Dems: 2016 Session Highlights

April 29, 2016
By

Senate Democrats’ 2016 Session Highlight (PDF)

86th GA Dems

Maintaining our commitments in tight budget times

During this tight budget year, Senate Democrats fought to maintain economic security for Iowa families by standing up for workers and investing in skills training, job creation and the educational opportunities from preschool through college. We hoped to accomplish more, but chose compromise over gridlock.

  • We balanced the state budget in a fiscally responsible way. Iowa is expected to have a budget surplus of more than $75 million when this fiscal year ends on June 30. We also have more than $700 million in our reserve funds, the largest amount in state history.
  • We invested in training to help Iowans fill openings for good jobs at local businesses in need of skilled workers.
  • We committed to improving Iowa’s infrastructure, economy and job creation through incentives, tax credits, and programs that work with local businesses on technology commercialization, marketing and entrepreneurship.
  • We’re investing in higher education with more money for our state universities, community colleges and grants to help students attend Iowa’s private colleges.
  • 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 investments in the environment, arts and culture, and recreational opportunities.

Education & worker training

  • Increasing state support for local schools by 2.25 percent for the 2016-17 school year, which gives our K-12 schools $150 million—or an additional $145 per student—over last year (SF 174).
  • Committing $8.5 million for transporting students at nonpublic schools (SF 2323).
  • Helping K-3 students who are falling behind gain strong reading skills with $8 million investment in intensive literacy programs, reading resources and other supports (SF 2323).
  • Improving training for reading teachers, including how to recognize and teach dyslexic students (SF 2196).
  • Ensuring access to initiatives and internships for Iowa students studying science, technology, engineering & math (SF 2323, HF 2455).
  • Investing more than $40 million in apprenticeship training and job retraining at our community colleges (SF 2323).
  • Providing $49 million for the third and final year of the Teacher Leadership phase-in, which allows Iowa’s most effective educators to work with new teachers and mentor those looking to improve (HF 658). Over three years, $150 million has been committed to this effort.
  • Keeping tuition affordable with a funding increase of $3 million to our community colleges, the first place many Iowans go for higher education, job training and better career opportunities (SF 2323).
  • Providing an increase to our state universities, including $1.3 million the University of Iowa, $2.2 million to Iowa State University and $2.7 million to the University of Northern Iowa (SF 2323).
  • Helping more Iowans save for college by allowing Iowa nonprofits to set up accounts for students through the State Treasurer’s College Savings Iowa program (SF 2301).
  • Providing more than $50 million in need-based financial aid for private college students to ensure all Iowans can get the education that’s right for them (SF 2323).
  • Giving students flexibility in how they receive their All Iowa Opportunity Scholarship to pay for college (HF 2275).
  • Simplifying the transfer of township funds to a school district with a resolution by the Board of Trustees (HF 2180).
  • Increasing the number of skilled workers with an investment of $40.3 million at our community colleges (SF 2323). This includes:
    • Accelerated Career Education (ACE) to help community colleges and local businesses establish or expand job-training programs.
    • Skilled Worker Tuition Grants that provide need-based financial aid to Iowans earning certificates for in-demand jobs.
    • Adult basic education to help Iowans earn their high school equivalency.
    • Connecting education and training to create a pathway to work in a high-demand field.
    • Pathway navigators to put more low-skill adult workers on the path to earning postsecondary credentials.
  • Ensuring high-quality workforce training by boosting opportunities for Career Technical Education (CTE) in Iowa high schools (HF 2392).
  • Extending Iowa’s pilot project for online schools to July 2018 (HF 2459) and expanding school-based online courses (SF 2200).
  • Extending private accreditation for independent, non-public schools (HF 2459).
  • Protecting students by prohibiting colleges and universities from doing business in Iowa if they are not accredited as approved by the U.S. Department of Education (HF 2341).
  • Keeping parents informed by improving the way school districts provide updates on the reading progress of K-3 students (HF 2413).
  • Providing basic certification, oversight and operating standards for private residential children’s centers that offer educational enrichment (SF 2304).
  • Investing in buildings, technology and equipment that enhance education, research and training at our colleges and universities (SF 2324), including:
    • ISU Biosciences Building
    • U of I Pharmacy Building
    • UNI Schindler Ed Center Renovation
    • ISU Student Innovation Center
    • Food research scholarships

