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Statehouse News 

Greetings, 
 
Overtime continues. But rumor has it we’re heading back the 23rd— Fingers crossed! 
 
The governor’s trek across the state, meeting with various individuals and groups has not been successful in trying to sell her voucher system.  The majority of Iowans know any voucher system hurts public schools—and public school kids. 
 
With over 90% of the children in the state attending public schools that doesn’t fly with Iowans. School choice is already an option here in Iowa. So our parents have a choice of public, private, religious, magnets, charters, on-line, and home schooling. 
 
Choice is available to all-but tax dollars need to remain with the public schools serving the common good. 
 
Hopefully with our return to DesMoines, the end of session will be quick and uneventful.
 
Please follow my Facebook page to see what’s happening day to day. 


Keep Speaking Up for Our Public Schools

Public Money Belongs in Public Schools

Strong public schools have always been the foundation of Iowa values and at the heart of our communities. For the last month, Governor Reynolds and some lawmakers have delayed the end of the 2022 Legislative Session until a private school vouchers system – that shifts money from public schools to private schools – is approved.

A majority of Iowans and lawmakers are opposed to private school vouchers, because parents are aware that they already have several choices for educating their children. They also understand that using vouchers to shift money away from 485,000 public school kids will result in more school closings, higher class sizes, and fewer opportunities for kids.

Instead of a choice for everyone, just two percent of Iowa students would potentially benefit from school vouchers while the remainder of public school kids would lose out with fewer opportunities. The state already provides over $100 million to private and homeschool services for items such as school lunches, textbooks, and transportation, as well as tax credits. While public school funding has barely kept up with rising costs, funding to private and homeschools has increased by 150 percent over the last six years.

Under Senate File 2369, a family of four making up to $111,000 per year could receive an estimated $5,221 from the state, in the form of a debit card, to send their child to private school. Apart from tuition, this could be spent on numerous expenses such as tutoring or a computer. That $5,221 figure would increase for English language training, and could more than double if a child is receiving special education. This poses a problem, as private schools are not required to accommodate these children and would rely on public entities such as Area Education Agencies (AEAs) to provide services. By the second year of the program, the nonpartisan Fiscal Services Division estimates that there would be a direct funding cut to public schools of $79 million.

For months, Governor Reynolds has been trying to strong-arm legislators into voting for her private school voucher scheme and has refused to let lawmakers adjourn until they pass it. So far, her efforts have failed.

Many Iowans have spoken out against this proposal and it currently does not have enough votes to pass the Iowa House of Representatives. Democratic lawmakers are united in opposition, and believe public money should be used for public schools.

 

New Investments will Connect More Iowans to the Internet, Keep Iowans Safe

In spite of the deep divisions and partisanship in DC, President Biden and Democratic lawmakers are delivering on their promise to help Iowans by lowering internet costs, increasing housing options, and keeping Iowans safe.

Lowering the Cost of High-Speed Internet

This week, the Biden Administration announced a partnership with 20 internet providers to lower the cost of high-speed internet for low-income Iowans. Last year, Congress passed a $1 trillion infrastructure package, which included $14.2 billion in funding for the Affordable Connectivity Program. This program will provide plans of at least 100 Megabits per second speed for no more than $30 a month. Meaning faster internet at a more affordable rate.

Iowa households are eligible if their income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level (which would mean a family of four could qualify if they make up to $55,500 annually or less), or if a family member receives benefits such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, or Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefits. Determine eligibility, find participating providers, and enroll at: getinternet.gov

New Downtown Housing

In Iowa, $20 million will be invested to support downtown housing projects in 61 communities. Through the Downtown Housing Grant Program, 466 new homes will be available for Iowans to help expand housing opportunities.
 
The Downtown Housing Grant program provides support for downtown revitalization through new housing opportunities in communities with populations of 30,000 or below. The program had $20 million available for awards and received 94 applications requesting $31 million in funding. View the cities receiving awards at: iowaeda.com/UserDocs/2022-downtown-housing-grant_awards.pdf?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery.

Keeping Iowans Safe

President Biden also renewed his call for communities to invest more in community safety strategies and deploy additional dollars prior to increased summer activities. Ten billion dollars in ARPA funds were committed to public safety across the country, including a $1 billion increased investment for front-line public safety workers to help recruit and retain public servants; $2 billion to prevent crime and ease the burden on police by using community violence interventions; nearly $1 billion to reduce domestic violence; over $350 million in job training to rehabilitating citizens successfully re-enter society; $450 million in public safety technology and equipment; and $600 million to clear court backlogs and support crime victims.

The funding for these programs comes from the Federal American Rescue Act State and Local Fiscal Relief Funds (ARPA).

 

Applications Open for Replacement of Retiring Iowa Supreme Court Justice

A vacancy on the Iowa Supreme Court opens after the upcoming retirement of Justice Brent Appel, who will reach mandatory retirement age in July. According to Iowa law, the mandatory retirement age is 72 years old for all Supreme Court justices, Court of Appeal judges, and district judges. The State Judicial Nominating Commission is currently accepting applications. 

Justice Brent Appel was appointed to the Iowa Supreme Court in 2006 by then Governor Tom Vilsack and is the longest-serving current Iowa Supreme Court justice.

In 2019, Republican lawmakers injected politics into the selection process by giving the Governor authority to a majority of the input on the selection of Supreme Court and Appeals Court judges. Applications for the Supreme Court justice opening must be received by June 17, 2022.

This vacancy is especially impactful after the leaked draft of the Supreme Court decision reversing Roe v. Wade and leaving a person’s right to make their own reproductive health care decisions decided by each state. After this nomination, Governor Reynolds will have appointed five of the seven justices on the Iowa Supreme Court.

