across the nation.
Students will have opportunities to conduct research at the nearby Green Bank Observatory and explore the surrounding Monongahela National Forest through backpacking, mountain biking, caving, rock-climbing, and kayaking. Applications must be submitted online at http://apply.nyscamp.org by 6:00 PM EST on Feb. 28, 2019. The camp is held from June 27 through July 20, 2019. Applicants can contact Craig Johnson (319-273-2581), Executive Director for the Iowa Academy of Science with any questions.