Jobs & economy

  • Providing an additional $25 million cut in property taxes for owners of commercial and industrial property. This finalizes the largest property tax cut in the state history, which was approved in 2013.
  • Providing a tax cut to thousands of Iowans by aligning Iowa’s tax code with many federal tax changes for 2015. This “coupling” helps small businesses, farmers, teacher college students and more (HF 2433).
  • Providing grants to help communities rehab or demolish neglected, underused and dilapidated buildings that stunt economic growth (HF 2455).
  • Advancing Iowa’s renewable energy industry by extending the state’s solar facility tax credit, which builds on federal incentives (HF 2468).
  • Providing more time for renewable energy projects to take advantage of renewable energy production tax credits they’ve been approved to receive (HF 2468).
  • Allowing rural cooperatives and municipal solar projects receiving tax credits to increase the number of facilities they own (HF 2468).
  • Providing state incentives for installing energy efficient geothermal heating and cooling systems. (HF 2468).
  • 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 2455).
  • Investing in innovative programs at our state universities that spur economic growth by working with communities and businesses on technology commercialization, marketing and entrepreneurship (HF 2455).
  • Protecting the rights of working families by maintaining funding for wage theft investigators, worker misclassification and OSHA inspectors at Iowa Workforce Development (HF 2455).
  • Providing tax credits to industries that turn byproducts from biomass feedstock into higher-value chemicals (SF 2300).
  • Spurring Iowa’s economy by attracting more visitors and tourism, as well as young professionals and families to live, work and play here (SF 2308).
  • Continuing Iowa’s leadership in biofuels by extending tax credits for biodiesel, E85 and E15 and increasing a tax credit for B11 and higher blends of biodiesel (SF 2309).
  • Exempting “consumables” from sales tax. This includes supplies and replacement parts used in manufacturing, research and development, data processing and recycling (HF 2433).
  • Creating jobs and boosting economic development by revitalizing more communities with improvements to the Historic Preservation Tax Credits Program (HF 2443).
  • Creating job opportunities by setting consistent standards for Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft, to operate in Iowa (HF 2414).
  • Improving transportation infrastructure that boosts Iowa’s economic growth (SF 2324, HF 2454, SF 2320), including:
    • Railroad Revolving Loan & Grants
    • Public Transit Infrastructure Grants
    • Commercial Aviation Infrastructure Grants
    • General Aviation Infrastructure Grants
    • ISU Veterinary Diagnostic Lab

Health & health care

  • Safeguarding the interests of Medicaid recipients with oversight of the Governor’s new privatized Medicaid program in Iowa (HF 2460).
  • Expanding access to treatment by allowing certain psychologists with specialized training to write prescriptions for a limited formulary of psychotropic drugs (SF 2188).
  • Supporting the health care of seniors and Iowans with disabilities with more than $1.3 billion for Medicaid (SF 2109, HF 2460).
  • Expanding a First Five, a program that ensures healthy mental development in young children (HF 2460).
  • Protecting home health and community provider services during the transition to privatized Medicaid (HF 2460).
  • Supporting the services of doctors, hospitals and nursing homes (HF 2460).
  • Improving children’s mental health care by establishing a multi-dimensional system that includes schools, public health, courts, community providers, families and more (HF 2460).
  • Providing additional resources to help our elderly and disabled, and those suffering from brain injuries (HF 2460).
  • Studying ways to expand Iowa’s health care workforce to meet growing needs (HF 2460).
  • Allowing outpatient treatment for mental illness upon the conclusion of an involuntary hospitalization with long-lasting drugs (SF 2259).
  • Improving the coordination of a patient care among all their health care providers by allowing the sharing of certain mental health information (SF 2144).
  • Providing flexibility by allowing additional quantities (up to 90 days) of a prescription to be dispensed within the limitations of the prescription (SF 2214).
  • Providing basic certification, oversight and operating standards for private residential children’s centers that offer medical or therapeutic programming (SF 2304).
  • Improving health care facilities and infrastructure (SF 2324), including:
    • Nursing Homes
    • Autism Services
    • Handicapped Accessible Housing
    • Maternal & Child Health Database Integration
    • Iowa Prescription Drug Safety Net

