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Statehouse News 

Hello All,

We had another busy week at the capitol. We have spent most of this week debating bills on the floor. The debates we have in Committee and on the House floor are healthy and help make the legislation better for Iowans. I cannot stress how important it is to our work to be open to other views and work with people on both sides of the aisle. The polarization of politics is tiresome to everyday Iowans. Iowans are too busy raising a family, working, or just leading their lives to listen to all the discourse. When I talk to people in my district, they want a representative that stays above the fray of partisan politics. I pride myself on having a reputation of voting based on the issue. I value this reputation and will continue to embrace it as I continue my work in the House.
 
We need to work together and fix problems and make life better for Iowans. One of the areas we need to focus on is childcare. The average cost of childcare in Iowa ranges from $865 to $1,315 per month for one infant and one toddler. Based on the median income in Iowa, families are spending anywhere between 19.5% to 24.2% of their income on childcare costs. Furthermore, many families don't have adequate access to childcare. According to the Census Bureau, 23% of Iowans live in childcare deserts. Iowans and working parents need our help to come up with workable solutions to the struggles that they face when trying to find accessible, reliable, and affordable childcare. Some childcare problems that we need to be addressing head on are:
  • The childcare workforce shortage. It starts with wages to attract and retain employees to choose this profession.
  • Investing part of the state budget to help curb the costs for working families.
  • Working with and incentivizing businesses to invest in facilities for their employees.
These are not easy problems to overcome, however we can help. We only have so big of a budget and how we choose to invest these funds says a lot about our priorities as a state. Prioritizing and investing in childcare will help our economy grow and reduce our workforce shortage. There are too many parents that can’t get back into the workforce because the lack of affordable, accessible childcare.
 
At the Capitol, we are debating bills that are not getting to the root of the problem. I have heard from constituents that the answer is not increasing staffing ratios and lowering the minimum age requirement for employees and substitutes in childcare facilities. The solution is increasing wages and investing more into childcare facilities. If we work together, I believe that we will be able to make childcare affordable and accessible for every Iowan family.
 
What we do here matters to Iowans, and it always works better when Iowans get involved in the process. Your voice is an important part of the process, so please reach out at any time.
 
Please enjoy the rest of the newsletter.


Biden Delivers Message of Unity in State of the Union
 
President Joe Biden delivered a message of unity and American optimism in the State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

Recognizing the hardships so many have faced during COVID and the deep partisan divisions today, Biden asked Americans to come together to support the people of Ukraine, beat the opioid crisis, improve mental health care, support veterans, and end cancer as we know it. 
 
President Biden pointed to the unity it took to vaccinate over 250 million Americans that saved lives, prevented illness, and got life back to normal for more Americans.
 
President Biden also spoke on reducing the cost of everyday expenses working families face and reducing the deficit. He talked about making more things in America, strengthening our supply chains, and moving goods faster and cheaper.
 
Biden said that promoting fair competition to lower prices would help small businesses thrive, and protect consumers. He also advocated for eliminating barriers to good-paying jobs for workers all across America.

 

Housing Crisis in Iowa

Iowa is experiencing a large deficit in affordable and accessible housing as Iowa wages have not kept pace with the rising cost of the market. The Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) has estimated that Iowa will need an additional 61,000 housing units by 2030 to keep up with demand.

Thanks to President Biden and the American Rescue Plan, Iowa has received funds for a Minority Down Payment Assistance Program.  The new program offers eligible Iowans a $5,000 down payment and closing costs assistance grant when paired with the FirstHome program mortgage.  Both programs can be accessed through the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA). 

Iowans wanting to take advantage of this program can do so by applying for a mortgage through an IFA approved lender.  More information about the program and eligibility requirements can be found on IFA’s website.

For Iowans financially impacted during COVID, there is still rental assistance available as well. Polk County residents can apply for assistance through the county, and all other Iowans can apply here

 

House Eliminates the Requirement for Teacher Exit Exams

This week the House has passed HF 2081, which eliminates all entrance and exit exams to increase Iowa’s pool of qualified teachers. With Iowa facing a teacher shortage, the bill is supported by teacher preparation institutions and education organizations.

