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Statehouse News 

Iowa Students Head Back to the Classroom

Thank you to Iowa’s educators

For generations, Iowans have counted on great public schools to educate our kids and be the heart of communities small and large. 

As students and teachers head back to the classroom for the new school year, it’s essential that the tireless commitment of our educators does not go unnoticed. Iowa teachers and all those who work in schools deserve our respect, thanks, and support.

After the pandemic, years of underfunding, and some politicians pushing vouchers, too many Iowans are leaving the education profession and some schools are struggling to find qualified teachers for the upcoming school year. 

Democrats believe it is time to return to our deep-rooted history in education and fully-fund public education. It’s also time to listen to and trust local school leaders and parents to do what is best for kids in their own communities. 
 
While more should have been done last session, there were several bills that lawmakers worked together on to improve Iowa’s education system for students and teachers, including: 
  • A new scholarship program through the College Student Aid Commission to help young adults with intellectual disabilities transition to and pay for the college (House File 2495)
  • New radon testing and mitigation at Iowa’s school buildings. (House File 2412)
  • A program to assess, monitor and track language development for deaf and hard-of-hearing kids (House File 604)
  • Keeping students safe while protecting them from bad actors that teach our children by eliminating an age requirement of an abused child under the mandatory reporter law, and requiring the reporting of the identity of a school employee under the mandatory reporters who may have caused injury to a child (House File 2567)  
Last session, Governor Reynolds proposed a private school voucher plan that diverted money from public schools to private schools. A majority of Iowans are firmly opposed to vouchers because they believe public money is for public schools and it would close more schools, especially in rural areas. Iowans registered their opposition to the plan all session long and, with Democratic lawmakers united in opposition, the bill did not pass the Iowa House. Governor Reynolds and Republican lawmakers also worked on other legislation that will weaken public schools and drive more teachers out of the classroom. 
 
We must do all we can to protect Iowa’s public schools during the next Legislative Session in January 2023. It’s time to invest in our future and the children of Iowa.

 

Iowa’s Wages Fall Behind

Iowa workers continue to earn less than almost all of their peers in neighboring states, according to two new reports out this month. 

A report from the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency (LSA) shows Iowa workers earn on average $13,000 less annually than the rest of the country.  Iowa’s income also remains lower than four of its six bordering states. The map, from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, also shows that workers in rural Iowa earn less than Iowa’s most populous counties. 

The LSA report was released just days before another non-partisan report from the PEW Charitable trust that shows Iowa has nearly the worst income growth over the past year, ahead of only South Dakota. Iowa has seen negative income growth, while the United States is on a positive growth path.

 

Funding Opportunities Available for High-Speed Internet 

Iowa continues to lag behind other states in broadband coverage. However, funding is now open to expand access to high-speed internet for millions of people in rural Iowa. The USDA will begin accepting applications on September 6, 2022 for the ReConnect Program, which received new funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

To become eligible for ReConnect Program funding, an applicant must serve an area where high-speed internet service is not available at speeds of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) (download) and 20 Mbps (upload).

Additionally, to ensure that rural households that need internet service can afford it, all awardees under this funding round will be required to apply to participate in the bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). The ACP offers a discount of up to $30 per month towards internet service to qualifying low-income households, and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal Lands. 

Public Input Needed for New Statewide Broadband Map 

Public input is being requested for a new broadband map that was released at the beginning of the month. The new map from the Office of Chief Information Officer (OCIO) provides a detailed view by identifying broadband service available at homes and businesses across the state as reported by broadband providers. Locations with speeds slower than 100 upload/20 download may be eligible for future grant funding opportunities under the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Program. 

A 30-day challenge window is now open - wherein anyone aggrieved or adversely affected by mapping determinations may challenge the Office's final determination of whether service at a particular address location is accurately reflected. Instructions for commenting and the interactive map are available at the link at: ocio.iowa.gov/broadband-availability-map-version-5?utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery. Iowans may also email ociogrants@iowa.gov for assistance and questions. 


 

New Iowa Supreme Court Justice Appointed   

Governor Reynolds recently appointed Judge David May to the Iowa Supreme Court.  Judge May was one of three nominees sent to Governor Reynolds for the open seat on the Court. The opening was created by the mandatory retirement of Justice Brent Apple upon reaching the age of 72. The newly appointed Judge had been serving on the Iowa Court of Appeals since 2019, and previously served as a district judge in Judicial Election District 5C.
 
Judge May is now the fifth appointment to the Iowa Supreme Court by Governor Reynolds, making up a majority of the seven-member court. Every Iowa Supreme Court Justice has now been appointed by a Republican governor. Of the current seven justices on the court, none would reach the mandatory retirement age of 72 until 2029 at the earliest.

 

More Protections Needed to Prevent Domestic Violence; Public Hearing Scheduled for Firearms Constitutional Amendment

Earlier this year, Congress passed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which is defined as a gun safety bill that closes the “boyfriend loophole” on a national level. However, gaps still exist in Iowa that keep the loophole open.