Safe communities

  • Keeping victims of domestic abuse, stalking, harassment and human trafficking safe by allowing them to use an alternative address when involved in court proceedings (HF 2265).
  • Ensuring timely emergency help by strengthening Iowa’s statewide E911 communications networks (HF 2439).
  • Ensuring first responders and law enforcement have the technology to communicate with each other (SF2320).
  • Ensuring safety by committing an additional $1.9 million to our correctional facilities (SF 2109).
  • Improving safety for young drivers by limiting where a student with a minor school license may drive for extracurricular activities to within the school district where they reside or to a contiguous district (HF 2437).
  • Ensuring children put up for adoption have a guardian ad litem, an adult who advocates for the child’s best interests in court proceedings (HF 2282).
  • Asking the federal government to give the Meskwakis control over investigating and prosecuting criminal activities on their settlement (SF 2022).
  • Expunging criminal offenses for some local ordinances when there are no subsequent offenses so that Iowans can more easily pursue their education and employment without being weighed down by their “record” (SF 2164).
  • Offering better access to a life-saving emergency drug that counteracts an opioid overdose, which killed 646 Iowans between 2009 and 2014 (SF 2218).
  • Helping youth in foster care have the most normal experience and ensure they have opportunities to prepare for adulthood (SF 2258).
  • Defining sex trafficking of minors as child abuse, and holds state agencies and partners accountable to recognize and respond to sex trafficking of minors (SF 2258).
  • Expanding the definition of trespassing, and punishing unscrupulous landlords and others who film Iowans in their home or apartment without their knowledge (SF 2185).
  • Saving lives by requiring carbon monoxide alarms in new multiple-unit residential buildings and single-family dwellings, similar to Iowa’s law for smoke detectors (SF 2219).
  • Providing basic certification, oversight and operating standards for private residential children’s centers that offer child care, family support services or housing (SF 2304).
  • Coordinating efforts to fight human trafficking with a new Office to Combat Human Trafficking within the Department of Public Safety (SF 2191, HF 2459),
  • Enhancing penalties for identity theft (HF 2271).
  • Using limited resources wisely and ensuring prison space for violent, high-risk offenders by allowing the Board of Parole to have low-risk drug offenders supervised in the community (HF 2064).
  • Bringing justice to more victims by extending the statute of limitations for kidnapping and human trafficking of children to the victim’s 28th birthday, or three years after a perpetrator is identified through DNA testing, whichever is later (HF 2278).
  • Providing additional employees for the Victims Assistance Division of the Attorney General’s Office to oversee and administer federal grant money to provide services to crime victims (HF 2458).
  • Providing additional employees at the Department of Public Safety to investigate Social Security Fraud and those trying to illegally purchase firearms (HF 2458).
  • Improving facilities and communications that enhance public safety (SF 2324), including:
    • Department of Corrections Maintenance
    • Department of Criminal Investigation Lab
    • Mass Notification & Emergency Messaging System

Veterans & service members

  • Protecting the parental rights of military members by establishing guidelines for custody and visitation agreements during deployment (SF 2233).
  • Helping veterans looking for work easily access job information on veterans’ preference for public employment through Iowa Workforce Development  (HF 2415).
  • Giving all veterans a proper funeral with military honors and final resting place by allowing funeral homes to work with Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs to identify cremated remains and find family members if the cremains belong to a veteran (HF 2266).
  • Clarifying the credit hours of educational assistance available to veterans and service members under the National Guard Educational Assistance Program (SF 2234).
  • Extending the time for filing an application for a special absentee ballot from 90 to 120 days for military and overseas voters (HF 2147).
  • Extending the income tax check-off that puts money into the Veterans Trust Fund, which provides help for veterans in need (HF 2459).
  • Investing in improvements at our military and veterans facilities (SF 2324).

