Just as I was prepared to send off my newsletter this week the president had the opportunity to sign the bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
We know there is much more to be done to protect Iowans and all who live in this country, this is the most comprehensive bill in the past 30 years, to help reform our gun laws.
The President will continue to urge Congress to take further legislative action to keep dangerous guns out of dangerous hands, including a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, strengthening background checks, and enacting safe storage laws.
Below are 21 ways the Biden Administration has already used executive action to make our communities safer:
Keeping Especially Dangerous Weapons and Repeat Shooters Off Our Streets
1. The Justice Department issued a final rule to rein in the proliferation of ghost guns, which are unserialized, privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes.
2. The Attorney General directed every US attorney‘s office nationwide to increase resources dedicated to district specific violent crime strategies.
3. The Justice Department issued a proposed rule to better regulate when devices marketed as firearm stabilizing braces effectively turn pistols into short-barreled rifles subject to the National Firearms Act.
Keeping Guns Out of the Wrong Hands
4. The Justice Department published model extreme risk protection order legislation to make it easier for states that want to adopt these red flag laws to do so.
5. The Justice Department issued the first volume of its new, comprehensive report on firearms commerce and trafficking.
6. The Justice Department announced a new policy to underscore zero tolerance for willful violations of the law by federally licensed firearms dealers that put public safety at risk.
7. The Justice Department launched five new law enforcement strike forces focused on addressing significant firearms trafficking corridors that have diverted guns to New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and Washington, D.C.
8. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched a new paid media campaign featuring a series of public service announcements to reinforce the key message that a simple gun lock can save lives.
9. The Departments of Defense (DOD), Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security (DHS), Justice (DOJ), and Veterans Affairs (VA), as well as the Office of Emergency Medical Services within the Department of Transportation (DOT), announced that they will jointly create a plan for addressing lethal means safety awareness, education, training, and program evaluation.
10. ATF issued a final rule clarifying firearms dealers’ statutory obligations to make available for purchase compatible secure gun storage or safety devices.
Making Additional Progress to Reduce Community Violence
11. The President called for cities and states to use American Rescue Plan funding to reduce gun crime and other violent crime, including by investing in community violence interventions and prevention. Through May 2022, $10 billion in American Rescue Plan funds had been committed to public safety and violence prevention – including at least $6.5 billion in State and Local funds committed by more than half of states and more than 300 communities across the country.
12. Five federal agencies made changes to 26 different programs to direct vital support to community violence intervention programs as quickly as possible.
13. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services hosted a webinar and information to educate states on how they can use Medicaid to reimburse certain community violence intervention programs, like Hospital-Based Violence Interventions. Last year, Connecticut and Illinois enacted legislation that allows Medicaid to reimburse providers for hospital-based violence prevention services – the first two states in the country to pursue this approach. According to reporting by USA Today, “[t]he idea has been in the works for years, advocates say, but not until the Biden administration signaled that states could – and should – use Medicaid dollars to support these violence prevention programs have state lawmakers stepped up.”
- The National Institutes of Health announced funding through its Firearm Injury and Mortality Prevention Research grants for four community violence programs – including a place-based strategy involving repurposing vacant lots in Detroit, an evaluation of READI Chicago, a burnout prevention program for violence interrupters in Chicago, and a hospital-based violence intervention program focused on youth in Virginia.
- The Justice Department announced $186 million for states and $85 million for localities through the Byrne JAG Program to support coordinated violence prevention and intervention; the Department explicitly encouraged the use of these funds for CVI.
- The Department of Housing and Urban Development published a guide explaining to localities how Community Development Block Grants – a $3.4 billion annual funding stream –can be used to fund CVI strategies.
- The Department of Education released a letter to state school associations on how 21st Century Learning Centers funds and Student Support and Academic enrichment programs – both billion-dollar formula grant funding streams – can be used to fund CVI strategies in schools.
14. Senior White House staff established The White House Community Violence Intervention Collaborative, a 16-jurisdiction cohort of mayors, law enforcement, CVI experts, and philanthropic leaders committed to using American Rescue Plan funding or other public funding to increase investment in their community violence intervention infrastructure.
Providing Law Enforcement with the Tools and Resources They Need to Reduce Gun Violence
15. The Justice Department announced $139 million in grants to local law enforcement that will put over 1,000 police officers on the beat through the COPS Office Hiring Program.
16. The Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) expanded the Domestic Violence Homicide Prevention Firearms Technical Assistance Project (FTAP).