The “boyfriend loophole” was a gap in federal law relating to domestic violence and gun ownership. Previously, a domestic assault conviction prevented someone from owning a gun if the assault fit into one of three categories: spouse assault, domestic partner assault, or assaulting a partner who is a co-parent. However, violence against a girlfriend or boyfriend did not prevent gun ownership. As a result, the gun safety bill changed federal laws to prevent anyone convicted of any domestic assault from owning a gun.

In Iowa, violence against a partner who doesn’t fit into one of the above three categories is not legally considered a domestic assault – so these new federal protections do not apply. Abusers may be charged with other forms of assault, but these charges consist of misdemeanors rather than felonies.

Per the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, 365 Iowans were killed in domestic-violence related murders between January 1, 1995 and March 31, 2022 and 103 were killed by a dating partner – not a cohabitant or spouse. More than half were killed with a gun.

Despite Governor Reynolds and Iowa Republicans’ opposition to the new law, Iowa House Democrats believe that part of responsible gun ownership includes keeping firearms out of abusers’ hands and will continue to work addressing these loopholes relating to domestic violence gun laws. 

Public Hearing Scheduled for Constitutional Amendment

Next week, the Iowa Secretary of State’s office has scheduled a public hearing to provide Iowa voters the chance to review and comment on the summary of a proposed constitutional amendment ballot initiative relating to guns. This ballot initiative will be considered during this November’s general election.

The summary of ballot initiative states the following:

Provides that the right of the people of Iowa to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes the right to keep and bear arms as a fundamental right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny.

The proposed constitutional amendment reads as follows:

The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed. The sovereign state of Iowa affirms and recognizes this right to be a fundamental individual right. Any and all restrictions of this right shall be subject to strict scrutiny. 

Individuals who wish to comment at the hearing may be asked to state their names for the record. Anyone who intends to attend the public hearing and has special requirements should contact the Secretary of State’s office at sos@sos.iowa.gov or (515) 281-0145. The hearing will be held on August 12, 2022 at the Iowa Capitol Building, Room 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.  

 

Other Iowa News

BE PREPARED TO STOP FOR SCHOOL BUSES: With students going back to school, school buses will be out on the roads making stops. Iowa drivers must be alert and stop for school buses when their flashing lights are on and the side stop sign out. Drivers who pass a stopped school bus can face a fine and risk having their license suspended for 30 days. 


 
MORE IOWANS THAN EVER HAVE HEALTH INSURANCE: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans without health insurance hit a record-low 8% in 2022 according to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). With 5.2 million people gaining coverage since 2020, this coincides with the Biden Administration’s efforts to increase health care access and lower costs for Iowa families through the American Rescue Plan. Despite Governor Kim Reynolds’ attempts to prioritize marketing health plans that may deny Iowans coverage due to pre-existing conditions, Iowa’s ACA enrollment increased from 49,210 during 2019 to 72,240 during 2022, nearly doubling 2016’s peak ACA enrollment numbers. To get health insurance coverage, the open enrollment period for 2023 begins November 1, 2022 and ends December 15,2022. Plans sold during this period start as early as January 1, 2023. For more information, Iowans should visit HealthCare.gov

 
AMOEBA CAUSING BRAIN INFECTION FOUND IN IOWA LAKE: An amoeba that can cause a severe brain infection, called Naegleria fowleri, has been detected in a lake in Taylor County. A Missouri resident recently contracted a brain infection at the Lake of Three Fires, and has since died from the condition. This type of amoeba is commonly found in warm freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds. It enters the body when water rushes up the nose and reaches the brain. Not everyone who swims in infected waters will get sick, as it is actually rare for someone to get infected. Only 31 cases have occurred from 2012 to 2021. However, when it is contracted, it is usually fatal. For more information regarding Naegleria fowleri, please visit: cdc.gov/parasites/naegleria/index.html.

 
HELP FOR STUDENTS CHOOSING A CAREER PATH: As students start to look at their career path including higher education, Iowa has developed resources to help in formulating those plans. The Iowa Student Outcomes website is a resource that includes reports from Iowa’s public schools (K-12 and universities), community colleges and adult education, as well as information about industry credentials, licenses, and financial aid. From the Iowa Student Outcomes website someone can find links to the Board of Regents, Iowa’s Community Colleges, or explore financial assistance with the College Student Aid Commission. More information at: iowastudentoutcomes.com. Also, there is a link to Future Ready Iowa which allows someone to explore career interests and registered apprenticeship programs.  To address Iowa’s workforce shortage, Future Ready Iowa has set a goal of having 70% of Iowa’s workforce with education and training beyond high school by 2025. Visit Future Ready Iowa’s site at: futurereadyiowa.gov


I have been 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 next 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 Capitol to better my district and the state. I look forward to bipartisan efforts that I know we will have to move Iowa forward. But I am also up for the fight to push for a better Iowa and different priorities for Iowans.
 
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 in senate district 37 in 2022. 
 
Warmest regards,

 

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