Quality of life

  • Encouraging adoption by increasing tax credits that make it more financially feasible for Iowa families (HF 2468)
  • Ensuring low-income Iowans have access to legal services by providing an additional $3 million to the State Public Defender (SF 2109).
  • Increasing community integration and engagement of refugee communities through a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps (HF 2460).
  • Addressing coaching shortages by establishing a one-time transitional coaching authorization issued by the Board of Educational Examiners (HF 228).
  • Protecting our environment by cleaning up the last of Iowa’s Leaking Underground Storage Tanks (HF 2464).
  • Making safe, convenient, affordable transportation options more available to Iowans by setting consistent standards for Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft (HF 2414).
  • Ensuring parking spots for disabled Iowans with changes to disabilities removable windshield parking placards (HF 588).
  • Giving Iowa nonprofits a new way to promote their cause and raise money with special license plates that feature an organization’s decal (HF 617).
  • Ensuring parents are aware of their child’s juvenile justice proceedings by including fathers whose paternity has been lawfully established in the definition of “parent” (HF 2270).
  • Improving local quality of life by revitalizing more communities with changes to Iowa’s Historic Preservation Tax Credits Program (HF 2443).
  • Helping abused and neglected kids with full funding for statewide Court Appointed Special Advocates, who serve as the child’s voice in court (SF 2314).
  • Allowing students who transfer due to bullying to immediately participate in varsity sports at their new school (HF 2264).
  • Enhancing consumer protection from insurance scams by allowing the state’s fraud investigators to use Iowa law rather than relying of federal provisions (HF 2394).
  • Making it a felony to apply for or use a credit card in the name of a child without their parents’ consent. This ruse is often used by human traffickers (HF 2401).
  • Making quality-of-life improvements that attract visitors and tourism, as well as young professionals and families to live, work and play in Iowa (SF 2308).
  • Making most juvenile court proceedings confidential so kids who turn their lives around get a clean start with no public record that would interfere with job seeking, college admissions, and other life activities (SF 2288).
  • Helping women who become pregnant as a result of rape and their children by making the sexual assault grounds for termination of the rapist’s parental rights (HF 2386).
  • Bringing perpetrators to justice and exonerating those mistakenly convicted of rape by surveying stored rape kits throughout the state that have not been tested (HF 2420).
  • Providing resources for mediation services when farms are foreclosed upon or when farmers have trouble making payments because of low commodity prices or other events beyond their control (HF 2458).
  • Prohibiting landlords, cities and counties from penalizing victims of abuse who call for emergency assistance and other help from law enforcement (HF 493).
  • Protecting Iowa’s native turtle population from over-harvesting by establishing seasons and daily bag limits (HF 2357).
  • Increasing penalties for illegal dumping (HF 2385).
  • Providing $16 million for Iowa’s popular REAP program, which enhances and protects the state’s natural and cultural resources (HF 2454).
  • Improving our environment, recreation and cultural opportunities and facilities (SF 2324, HF 2454) with investments in:
    • Soil conservation
    • Water Quality
    • Lake Restoration
    • Water Trails & Low Head Dams
    • Healthy Forests
    • Recreational Trails
    • County & State Fairs
    • State Parks
    • Rural YMCAs
    • Regional Sports Authorities
    • Iowa Great Places
    • Community Attraction & Tourism

