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NEWS 1.11.23: Iowa Rule Changes, School Gender Identity Ban Proposal, Judicial Shortage, and More

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Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has issued a moratorium on new rule-making by state government agencies.

During her “Condition of the State” address last night, Reynolds said Iowa’s Administrative Code has ballooned to more than 20,000 pages with many rules unnecessary and even counterproductive.

Reynolds has directed state agencies to review every rule and regulation they have on the books today, make a cost-benefit analysis and repeal those that have an undue economic burden.

During her speech, Reynolds also asked lawmakers to give state funding to all families who send their kids to private schools. And she wants more money for programs she says will help new parents.

Republicans in the Iowa House have introduced a bill (HF 8) that would ban public schools from offering any instruction related to gender identity or sexual orientation to students in kindergarten through third grade.

The text of the bill closely mirrors a measure passed in Florida last year that opponents dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” law.

A separate bill introduced in the House (HF 9) would bar Iowa schools from affirming the preferred name or pronouns of a transgender student without a parent’s written consent.

The youth advocacy group Iowa Safe Schools calls the introduction of the bills an attack on LGBTQ students in the state.

Iowa Chief Justice Susan Christensen is warning of workforce shortages that threaten to cause gridlock in the state’s justice system.

In her Condition of the Judiciary address today, Christensen said many counties couldn’t find enough court-appointed attorneys to defend clients who can’t afford a lawyer.

At the same time, hearings are being delayed because there aren’t enough court reporters to capture what happens in the courtroom.

Christensen says she is appointing a committee to look at ways to better use court reporters and recruit more people into the profession.

To bring in more court-appointed attorneys, Christensen is calling for wage increases. She says judges will also have more flexibility to hold hearings remotely.

Western Iowa Tech Community College has been awarded a $2.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the purposes of strengthening retention of its Arts and Sciences students, improving transfer pathways to 4-year colleges and universities, fostering a culture of equity, and training employees on diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.

In the first phase of the 5-year grant, the college will hire additional staff to focus on increasing completion and transfer rates among Arts and Sciences students seeking their bachelor's degree. Personnel will be responsible for facilitating connections with transfer institutions, mapping clear and accessible transfer pathways, identifying barriers inhibiting student success, and improving the onboarding processes. The grant will be used to evaluate experiential learning approaches, where students gain valuable soft skills and real-world learning.

There will also be a renewed focus on the retention of minority students caused by a lack of connectivity and gaps in cultural competency. By creating mentorship programs, professional development opportunities, and scholarships for minority students, WITCC aims to improve transfer students to 4-year schools for minority students.

The second phase of the grant will focus on fostering a culture of equity by funding a Center for Diversity Enrichment within the college.

Des Moines Public Schools are closed for a second day on Wednesday following a cyber security incident.

The district is still not fully back online, but it says students and staff will return Thursday. Teachers are planning their lessons to be taught offline.

COVID-19 hospitalizations and reported positive tests are down this week in Iowa after a slight uptick last week.

The U-S Department of Health and Human Services says 222 Iowans hospitalized have tested positive for the virus as of today (Wednesday). That’s down from 248 last week.

Iowa health officials say nearly 28 hundred positive tests were reported in the past seven days. Last week, that number topped 3 thousand.

State officials also confirmed 45 Iowans to have died from COVID. So far, 10,508 Iowans have died from the virus.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 64 percent of all Iowans have completed their primary COVID vaccine series. While nearly 19 percent have received the most recent bivalent booster.

Although COVID-19 transmission remains "low" in Woodbury County, the number of tests coming back positive for the virus is on the rise, according to the most recent report from the Iowa Department of Public Health, according to the Sioux City Journal.

News releases from the State of Iowa:

Gov. Reynolds signs Executive Order directing Administrative Rulemaking moratorium and review

DES MOINES – Jan. 11, 2023 – Gov. Kim Reynolds signed Executive Order Number 10 on Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, putting a moratorium on administrative rulemaking and instituting a comprehensive review of all existing administrative rules.

“Iowa's Administrative Code contains over 20,000 pages and 190,000 restrictive terms, putting undue burden on Iowans and the state's economy, increasing costs for employers, slowing job growth, and impacting private sector investments,” stated Gov. Reynolds. “In Iowa, we’re taking a commonsense approach that gets government out of the way and leads to a more robust economy in every community.”

The Executive Order also directs a comprehensive evaluation and rigorous cost benefit analysis of existing rules to evaluate their public benefits, whether the benefits justify the cost, and whether there are less restrictive alternatives to achieve their intended goal.

Gov. Reynolds expands registered apprenticeship grants to grow health careers

DES MOINES, IOWA – Yesterday, Governor Kim Reynolds announced during her Condition of the State address a new $15 million round of funding targeted at growing Registered Apprenticeship (RA) programs across high-demand fields in health care. The expanded Health Careers Registered Apprenticeship Program will support more programs that help Iowa meet the demand of its health care workforce. First introduced last year, Iowa’s Health Careers pilot supported RA programs that help students pursue nursing pathways. This year’s program greatly expands opportunities for health care apprenticeships to include EMTs, RN’s, Direct Support Professionals, Behavioral Health & Substance Abuse Specialists, and other critical areas. To receive funding, the RA programs must provide an industry-recognized credential that can also be stackable and used to advance a career in health care. Funding priority and preference will be given to partnerships that involve private or public accredited Iowa high schools. “This new grant opportunity builds on the success we initiated last year and expands the number of available pathways Iowans can take to gain critical experience in one of the most important sectors of our economy,” said Governor Reynolds. “Apprenticeships are working in Iowa and opening important doors. We want to do everything we can to get Iowans engaged in the workforce and set up for meaningful careers.” Applications for this year’s Health Careers Registered Apprenticeship Grant Program will be accepted on IowaGrants.gov beginning today, January 11. The deadline for applications will be March 9, 2023 at noon.

  • A total of $15 million is being made available for this funding opportunity. Visit this link for grant documents and information on how to apply. 
  • A grants webinar will also take place on January 27 at 11:00 AM to highlight the application process and answer questions. Interested participants are encouraged to join. (RSVP Link

“Iowa is always looking to open more doorways to new careers, and registered apprenticeships are proving that this is possible even in the highest-demand fields,” said Beth Townsend, Director of Iowa Workforce Development. “Research shows that most apprentices will pursue careers in the same fields as their apprenticeships, so we welcome any applicants who are ready to help us expand the number of health care career options in Iowa.” The health care and social assistance industry continues to have the highest number of job openings on IowaWorks.gov (approx. 12,000) and had four out of the top ten job postings in Iowa as of January 11, 2023. The grant program is designed to support the development or expansion of health care RA programs that are sponsored by Iowa-based Nursing Facilities, Residential Care Facilities, Assisted Living Facilities, Hospitals, Home Health Agencies, and Public/Private accredited Iowa High Schools, Community Colleges, and Universities. Visit this link for grant documents and information on how to apply.

Sheila Brummer returns to her radio roots as a Reporter/Special Projects Producer for Siouxland Public Media KWIT-KOJI.