Senator Bennett’s January 20 Newsletter

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From the Desk of Senator Bennett

Greetings from the Capitol!

 

It’s been another busy week. I started the week off observing Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Cedar Rapids with Rachel Palmer of Green Iowa Americorps at the Willis Dady Overflow Shelter in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

 

While I love serving in our beautiful Capitol, I enjoy serving at home in our community even more because it reminds me of how connected we are to one another.

 



On that note, I would like to highlight an opportunity to support children in our community. Many of you may have heard about the stabbing and subsequent death of Devonna Walker on Jan. 2.

There is much community concern over the circumstances of her death and whether charges will be filed by the Linn County Attorney. I ask at this time for readers to focus on supporting Devonna’s three children who have been left behind.

If you are so moved, I invite you to contribute to their care at this GoFundMe link.

The family has also requested household essentials such as toilet paper, body wash, hair products, and cleaning supplies, in addition to clothing for the kids. Sizes needed are men’s size L, boys size 10, and baby girl clothes size 3 months and up.

 

 

Items can be dropped at Wellington Heights Community Church Peace House, 400 16th St. SE, Cedar Rapids on Tuesdays from 12pm-1pm and 4pm-5pm, and on Thursday evenings from 6-7:30pm.

 

 

At the Capitol, I’m very proud to serve on the Veterans Affairs Committee, and have co-sponsored a bill with other Iowa Senate Democrats to help veterans with various needs.

 

 

We introduced legislation this week to shore up the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund. The trust fund provides critical support for veterans, including emergency medical care and equipment; home and vehicle repairs; and counseling, but ran out of money after just four months earlier this year. Senate File 82, will boost the fund by $500,000 in the current year and then double trust fund appropriations to $1 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1. It’s the right thing to do for our veterans.

 

Tell Us What You Think About School Vouchers

This week Senate Republicans continued their push on private school vouchers, passing the bill through committee with no substantial debate or changes, even after an outpouring of opposition from Iowans concerned about the impact on our public schools.

The bill could be debated on the Senate floor as early as next week.

 

This bill will divert an estimated $900 million in public funds to private schools over the next four years alone, largely handing over taxpayer money to families who have already chosen to send their kids to private school.

 

Senate Democrats are united in opposition to this bill, and we stand with the majority of Iowans who believe public dollars belong with public schools.

 

This week represents a disappointing start to the 2023 legislative session, but the fight isn’t over yet. Senate Democrats will continue working to defeat this extreme and costly scheme to weaken public education.

 

You can help. Please take our 3-question survey to let us know how you feel about private school vouchers.

 

 

 

Quick Updates

Last week, all 16 Senate Democrats cosponsored and introduced three important bills for helping parents and caregivers with young children:

o    SF57, the Post-Partum Extension bill, continues Medicaid coverage for a full year following a pregnancy. This measure ensures that new parents in need have access to essential post-pregnancy care beyond the current 60-day post-pregnancy window.

 

o    SF56 expands the post-pregnancy expenses eligible for reimbursement under Medicaid to include counseling, breastfeeding supports, transportation to appointments, and more.

 

o    SF62 expands the Childcare Assistance Program, providing more support to working families struggling to afford childcare.

Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Susan Christensen recently delivered the annual the Condition of the Judiciary address to the House and Senate. Christensen described how Iowa’s workforce crisis is leaving our courts with dire shortages of court reporters and court-appointed attorneys. These shortages often result in delays in court proceedings that slow the administration of justice. Senate Democrats are fighting to solve Iowa’s workforce crisis.

Good news: Iowa’s adult literacy program is one of the best in the country, ranking second nationally in the percentage of program participants who go on to earn a degree, enroll in college or get a job. Democrats initiated the Adult Literacy program in 2014, and in 2022, programs across the state served over 12,500 students. Iowa’s adult learning programs include adult basic education, English as a second language and workplace and family literacy instruction, and are provided in cooperation with local community colleges. Click here to find adult basic literacy programs in your area.

 

This Week in the Capitol



One highlight this week was meeting with members of the Iowa Youth Congress to discuss their legislative goals, such as increasing voter registration and engagement. One proposal is to allow county auditors to send a staffer to high schools to give 17 and 18-year-olds the opportunity to register to vote. (17-year-olds can register if they will be 18 by the day of the election.) What do you all think?



Who’s dreaming of riding this weekend? 

 

Friends from the Iowa Bicycle Coalition stopped by the Capitol this week. This year, the coalition is supporting legislation requiring vehicles to change lanes when passing cyclists, prohibit handheld cell phone use while driving, and to pass IWILL and fund trails at the original formula. Great catching up and I’ll look for these bills. Any cyclists reading? Where do you like to ride? 

 

Contact Senator Liz Bennett at Liz.Bennett@legis.iowa.gov or follow her on social media.
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