Addressing the Root Causes of Gun Violence
17. The Department of Labor awarded $89 million through its YouthBuild program to provide pre-apprenticeship opportunities for young people ages 16-24.
18. The Department of Labor awarded $20 million through its Workforce Pathways for Youth program to expand workforce development activities that serve youth ages 14-21 during “out of school” time (non-school hours).
19. The Department of Labor awarded $85.5 million to help formerly incarcerated adults and young people in 28 communities transition out of the criminal justice system and connect with quality jobs.
20. The Department of Labor awarded $25.5 million in Young Adult Reentry Partnership grants to organizations that will help provide education and training services to young adults between 18-24 who were previously involved with the justice system or who left high school before graduation.
21. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Family Violence Prevention and Services Program, awarded nearly $1 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) supplemental funding to support services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault and their children.
It has been a busy couple of weeks in the district as well as around the nation. Here is just a quick overview of events here in area.
Pride ended last month, but our commitment to the LGBTQ+ community continues on. I was honored to be invited to the grand opening of the LGBTQ youth center that recently opened in Cedar Rapids. This program not only offers a safe space for our youth it also offers many programs for LGBTQ+ youth as well as their families.
Pride fest also occurred this past weekend in Cedar Rapids. The festivities were opened up with proclamations from the Cedar Rapids Mayor, Tiffany O’Donnell, as well as Marion’s Mayor, Nick AbuoAssly —showing the commitment of the Cedar Rapids Metro area to all people who live here.
There were well over 90 vendors and activities— along with great music provided by Eastern Iowa Arts and area musicians.
There are many hot topics out there right now that are affecting many people's lives— from the abortion ruling, to the gun violence that has occurred most recently that has spurred the demand for more common sense gun laws.
There have been many peaceful protests across the nation with thousands of Americans demanding safer communities, women’s right to choose, and protections for our LGBTQ communities, including right here in our own backyard.
We know that when we return to session in January if things don’t change, this state will be one of the first to ban abortion, as well as put through the voucher bill, and the trans bills that the governor has pushed so strongly this past year to get through the house and senate. Because the Governor's own party members helped us prevent some of that legislation from happening this past session, she ran primaries against them. She was successful in five of those primaries against Republicans who agreed with the majority of Americans when it comes to tax money staying with public schools, trans student rights, and abortion.
Her extreme agenda is her number one priority. Get involved, stay informed, and please vote.
New Hotline to Help Iowans with Mental Health
Many Iowans are still experiencing mental health issues from the pandemic, including stress, isolation, and uncertainty. In response, a new hotline has been created to provide help.
Beginning on July 16, Iowans can dial 988 from any phone and it will be answered by a crisis counselor who can connect people with services and provide initial support to those in crisis. There are two centers in Iowa that will be taking these calls. The current hotline and online chat system, Your Life Iowa, will still be in use and is a free and confidential resource for Iowans.
With the uptick in mental health services needed due to the pandemic, Iowa is experiencing a significant shortage of mental health professionals. Iowa is ranked 45th in the nation for the number of psychiatrists per capita. Several initiatives were put in place this year by the Iowa Legislature that could address much needed access to mental health care services, including increased care coverage under the Medicaid program and added incentives to bring more mental health professionals to the state of Iowa.
Please visit YourLifeIowa.com for free confidential online help or call 988 to speak with a crisis counselor.
President Signs Executive Order Protecting Reproductive Rights
Two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, President Joe Biden has signed a new executive order to protect access to abortion nationwide. The move comes as several states led by Republican lawmakers, including in Iowa, work to outlaw or severely restrict abortion access.
The order includes instructions to the Justice Department to make sure women can travel out-of-state for abortion care; protects mobile clinics that have been deployed to state borders to offer care for out-of-state patients; and encourages robust legal representation of patients, providers, and third parties lawfully seeking or offering reproductive health care services throughout the country.
President Biden has also said he'll provide leave for federal workers traveling for medical care, which could set an example for private companies to do the same.
In Iowa, abortion is still legal up to 20-weeks of pregnancy. However, Governor Reynolds has requested the Iowa Polk County District Court review a previous ruling that struck down a ban on abortion after six weeks in Iowa. The ban would not allow an abortion after six weeks, before most even know they are pregnant.
Even if the Iowa District Court reconsiders their abortion ruling, it’s certain to end up back in the Iowa Legislature. Any new law would require Republican Governor Kim Reynolds to call for a special legislative session, or wait until the next legislative session in January 2023.