 

New Report Finds Workers Continue to Be Left Behind

A new U.S. Congressional report found that intense pressure from large corporations put more workers in danger during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with some of the hardest hit communities in Iowa.

Across the country, more than 59,000 workers at the five largest meatpacking companies were infected with coronavirus, and at least 269 died from it. According to the report, this is significantly higher than previously estimated, showing that the meatpacking plant outbreaks in the early spread of COVID-19 were staggering.

The report also says company executives were made aware of their workers’ increased risks during the pandemic but took little to no precautions, falsely claiming there would be a meat shortage to force workers to stay on the job, fearing they would otherwise lose productivity.

In Iowa, Governor Reynolds followed suit and chose to require workers to continue working through the pandemic with few precautions. Many Iowans are concerned that politicians in Des Moines put the profits of campaign donors over the safety of workers. According to the website follow the money.org, the Governor has already received over $500,000 for the upcoming campaign from the agriculture food processing industry.

Some workers in Iowa continue to battle unsafe work conditions and low wages that have not kept up with rising costs or growing at the same pace as Iowa’s neighboring states. 

 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

During the pandemic, many Iowans experienced stress, isolation, and uncertainty, many of which are still being felt today. In acknowledgment, the month of May has officially been designated Mental Health Month. In Iowa, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has created a multi-platform suicide messaging campaign. This new campaign targets both children and the adults with ads on social media and TV streaming platforms. The messaging directs individuals to the Your Life Iowa program, which has multiple resources for support.

The Your Life Iowa page provides parents and their children with a tool kit on how to spot changes in mental health and how to get help. This website allows Iowans to text or call a support line or live chat with a qualified individual who will help during the crisis. You can also find information on other services available across the state.



Your Life Iowa is especially important during this time because children in Iowa as young as elementary school age are attempting suicide and, in some cases, completing suicide. Statewide, suicides rates have been steadily increasing since 2014. This year, the Waterloo Youth Council helped introduce legislation, House File 2294, that would save lives by advocating for a QR code to be placed on the back of student IDs with mental health services and suicide prevention information.

If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis, please visit yourlifeiowa.org for resources and to talk directly with a qualified person who is there to help.

 

Other Iowa News

NOMINATE AN OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL FOR IOWAN OF THE DAY: Do you know an outstanding Iowan who deserves to be recognized? The Iowa State Fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation is asking Iowans to nominate outstanding individuals to be recognized as Iowan of the Day. Nominees must exemplify leadership, citizenship, have a passion for volunteering, are involved in their community, and have made a positive impact on those around them. Iowans of the Day will receive a day of recognition at the Iowa State Fair including being recognized on the Anne and Bill Riley stage, free admission and grandstand tickets for four, hotel accommodations, and $200 cash. To learn more or to nominate an outstanding Iowan visit: blueribbonfoundation.org/iotd.
 

GRANTS AVAILABLE FOR CONSERVATION GROUPS TO RAISE CREEK AWARENESS: To build awareness of the state’s water natural resources, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a grant program for conservation and natural resource groups. The “County Creek Sign Grant Program” will provide up to $10,000 per county for creek and watershed signs on county roads and city streets. The purpose of the grant is to enhance awareness of creeks and watersheds, especially where efforts to improve water quality are underway. The grants are focused on priority watersheds in the state, or watersheds designated as most needing improvement by the state Water Resources Coordinating Council. The grants are funded with federal Clean Water Act funds that were awarded to the DNR. Application materials can be found on the DNR watershed improvement page at iowadnr.gov/Environmental-Protection/Water-Quality/Watershed-Improvement. For more information, contact Steve Hopkins (Stephen.hopkins@dnr.iowa.gov; 515-505-0140) or Steve Konrady (Steven.Konrady@dnr.iowa.gov; 515-204-1456) with the Iowa DNR Water Quality Improvement Section.


WEIGHT LIMIT EXCEPTIONS FOR PLANTING SEASON EXTENDED: To ease into this year’s planting season, the Governor has extended the proclamation allowing a temporary weight limit exemption for trucks operating on Iowa roads through June 11. The proclamation specifically increases the weight allowable for shipment of corn, soybeans, other agricultural seed, water, herbicide, pesticide, fertilizer, manure, gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and biodiesel, up to a maximum of 90,000 pounds, without the need for an overweight permit. It applies to all loads transported on all highways within Iowa, excluding the interstate system, and trucks must still comply with posted limits on roads and bridges. The proclamation also suspends the law pertaining to hours of service for crews and drivers transporting goods covered by the proclamation.


I am honored to represent all of you in house district 68 for this last session as well as those of you in my future senate district 37.
 

I thank you for your support as your State Representative, and I look forward to your continued support as I work to become your new State Senator after the current session. 
 
I understand there are some who have a different opinion about the legislation and choices made on the floor, but I hope to keep communication lines open for all to continue to share their concerns with me. 
 
It is my plan, as always, to work with everyone in the state house to better my district and the state. I look forward to bipartisan efforts that I know we will have to move Iowa forward. 
 
Please follow my Facebook page for updates on what’s happening around the district. I will do my best to kept events listed there over the coming months.
 
Go to the link below and like my legislative page to keep up to date:
 
https://m.facebook.com/DonahueForIA/
 
As your representative, I am available throughout the year for questions, concerns, and suggestions. Please contact me if you have any concerns, questions, or comments:
 
https://m.facebook.com/DonahueForIA/
 
Molly.Donahue@legis.iowa.gov
 
 
It is truly an honor to serve you and I am looking forward to what the future brings as I run for senate in SD37 in 2022. 
 
Warmest regards,
 

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