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The Iowa Senate approved allocating $2 million in general fund dollars to help low income Iowans heat their homes this winter. With rising home energy costs and the high cost of propane in the Midwest, this bill would allocate money to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and assist those who have signed up for the program.
The frigid temperatures and dangerous wind chills have caused Iowans’ heating bills to soar in recent months. Approving this bill assists those faced with growing costs of heating their homes when they need it most. I proposed an amendment to the bill which would allocate nearly $3 million to the program, but would use existing funds instead of general fund dollars. My amendment would use money paid back in the form of loan payments to the Grow Iowa Values fund. I felt this amendment would provide a win/win solution by providing an additional $1 million of supplemental energy assistance to low income families while protecting the taxpayer from additional general fund spending. Despite the defeat of my amendment on a party line vote, I did support the final draft of the bill providing the $2 million supplemental assistance.
Traffic cameras dominated conversations in and around the Statehouse for much of 2013. Now another new technology has piqued interest of some Iowans and lawmakers alike. Discussions began this week in a Senate Judiciary subcommittee about drones and the importance of limiting their use in the state.
Unlike traffic cameras, the drone conversation is more pre-emptive in nature. While both Senate Democrats and Republicans have identified flaws in the proposed drone legislation, there is common interest from both parties to ensure the new technology will not be used by law enforcement to issue traffic citations, and that Iowans’ right to privacy is maintained.
We are working to make sure when the flawed language is finalized in subcommittee, the final version of the proposed legislation will prohibit law enforcement from using unmanned aircraft for the purpose of issuing tickets.
We will continue to monitor the new uses of drone technology to ensure that our citizen’s rights of privacy and protection from government intrusion are maintained.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources officials announced this week plans to consolidate its three departments into two units. Senate Republicans applaud Governor Terry Branstad and DNR Director Chuck Gipp, and the department, for their commitment to reducing the size and scope of government. The Governor has challenged department heads to reduce the size of their departments by 15 percent in order to decrease government spending.
By utilizing new technologies and shifting staff responsibilities, Director Gipp and the DNR have been able to eliminate its management services division. DNR officials announced this week the management services duties would be shifted to the conservation and recreation department, and to the environmental services division. With the DNR showing initiative and being creative in making the department more efficient and lean, I am hopeful other departments follow its lead.
Many other bills are being discussed in sub-committees and full committees in both chambers of the legislature. Please contact me if you have concerns regarding proposed legislation.
You may join me at one of our legislative forums coming up. I’ll be at the Chariton Valley Planning office located at 308 N 12th in Centerville at 10:00 am, Saturday, February 15. On February 22 I’ll be back in Oskaloosa at Eggs and Issues at Smokey Row at 8:30 a.m.
Senator Ken Rozenboom
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