2014 Session Successes – UPDATED

STRENGTHENING IOWA’S WORKING FAMILIES

Prepared by the Senate Democratic Staff
Updated with Governor’s vetoes, June 26, 2014
(PDF of updated 2014 Highlights)

This year, we built on efforts to provide greater economic security for Iowa families by standing up for workers and investing in skills training, job creation and the best educational opportunities from preschool through college.

  • We balanced the state budget without raising taxes. Iowa is expected to have a budget surplus of about $881 million when this fiscal year ends on June 30. We also have $650 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history.
  • We expanded training to help Iowans fill openings for good jobs at local businesses in need of skilled workers.
  • We invested in infrastructure, economy and job creation through incentives, tax credits, and programs that work with local businesses on technology commercialization, marketing and entrepreneurship.
  • We kept tuition affordable at our colleges and universities, leading the bipartisan effort to freeze tuition at Iowa State, UNI and the University of Iowa for the second year in a row.
  • We’re boosting student achievement in our K-12 schools through investments in early reading initiatives and quality teaching.
  • We’re continuing our commitment to Iowa’s quality of life with strong investments in the environment, as well as cultural and recreational opportunities.

Education & job training

  • Investing an additional $87 million in educational opportunities at all levels (SF 2347).
  • Boosting support for apprenticeship training and job retraining at our community colleges (HF 2460).
  • Investing in internships for Iowa students studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) (HF 2460).
  • Extending operational sharing incentives for school districts that work together to improve opportunities for students (HF 2271).
  • Improving student reading skills, including addressing dyslexia and providing teachers assistance in boosting literacy (SF 2319).
  • Helping K-3 students who are falling behind gain strong reading skills through intensive literacy programs (SF 2347).
  • Recruiting the next generation of great Iowa teachers by providing additional funding for the Teach Iowa Scholars initiative (SF 2347).
  • Supporting a Teacher Leadership effort in which Iowa’s most effective educators work with new teachers and mentor those looking to improve their classroom results (SF 2347).
  • Keeping tuition affordable with a funding increase of $8 million to our community colleges, the first place many Iowans go for higher education, job training and better career opportunities (SF 2347).
  • Freezing tuition at Iowa State, UNI and the University of Iowa for the second straight year (SF 2347).
  • Providing more financial aid for private college students to ensure all Iowans can get the education that’s right for them (SF 2347).
  • Committing $8.5 million for bussing for students at nonpublic schools (HF 2473).
  • Increasing the number of skilled workers with a total of $40.3 million for job training (SF 2347). This includes:

o   $6 million for the Accelerated Career Education (ACE) to help community colleges and local businesses establish or expand job-training programs.

o   $5 million for Skilled Worker Tuition Grants that provide need-based financial aid to Iowans earning certificates for in-demand jobs.

o   Investing in adult basic education to help Iowans earn their high school equivalency.

o   Investing in career pathways that connect education and training to create a pathway to work in a high-demand field.

o   Investing in pathway navigators to put more low-skill adult workers on the path to earning postsecondary credentials.

  • Investing in education, research and training to prepare a high-skill workforce (SF 2349):

o   World Food Prize Borlaug/Ruan Scholar Program: $200,000

o   Tuition Replacement: $29.7 million

o   ISU Biosciences Building: $2 million (Item-vetoed)

o   UI Pharmacy Building Renovation: $2 million (Item-vetoed)

o   Schindler Ed Center Renovation: $2 million (Item-vetoed)

 

