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NEWS 1.24.23

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signs her "school choice" bill at the State Capitol
KCCI Television
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds signs her "school choice" bill at the State Capitol

Governor Kim Reynolds has signed into law her signature school choice proposal creating voucher-style scholarships for students in private K-12 schools in Iowa.

After two years with income limits, the Education Savings Accounts would become available to families of any income level in the third year.

At a signing ceremony held in the Capitol rotunda, Reynolds said her plan sets a different standard for Iowa education.

"Every child in Iowa, regardless of zip code or income, will have access to the school best suited to their individual needs."

The bill cleared the Iowa House and Senate late last night with a total of 12 Republican lawmakers joining all Democrats voting against it.

Families must apply to receive a state-funded account by the end of June. That sets up a crash course for the Iowa Department of Education to get the program up and running.

Reynolds says a link will go up today on the department’s website to follow updates on how to sign up. Companies that want to compete to manage the state-funded accounts will be able to submit bids later today.

A new member of the Woodbury County Board of Supervisors was sworn into office Tuesday afternoon.

Mark Nelson is filling the vacancy left by Rocky De Witt, who resigned after his election to the Iowa Senate. A three-member panel of county elected leaders made the decision after hearing from people who wanted the position.

Nelson of Correctionville is the owner and operator of Hungry Canyon Cattle Co. and a feedlot manager. Find out more about Nelson and the selection process through this story by the Sioux City Journal: https://siouxcityjournal.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/candidates-for-woodbury-county-board-seat-pitch-themselves/article_de384764-39be-546d-90e8-f0d893049134.html

Woodbury County also launched a new website today. Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Ung says the website “streamlines the ability for county departments to quickly inform county residents.” The new site uses the same website address woodburycountyiowa.gov.

A public hearing in the Nebraska Legislature saw opposing testimony that focused heavily on resisting calls to bring prayer into the classroom, though one lawmaker claimed the bill wouldn't do that in the first place.

The Education Committee held a public hearing Monday afternoon on three bills, the last of which prompted the prayer debate. Introduced by state Sen. Tom Briese of Albion, the bill (LB141) would require the State Department of Education to issue guidance to schools that choose to schedule a "moment of silence" during the school day.

Lawmakers are making another attempt at strengthening Iowa’s distracted driving laws. A Senate panel has advanced a bill that would only allow the hands-free use of cell phones while driving.

Law enforcement officials have been telling lawmakers for years that the state’s ban on texting and driving is nearly impossible to enforce because they can’t prove a driver was texting.

The bill advanced by a Senate panel would ban all cell phone use while driving except for the one-touch it takes to answer or end a phone call. All other use would have to be hands-free, with some exceptions.

According to the state patrol, distracted driving causes one in every five car crashes.

The bill would make phone use while driving a moving violation and increase the fine from $45 to $100.

The South Dakota House has passed a $200 million fund for housing infrastructure projects. Lawmakers pushed the funding package over its final hurdle in the Legislature after a right-wing group of Republicans sought to thwart its passage. The funding package evenly divides the $200 million between loans and grants from the South Dakota Housing Development Authority for construction companies to build infrastructure projects like roads and water lines around new housing developments. It uses $150 million of state general funds and $50 million in federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. It is one of the first pieces of legislation to clear the Republican-controlled Legislature this year.

Investigators say in a charging document that an 18-year-old who was involved in an ongoing gang dispute walked into the common area of an Iowa alternative education program for at-risk students and fatally shot two teenagers in a premeditated attack. They say in the document released Tuesday that Preston Walls chased one of the teen victims down and shot him several more times when he tried to run. Police say Walls killed two males ages 18 and 16 in the attack Monday at the Starts Right Here program in Des Moines. The founder of the program was seriously wounded. Officers captured Walls leaving the scene. He is charged with two counts of first-degree murder and other crimes.

A new poll shows 69% of Iowa workers believe the state is on the right track.

However, the 2023 Talent Poll by the Iowa Chamber Alliance also shows that the number fell 11% from last year.

KCCI Television in Des Moines reports, workers who were polled say Iowa is safe and has a low cost of living.

But more than half say childcare availability has gotten worse.

News release from Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds:

Gov. Reynolds Statement on the Students First Act Passing the Iowa House and Senate

DES MOINES – Today Gov. Kim Reynolds released the following statement in response to the Iowa House and Senate passing the Students First Act:

“I am thrilled that both the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate have passed the Students First Act and I look forward to signing it into law later today. For the first time, we will fund students instead of a system, a decisive step in ensuring that every child in Iowa can receive the best education possible. Parents, not the government, can now choose the education setting best suited to their child regardless of their income or zip code. With this bill, Iowa has affirmed that educational freedom belongs to all, not just those who can afford it.”

News release from the Sioux City Catholic Diocese:

Bishop Walker Nickless statement on Education Savings Accounts:

“It’s a great day for education in Iowa, both for private and public schools. My brother bishops of Iowa and I are so pleased that we were able to be in Des Moines at the statehouse for this historic signing of Gov. Reynolds’ Students First Act bill to provide school choice in Iowa. We look forward to serving more families in the Diocese of Sioux City who want to enroll their child in a Catholic school. We are also pleased that the Students First Act will also help parents keep their child in the Catholic school of their choice and assist us in enhancing quality education.”

Diocese of Sioux City Catholic Schools Superintendent Patty Lansink statement on Education Savings Accounts:

“The Diocese of Sioux City Catholic Schools Office and the administrators of our Catholic schools are overjoyed with the signing of the Students First Act bill today. After many years of sharing our story of Catholic Schools and the importance of school choice for our parents, we are so happy that parents of all income levels can send their child to the school of their choice. We thank all the supporters of Catholic schools and non-public schools who reached out to their legislators to make Education Savings Accounts a reality for Iowa families.”

News release from the Woodbury County Supervisors:

Woodbury County Launches Revamped Website

SIOUX CITY, IOWA — Woodbury County launched a new website on Tuesday, January 24. The site includes several key improvements to assist residents, business owners, and visitors. The new site uses the same website address at woodburycountyiowa.gov

“The new site vastly improves user experience and government transparency,” said Woodbury County Board of Supervisors Chairman Matthew Ung. “It also streamlines the ability for county departments to quickly inform county residents.”

The new site, designed by Neapolitan Labs, was developed to work effectively on both desktop and mobile devices. “The site’s navigation, homepage highlights, and search features were all incorporated to give users several options to quickly find information,” said Kimber Box, Neapolitan Labs senior project manager. “Our sites are always designed with both the client and the site visitor in mind. We want to save everyone time.”

The website’s new features include a more prominent search tool; homepage quick links to popular pages; highlighted announcements for news and events; an updated department and service directory; an improved committees page; frequently asked questions; and notifications.

The notifications feature provides the option to subscribe to email updates from the county. Subscribers can choose which topics they’d like to receive notifications for, which include committee alerts, bid notices, jobs, news, and Board of Supervisors agendas.

“Significant advances were made in security, information organization, and mobile access,” said John Malloy, Chief Information Officer of the joint city/county IT department. He credited several key individuals with the project’s success: “Chairman Ung’s sponsorship of the project and input into design guidelines were invaluable. Project Manager Daniel Priestley jump started the process and kept it on schedule. And vital behind-the-scenes work was provided by IT employees Michelle Brown, Rolin Welch, and Doug Bock.”