Earlier this month, the Iowa Supreme Court overturned a previous decision that stated abortion was a fundamental right in the Iowa Constitution. It also reinstated the 24-hr waiting period, meaning that an individual who needs an abortion will be required to have two appointments. Waiting periods serve no medical purpose other than to create more hurdles to make healthcare less accessible.
While the Governor and Republican lawmakers may ban abortion in Iowa, a strong majority of Iowans support reproductive freedom and abortion rights. A poll taken in 2021 found that 57 percent of Iowans said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Hundreds of Iowans Turned Away at Primary Election
Iowans have seen the voting laws change numerous times over the past years. Republican lawmakers have shortened the number of early voting days, closed the polls earlier, and put more hurdles in the way of voting by mail. All of these were done under the guise of protecting the “integrity” of the state’s election process.
Throughout all the changes Republican lawmakers promised that the changes would not prevent a single Iowan from voting, but recent data shows that hundreds of voters did not have their votes counted in the most recent Primary Election.
According to Bleeding Heartland at least 589 people in some of the largest counties in Iowa missed a deadline to request an absentee ballot after Republicans shortened the timeline in 2021. This is on top of the 149 Iowans whose votes were thrown out after reaching the auditor's office too late, again after Republicans shortened the time to return a ballot.
Warmer Weather Brings Utility Woes
At the beginning of the summer, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued an assessment detailing energy markets’ summer outlook. The report highlighted that the U.S. will have sufficient capacity to maintain reliable operations this summer under normal conditions. However, extreme weather events could pose challenges to parts of the Midwest. Conditions such as major heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes, and other severe weather events may stress current power grid operations.
Iowa’s main regional grid operator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), issued a warning for potential capacity shortfalls and is urging consumers to conserve energy during heatwaves.
In extreme cases, limited, controlled power outages (rolling blackouts) may be implemented and could affect millions of Iowans. Controlled power outages are often necessary during an emergency to prevent long-term damage to the state’s energy infrastructure. While this is unlikely, all Iowa utilities are urging Iowans to be prepared.
If an energy shortfall occurs, communities may need to cut energy demand to sustain reliability. This typically happens during peak demand times in the afternoon and early evenings. Simple solutions can help during a conservation alert, including:
Planned outages only occur in extreme circumstances and cycle throughout the community in short, one-hour increments. Power is maintained at hospitals and key public safety facilities. Iowans who have critical medical or communications equipment should be prepared with a battery backup or alternative location.
- Turning off air conditioners or maintaining temperature at/above 78 degrees.
- Avoid using large appliances like the washer, dryer, and dishwasher.
Iowans are encouraged to contact their utility customer service team for questions or additional information.
More Iowa News
MORTGAGE ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE TO IOWANS: Homeowners who are behind on their mortgage may be eligible for assistance through the Homeowner Assistance Fund. Eligible applicants can receive up to $25,000 in mortgage payments, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, HOA fees, and manufactured home/lot rent payments. To qualify homeowners must be more than 30 days behind on payments and household income cannot exceed 150 percent of the area median income or 100 percent of the U.S. median income. Homeowners must show a COVID related financial hardship. More information about the program and the application can be found online, iowafinance.com/ihaf or homeowners can call 888-668-0927 for assistance.
IOWA SUPREME COURT PROVIDES GRANTS FOR LOW-INCOME LEGAL WORK: The Iowa Supreme Court approved almost $250,000 of grants to provide legal services for low income Iowans around the state. The grants will mostly go to fund civil legal work, like divorces and removal of children cases, rather than criminal cases. The grants were distributed to 11 organizations around the state that provide legal services to low-income or underserved communities. The grants are funded by the Interest on Lawyer’s Trust Account program, called IOLTA. Lawyers in the state are required to put certain client funds in these interest-bearing accounts. The interest generated by the accounts is managed by a seven-member commission that awards these grants from the funds. Since the program was started in 1985 more than $25 million in IOLTA grants have been awarded. For additional information on these grants see: iowacourts.gov/newsroom/news-releases/supreme-court-approves-grants-to-support-civil-legal-services-for-low-income-iowans-2022/.
CALL 8-1-1 BEFORE YOU DO ANY DIGGING: Before Iowans start digging, they should call 811 to locate underground utilities. There is now an online option available at IowaOneCall.com to view the mapping system, it’s very detailed and allows the user to pinpoint where there are utility wires. The utility location service is free, but it can cost in damage and fines if a utility is hit.
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:
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:
It is truly an honor to serve you and I am looking forward to what the future brings in senate district 37 in 2022.