Job creation & economic growth

  • Increasing funding for Iowa’s 16 Small Business Development Centers, which conduct research, provide counseling and train Iowans in managing, financing and operating a small business (HF 2460).
  • Providing incentives for businesses that locate and expand in Iowa when they commit to making a strong contribution to the local economy and creating good jobs for residents (HF 2460).
  • Funding for innovative programs at our state universities that spur economic growth when they work with communities and businesses on technology commercialization, marketing and entrepreneurship (HF 2460).
  • Investing in the arts, cultural endeavors and historic preservation, which draw tourists to our communities (HF 2460).
  • Tripling the amount of solar energy tax credits available to $4.5 million to meet growing demand for solar power and maximize the benefit for Iowans from federal solar tax credits (SF 2340).
  • Expanding help to fix up abandoned buildings and blighted areas, and making tax credits refundable for nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations (SF 2339).
  • Encouraging investment by ensuring locally owned renewable energy projects have the time they need to get up and running (SF 2343).
  • Encouraging the production of new fuels that take advantage of Iowa’s agricultural strengths through incentives for biodiesel, biobutanol and ethanol blends (SF 2344).
  • Providing additional support to improve Iowa’s developing grape and wine industry (HF 2458).
  • Drawing more visitors to Iowa by expanding and improving the Iowa Speedway in Newton and Knoxville Speedway (SF 2341, HF 2464).
  • Providing flexibility to the Iowa Corn Growers’ corn check-off, which funds the promotion of corn and corn products. A notable success is expanded use of ethanol fuels (HF 2427).
  • Supporting the national Renewable Fuels Standard, which provides essential support for Iowa’s homegrown fuels (SJR 2001).
  • Boosting our agricultural economy by exempting farmers from commercial driver’s license requirements while operating a covered farm vehicle (SF 2355).
  • Establishing procedures that help local auto dealers more easily conduct business (SF 2355).
  • Providing $1.1 million to promote Iowa communities and attractions that draw visitors to our state. Tourism in Iowa generates more than $7.6 billion annually and employs 64,400 people statewide (HF 2473).
  • Supporting job creation that contributes to the cultural vitality of our state through the Community Cultural Grant Program (HF 2473).
  • Improving facilities and infrastructure that boost Iowa’s economic growth (SF 2349):

o   Railroad Revolving Loan & Grant Program: $4 million

o   Public Transit Infrastructure Grants: $1.5 million

o   Commercial Service Air Infrastructure Grants: $1.5 million

o   General Aviation Infrastructure Grants: $750,000

 

Health & health care

  • Protecting the health of Iowa kids by preventing them from using e-cigarettes. The risks and benefits are largely unknown (HF 2109).
  • Maintaining local Emergency Management Services by increasing the amount the state pays through Medicaid for local ambulance and other emergency services. Iowa’s rates are among the lowest in the country and significantly below those paid by private health insurance (HF 2463).
  • Helping kids with intractable epilepsy by legalizing the use of non-intoxicating medical cannabis oil to treat life-threatening seizures, upon the recommendation of a doctor (SF 2360).
  • Promoting public health by modernizing Iowa’s infectious disease law in a way that will encourage those with HIV to seek treatment rather than living in fear of being charged with a crime (SF 2297).
  • Hiring an additional ombudsman to protect the rights of seniors in nursing facilities. Iowa currently has only half the number of long-term care ombudsmen recommended in national best-practice standards (HF 2463).
  • Improving the lives of children and adults by increasing at-home access to specialized health and support services (HF 2463).
  • Assisting those who have no one available to serve in a position of trust and confidence by reestablishing the Office of Substitute Decision-Maker (HF 2463).
  • Providing resources to ensure high-quality nursing home and group foster care (HF 2463).
  • Protecting Iowa’s redesigned mental health services by fully funding state commitments (HF 2463).
  • Increasing help for families living with autism (HF 2463, SF 2349).
  • Boosting funding to help Iowans trying to kick their tobacco addition (HF 2463).
  • Funding a poison control center that provides statewide help to Iowans (HF 2463).
  • Making it easier for seniors to get the services they need to continue living in their own homes rather than moving to expensive nursing facilities (SF 2193, SF 2320).
  • Establishing successful Crisis Stabilization Centers statewide to give patients a place to go in times of extreme stress, without ending up in a hospital emergency room or confined to a jail cell (HF 2379).