Even with the extra time given, there are still many students that cannot pass their exit exam.  There is also the cost involved which can range as high as $300. The Department of Education (DE) estimates that 95% of the 1,800 graduates per year pass the exit exams, which means approximately 90 per year do not pass.

 

Democrats Support Strengthening Cybersecurity

Due to recent global events, the risk of cybersecurity attacks by Russia has increased. Federal agencies like the National Security Agency, FBI, and Homeland Security are well-equipped to deal with Russian cyberwarfare. However, cities and states are more at risk. Hackers tend to attack vital infrastructure that suffers from downtime, such as transportation, hospitals, and the gas or oil industry. 

This session, Iowa lawmakers are working across party lines to pass legislation focusing on strengthening the state’s cybersecurity. 

House File 2461, which was approved by the Iowa House this week, penalizes ransomware attackers and prohibits anyone from causing malfunction or intercepting state and local government data in exchange while making a financial demand. Anyone injured by a ransomware attack may bring a civil action in court for any money lost. 

Another bill approved by the Iowa House this week, House File 2302, provides businesses and entities with a cybersecurity program an affirmative defense against a data breach. Overall, this bill helps provide small businesses and local entities an incentive to secure consumer data while receiving additional protection from liability. 

Lastly, House File 2361 creates a cybersecurity simulation training center (CySim) at Iowa State University. CySim will conduct and sponsor research and activities that enable businesses, state agencies, political subdivisions, students and educators the ability to mitigate cyber threats and attacks. The bill also allows cybersecurity training exercises, developing case studies, and coordinating cybersecurity workforce development. The House is expected to vote on this bill later this session.

As current events continue, Iowa House Democrats urge Iowans to be aware and protect yourself by shielding up with multi factor authentication use on all online accounts; updating antivirus and malware software on all devices; use strong and unique passwords for each account; think before clicking on attachments or files; and be cautious about shared online information. 

 

More Iowa News

IOWA NO LONGER ABLE TO PURCHASE RUSSIAN BOOZE: While Governor Reynolds has yet to condemn the words and actions of GOP politicians who have praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Governor has followed the lead of other states that have removed Russian alcohol from the shelves of Iowa grocery stores.

The move acts as a symbolic gesture, as Iowans actually consume very little Russian vodka, accounting for only $95,000 of more than $93,000,000 million in sales. 

The Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division currently has just three Russian vodkas permanently listed — Russian Standard Original Vodka, Russian Standard Platinum Vodka and Hammer + Sickle Vodka.



TEACHERS TO RECEIVE A BONUS, BUT NOT ALL EDUCATORS: The Iowa Department of Education has rolled out guidance for the teacher bonuses per the Governor’s plan to provide full-time classroom teachers a retention payment for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, the plan excludes other education professionals such as nurses, counselors, librarians and other administrators that play a vital role in the education of our kids.  The $1,000 bonus would be covered by federal ESSER funds, and no legislation would be required.  It is estimated that the bonus would total $40 million.  The two links below provide information on the guidance that was released late last week, the other is the webinar recording for the teacher bonuses. Guidance: educateiowa.gov/documents/future-ready-pk-12/2022/02/use-state-and-federal-funds-promote-teacher-retention-guidance. Webinar recording: youtube.com/watch?v=izQmBFB3v40


RESOURCES AVAILABLE TO HELP WITH FILING STATE INCOME TAXES: The Department of Revenue has a number of resources available to help Iowans file their taxes for free.  Options may be available for taxpayers making as much as $72,000 a year and additional options are available for Active Duty Military.  The Department of Revenue has options available from TaxAct, FreeTaxUSA, 1040Now, and OLT.com.  There is also a list of vendors to help taxpayers file their taxes for a fee on the Department of Revenue’s website.  For additional detail on income tax filing resources from the Department of Revenue, go to tax.iowa.gov/individual-income-tax-electronic-filing-options. According to the Department of Revenue, 92% of the individual income tax returns filed in 2020 were filed electronically.

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