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Activity in the Senate is winding down and it appears that we are on track to wrap up the session in the next week. Work now is primarily being done in committee meetings as budgets are finalized. As always, my sights are set on budgeting for the state just as we budget as families in Iowa – with a close eye on sustainability and the bottom line. This means spending our taxpayer dollars carefully and sensibly.
One of the bills passed unanimously through the Senate last week was HF 2415, which creates a veterans preference clearinghouse at Workforce Development to provide our veterans with information regarding the preference. This information will be provided by Workforce Development, the Attorney General, and the Department of Veterans Affairs via their websites to give veterans a central location for finding job openings and interview information. Although this isn’t a monumental achievement, I am happy to help our veterans in any way that I can.
Another bill passing through the Senate last week was HF 2399, which is intended to help protect victims of domestic violence. Currently, the definition of “stalking” only requires that the victim "fear injury or death." This bill expands the definition of stalking to also include electronic stalking as well as conduct that makes the victim feel “terrorized, frightened, intimidated, or threatened of bodily injury or death.”
This bill is multifaceted, but another provision worth noting is that this bill authorizes additional electronic monitoring and tracking of domestic abusers upon release, to include probation, parole, work release, or special sentences. Some domestic abusers will go to great lengths to re-terrorize their victims, and this monitoring gives victims and law enforcement additional tools to help keep that from happening.
This week, we passed HF 2413 as a measure to help ensure that our school-aged children are meeting literacy benchmarks in a timely manner. The bill clarifies the 2012 law, and provides more direction to school districts regarding the expectations of our third graders.
Changes include a mandatory reassessment of the student’s reading level before requiring that the student be retained in the third grade. Previously, schools were required to provide parents with an annual notification if their student was not yet reading proficiently. This annual requirement has been replaced by requiring that schools provide “regular updates regarding the student’s progress toward reaching or exceeding the targeted level of reading proficiency.” It is my hope that this new language will allow more local control at the school district level regarding communication between parents and teachers.
We also passed HF 2392 regarding career and technical education (often referred to as “vocational” education) programs for our young Iowans. The intent of this bill is to forge new and improved pathways for students to reach a career through technical education by establishing a plan early, in the 8th grade, and creating regional networks amongst guidance counsellors, employers, and educators in order to help the student reach his or her goals.
Floor action this week also included SF 2309, which extends the tax credits for renewable fuels. Currently, these tax credits are set to expire soon, and the bill extends the credit for E-15, E-85, and biodiesel blended fuel B-5 or higher to January 1, 2025. After January 1, 2018, the tax credit rates for blended fuel between B-5 and B-10 will change to .035 cents. The rate for blended fuel B-11 or higher will be .055 cents.
It is my hope that by passing this bill, we will give further incentives for retailers to continue offering ethanol products to consumers. Biofuels are an important sector of our economy in Iowa and this was a great bipartisan bill that will help improve the economy and keep Iowa competitive in the market.
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