 

Safe communities

  • Preventing, detecting and providing help in cases of power-of-attorney abuse when seniors allow someone they trust to make financial decisions on their behalf (SF 2168).
  • Protecting the privacy of citizens, while allowing law enforcement to use drones to gather evidence for a criminal or civil case after securing a warrant, or if its efforts are consistent with state and federal laws. We also prohibits the use of drones for traffic enforcement (HF 2289).
  • Tackling distracted driving by allocating $200,000 to the Department of Transportation for public education (SF 2130).
  • Expanding consumer protections and safety by ensuring today’s pickup trucks are covered under the lemon law (HF 2181).
  • Ensuring teens get supervised drive time before the age of 18 by making penalties for a Minor School License consistent with other levels in Iowa’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing system (SF 2355).
  • Requiring county engineers to report on intersections with speed limits 55 miles per hour or greater that do not have signs to direct traffic (SF 2355).
  • Making adults accountable for hosting underage drinking parties. Adults who allow kids under 18 to consume or possess alcohol on their property will pay a $200 penalty for the first offense and a $500 penalty for a second or subsequent offense (SF 2310).
  • Providing extra money to the Department of Corrections to hire more prison guards to maintain control, prevent escapes, and keep the staff and public safe (HF 2450).
  • Investing in Iowa’s successful Drug Courts, which reduce crime by teaching offenders how to stay off drugs and become responsible, contributing members of society (HF 2450).
  • Funding for grants that help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault (HF 2450).
  • Making our roads safer by putting more state troopers on Iowa highways for quicker response to accidents, crimes and breakdowns (HF 2450).
  • Providing enough resources for Iowa courts statewide to maintain their current level of services (SF 2449).
  • Expanding Family Treatment Courts, which work with community professionals to help Iowans struggling with substance abuse or other problems that put them at risk of losing their kids (SF 2449).
  • Helping law enforcement crack down on the latest trends in meth making, which can cause dangerous fires, explosions, spills and chemical exposure. We added four new substances to the list of chemicals that will be illegal to possess for making meth (HF 159).
  • Preventing identity theft of kids and other vulnerable Iowans by allowing parents and guardians to put a security freeze on their dependents’ credit reports (HF 2368).
  • Allowing the courts to review juveniles sex offenses committed of sexual predators and place them indefinitely in detention for treatment upon release from prison if the circumstances warrant (SF 2211).
  • Increasing penalties for those who engage is trafficking of children and establishing a fund in the Attorney General’s Victims’ Assistance Division that will provide grants for helping victims of human trafficking, as well as education and outreach on human trafficking (SF 2311).
  • Requiring notification of customers and the Attorney General’s Office when a business is hacked, potentially compromising personal identification and financial information (SF 2259).
  • Allowing domestic abuse protective orders to prohibit a defendant from harming family pets or companion animals (SF 2118).
  • Allowing criminal charges against coaches who sexually exploit students (HF 2474).
  • Defining elder abuse and financial exploitation, and allowing victims to secure protective orders to stop the abuse (SF 2239).
  • Protecting Iowa seniors by providing state funding for the first time for local elder abuse support services through the Aging & Disability Resource Centers (HF 2463).
  • Rewarding those who help keep our communities safe by doubling the volunteer firefighter and EMS tax credit, and extending the credit to reserve police officers (HF 2459).
  • Improving communications and facilities that enhance public safety (SF 2349):

o   Iowa Homeless Youth Shelters: $250,000

o   Criminal Justice Information Systems: $1.3 million

o   Justice Data Warehouse: $314,474

o   Mass Notification & Emergency Messaging System Fund: $400,000

o   EMS Data System: $150,000

  • Special one-time investments in safer communities (SF 2363): (Bill Vetoed)

o   Fire Service Training Equipment: $450,000

o   Voluntary Radon Testing for Schools: $2 million

 