Good government

  • Allowing cities to eliminate state residency requirements and to set distance or travel-based residency requirements for civil service employees, such as professional police officers or firefighters (HF 2267).
  • Ensuring taxpayer dollars are spent wisely by having the Legislative Tax Expenditure Committee review standing appropriations for various tax credits (HF 2459).
  • Consolidating transportation maintenance facilities (SF 2320).
  • Simplifying the process for out-of-state salvage vehicles to be titled in Iowa by surrendering the out-of-state salvage title and providing a salvage theft exam certificate (HF 2437).
  • Putting Iowa on equal footing with 37 other states by changing criteria for vehicles of excessive size and weight (HF 2437).
  • Making registration fees for aerial applicators fairer by changing regulations that have allowed out-of-state aerial applicators to operate more cheaply than Iowa residents (HF 2437).
  • Streamlining the process for out-of-state companies to temporarily operate in Iowa when they are here to repair critical infrastructure in response to natural disasters (SF 2306).
  • Helping farmers operate efficiently by allowing them to tow more than one implement of husbandry if they are capable of being towed in tandem (HF 2356).
  • Removing prohibitions on emergency management organization employees holding elective office (HF 2353).
  • Ensuring tax dollars are put to good use by requiring county engineers to report on the use of road use tax fund money to replace or repair structurally deficient bridges under county jurisdiction (HF 2345).
  • Prohibiting a government body from excluding a member from attending a closed session unless the member has a conflict of interest related to the item being discussed (HF 2363).
  • Updating Iowa’s antiquated unemployment processing system to make it more efficient and to ensure accountability and transparency in the use of tax-payer dollars (SF 2313).
  • Creating an electronic system for titling and registering motor vehicles in Iowa (SF 2228).
  • Allowing a driver’s instruction permit to be used as proof that a child is 14 or older when obtaining a child labor permit (HF 2274).
  • Protecting the state’s Road Use Fund to ensure money goes toward work on roads and bridges (HF 2464).
  • Taking the political influence out of the judicial process by requiring administrative law judges at the Public Employment Relations Board to be merit employees (SF 2194).
  • Ensuring state agencies spend money as intended with accountability and transparency measures for infrastructure projects (SF 2324),
  • Investing in technology that improves public access to government information (SF 2324), including:
    • Searchable Online Budget & Tax Database
    • Electronic Grants Management System
    • Voter Registration Systems
    • Statewide Education Data Warehouse

Missed opportunities

Good things approved in the Iowa Senate—many in a strong bipartisan way—but not taken up by the Republican-controlled House.

  • Providing reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers if requested, unless it would cause undue hardship to a business (SF 2252).
  • Boosting basic state aid to local schools by 4 percent for the 2017-18 school year (SF 2092, SF 2093).
  • Expanding statewide preschool to include five year olds who have not yet had a chance to attend (SF 2009).
  • Encouraging communities to expand preschool offerings, eliminate waiting lists and reach out to those least likely to attend (SF 2296).
  • Raising awareness about healthy and abusive dating relationships by requiring that a school’s human growth and development instruction include age-appropriate information on dating violence and prevention (SF 2195).
  • Requiring all mandatory child abuse reporters to be trained on how to recognize and get help for minors affected by human trafficking (SF 2217).
  • Cracking down on stalking and domestic violence, and enhancing treatment, monitoring and penalties for violations (HF 2399).
  • Reducing drunken driving fatalities and other drug and alcohol-related crimes by establishing 24/7 Sobriety pilot projects in counties that want to try this accountability-based program (SF 2190).
  • Adding “gender identity” and “gender expression” to Iowa’s hate crime laws, which currently cover race, skin color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation, age, disability and nationality (SF 2284).
  • Encouraging young voter participation by allowing Iowans who will turn 18 by the time of the general election to also vote in the primary (SF 2142).
  • Making Iowa roads safer by clarifying that Iowa law requires drivers to pass bicycles the same way they pass other cars (SF 2224).
  • Giving terminally ill Iowans the “right to try” by allowing manufacturers of experimental drugs and devices to make their products available to eligible patients if they provide written informed consent (SF 2198).

 

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