Quality of life

  • Helping kids in the child welfare system make a smooth transition to adulthood (HF 2463).
  • Expanding childcare assistance to more parents who are working part time while getting professional training or continuing education (HF 2463).
  • Keeping childcare affordable for working families by boosting our state’s child and dependent care tax credit (SF 2337).
  • Making stable homes a reality for more children with a $2,500 tax credit to defray adoption-related expenses for Iowa parents (HF 2468).
  • Continuing funding for Iowa’s state parks and natural areas to ensure they remain places of pride and outdoor activity for Iowans (HF 2458).
  • Increasing funding for forestry health to help communities prepare for the impact of the Emerald Ash Borer on Iowa’s woodlands (HF 2458).
  • Increasing funding for soil conservation through the Water Quality Initiative and local soil & water districts (HF 2458).
  • Providing a record $25 million for REAP, Iowa’s popular Resource Enhancement and Protection Program for our natural and cultural resources (HF 2458, SF 2349, SF 2363). (Funding vetoed in SF 2349 and SF 2363; REAP will receive a total of $16 million from HF 2458)
  • Investing in innovative technologies that reduce pollution and increase the efficiency of Iowa’s renewable fuels industry (SF 2343).
  • Investing in the arts, cultural endeavors and historic preservation, which improve the quality of life for Iowans (HF 2460).
  • Enhancing recreational opportunities by expanding and improving the Iowa Speedway in Newton and Knoxville Speedway (SF 2341, HF 2464).
  • Revising the definition of off-road utility vehicles to allow more types to use in designated ORV parks (HF 2216).
  • Increasing good housing for working families by providing incentives to build and rehabilitate housing in the areas that need it the most with a new Workforce Housing Tax Credit (HF 2448).
  • Providing financial assistance to help vulnerable Iowans stay in their own homes and remain a part of their communities rather than being forced into nursing homes (HF 2460).
  • Helping farmers quickly and cost effectively implement soil and water improvements by providing a weight exemption on Iowa roads for equipment to install conservation practices (HF 2230).
  • Allowing a teen with a special minor’s license to drive to participate in extracurricular activities under a school sharing agreement. Currently, they may not drive to extracurricular activities outside the school district where they reside (SF 2228).
  • Giving athletes with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to train and complete by supporting Special Olympics Iowa (HF 2473).
  • Ensuring food security for seniors with funding for congregate and home-delivered meals through Area Agencies on Aging (HF 2473).
  • Supporting the cultural vitality of our state through Community Cultural Grants (HF 2473).
  • Improving our recreational and cultural opportunities and facilities (SF 2349):

o   Great Places Infrastructure Grants: $1 million

o   Community Attraction & Tourism Grants: $5 million

o   Regional Sport Authorities: $500,000

o   Environment First Fund: $42 million

o   State Park Infrastructure: $5 million

o   Lake Restoration & Water Quality: $9.6 million

o   Water Trails & Low Head Dam Grants: $2 million

o   Iowa Park Foundation: $2 million

o   Recreational Trails: $6 million

o   State Fair Improvements: $825,000

o   County Fairs Infrastructure: $1 million

o   State Housing Trust Fund: $3 million

  • Special one-time quality-of-life investments (SF 2363): (Bill Vetoed)

o   Water Quality Improvements: $5 million

o   Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program: $2 million

 

Veterans & service members

  • Exempting military retirement pay from Iowa individual income taxes starting this year. Those who are eligible have given 20 or more years of military service to the nation (SF 303).
  • Expanding the Disabled Veterans Homestead Tax Credit to any eligible veteran with a permanent and total disability because of service-related injuries, and extending the credit to surviving spouses or children of troops who died as a result of active duty (SF 2352).
  • Eliminating the waiting list for the Military Home Ownership Assistance Program, which provides service members and veterans with a $5,000 grant that may be used toward the down payment and closing costs on a qualifying home purchase (HF 2463).
  • Expanding eligibility and financing options for the Military Home Ownership Assistance Program (SF 303).
  • Providing special license plates for military service to veterans and service members free of charge (SF 303).
  • Clarifying that war veteran properties, such as Veterans of Foreign Wars halls, will not lose their tax-exempt status if they rent their facilities for $250 or less and proceeds are used for the purposes of the veterans organization (SF 303).
  • Allowing private employers to grant a preference in hiring and promotion to veterans and to spouses of disabled veterans and service members who died as a result of active duty (SF 303).
  • Encouraging Iowa’s colleges and universities to grant educational credits to veterans for military education, training and experience (SF 303).
  • Providing a clear pathway to jobs by matching military occupational training to Iowa’s professional and occupational licensure requirements (SF 303).
  • Studying the feasibility of expedited licensing, certification or registration of military spouses if they have an occupational or professional license from another state (SF 303).
  • Establishing response and reporting requirements for sexual abuse allegations involving members of the Iowa National Guard, making the process simpler for victims and giving them more options (SF 2321).
  • Improving our military and veterans facilities (SF 2349):

o   Facility & Armory Maintenance: $2 million

o   Statewide Modernization of Readiness Centers: $2 million

o   Gold Star Museum Upgrades: $250,000

o   Grout Museum Veterans Oral Histories: $500,000

o   Fort Des Moines Museum Renovations & Repairs: $100,000

 

Good government

  • Ensuring taxpayer money is used responsibly by preventing appropriations in budget bills from being used in secret settlements.
  • Requiring the Iowa Department of Public Safety, in conjunction with local governments and others, to develop model guidelines for the use of drones (HF 2289).
  • Ensuring Iowa qualifies for $78 million in road funds by complying with federal standards on junkyards and billboards (SF 2355).
  • Improving convenience and reducing red tape for Iowans in certificate-of-title processes for motor vehicles and aircraft (SF 2355).
  • Ensuring as much money as possible goes to improving roads and bridges by requiring annual efficiency reports by the Iowa Department of Transportation (SF 2355).

 

Other good things we approved in the Iowa Senate– but were not taken up by the House

  • Recognizing peace officers and firefighters for heroic acts in the line of duty by creating a special license plate for recipients of the Sullivan Brothers’ award of valor (SF 2282).
  • Helping law enforcement crack down on distracted driving by allowing officers to pull drivers over specifically for texting while driving (SF 2289).
  • Providing incentives for gas stations to make their fuel pumps more accessible to Iowans with disabilities (SF 2284).
  • Providing immediate emergency funding to help 85,000 low-income Iowa families get through this year’s bitterly cold winter (SF 2110).
  • Reestablishing a State Training School at Toledo to provide necessary help and care for Iowa’s most troubled girls (SF 2322).
  • Ensuring Iowans get paid for the work they’ve done and allowing wage investigators to more easily go after businesses that fail to pay what they owe (SF 2328).
  • Protecting the hard-earned wages of workers whose employers pay them with debit cards by ensuring they can access all their money, are informed about fees and can choose another method of being paid (SF 2350).
  • Boosting student achievement by providing additional funding for schools with low-income students. The money would be used for before and after-school education programs, summer school, intensive tutoring, mentoring and more (SF 2226).
  • Providing a 6 percent increase in local school funding to buy textbooks, heat classrooms, pay salaries and purchase other day-to-day necessities during the 2015-16 school year, while preventing any related property tax increase (SF 2077, SF 2078, SF 2079).
  • Increasing access to preschool by providing incentives for schools to add students to their programs and encouraging outreach to families who could benefit from preschool (SF 2351).
  • Requiring Iowa schools to test and report on levels of radon, a cancer-causing gas present at extraordinarily high levels in Iowa (SF 2262).
  • Providing $1 million for competitive grants to promote high-quality bully prevention and positive school climate programs for the Iowa schools most in need (SF 2318).
  • Allowing state workers hired as merit employees to retain their job under the merit system, rather than be switched to at-will status. Unlike merit employees, at-will employees can be fired at any time and for no reason (SF 2244).
  • Calling for an independent review of settlement agreements with terminated state employees made outside of normal channels. The review would have focused on “hush money” payments, where the money came from and who authorized secret settlement agreements (SF 2342).
  • Keeping state government open, honest and accountable to taxpayers (SF 2358) by:

o   Banning secret settlements and hush money payments throughout state government.

o   Expanding protections for those who blow the whistle on wrongful activity.

o   Requiring the State Auditor to investigate previous secret settlements.

o   Preventing no-bid contracts on state jobs.

o   Outlawing cronyism in hiring state employees.

o   Mandating disclosure of state worker bonuses.

o   Reforming use of the state “do-not-hire” database.

Posted Jun. 26th, 2014 at 1:34 pm by