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NEWS 1.31.23

NEWS 432pm.mp3

An Iowa House subcommittee is advancing a three percent increase in state aid for public schools.

The bill (HSB 117) would provide around 106 million dollars in new funding for local districts, which is more than either Gov. Kim Reynolds or the Iowa Senate have proposed.

If approved, the House proposal would be the largest percentage increase in nearly a decade.

But Nathan Arnold of Professional Educators of Iowa says schools need even more financial support from the state to help attract and keep teachers.

“Schools used to compete between each other to get the best teachers but now they’re competing with the private sector which oftentimes pays much better and has much better conditions than the schools.”

Republican leaders say a three percent increase is consistent with past years and is affordable for Iowa taxpayers.

Sioux City Superintendent Dr. Rod Earleywine says a 5% increase would help keep up with inflation.

The school funding increase will also set the value of Education Savings Accounts passed into law last week. Families that apply for an ESA will receive the same amount as per-pupil funding for public schools.

South Dakota Republican lawmakers have advanced a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the state to require people on Medicaid to work. The state recently expanded eligibility for the health plan. The proposal would amend the South Dakota constitution, meaning it requires voter approval. On Monday, all 11 Republicans on the House State Affairs Committee voted to advance the proposal to the full House. The two Democrats on the committee opposed it.

Governors from all three Siouxland states joined 24 other Republican governors in sending a letter to President Biden opposing a proposed clean water regulation from the EPA.

Called the "Waters of the United States" rule, the Biden EPA's proposal would open up more waterways to federal regulation under the clean water act.

Governor Reynolds, Pillen and Noem signed this latest letter which calls the Biden EPA effort "an inefficient and wasteful use of State and federal resources" that "will impose an unnecessary strain on farmers, builders, and every other impacted sector of the American economy."

Legislation from Iowa U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley that recently became law tracks foreign purchases of U.S. farmland.

The Farmland Security Act of 2022 requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to publish an interactive database that shows disclosures of foreign investment in U.S. farmland. Republican Senator Grassley introduced the bill last year with Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.

Grassley says Iowans frequently brought up their concerns over foreign investments during his town hall meetings across the state.

Young farmers getting started, the cost of farmland is very, very high. You get wealthy foreigners competing, [it] drives up the price of farmland. And we want to make sure we protect it. 

Grassley adds he’ll be introducing two other bills this Congress focused on foreign investments. One would block the Farm Credit System from lending money to foreign investors.

A bill advancing in the Iowa House with GOP support would ensure trucking companies don’t have to pay damages in most lawsuits related to truck crashes. It would also put a 1-million-dollar cap on noneconomic damages awarded in cases of personal injury or death.

Opponents say the bill would protect bad actors and prevent trucking companies from being held responsible for bad decisions—like telling drivers to exceed their hours of service or not maintaining trucks.

Lobbyist Marc Beltrame with the Iowa Motor Truck Association says he disagrees that the bill would make the state’s roads less safe.

“We don’t profit in this industry if we don’t move goods from point a to point b. the farmer who hooks his or her power unit up to their grain cart and puts seven generations of that family farm on the line—they don’t profit if they don’t get their product safely to market.”

Beltrame says the bill would also improve the availability of certain kinds of insurance coverage.

The presidential campaign landscape in Iowa is markedly different this year compared with four years ago. In 2019, at least a dozen Democratic hopefuls eager to make their case against the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump, had either visited Iowa or had announced plans to visit soon. This year, Republicans considering a challenge to Democrat Joe Biden seem frozen by Trump’s early announcement of a 2024 campaign. With Iowa’s first-in-the-nation GOP caucuses just a year off, the field of would-be White House candidates has largely been content to steer clear of the state. Even Trump has been absent from Iowa, choosing instead to kickstart his campaign last weekend in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Submitted news releases:

Governor Pillen Signs Letter Condemning New WOTUS Rule

LINCOLN, NE – Today, Governor Jim Pillen joined two dozen governors from across the nation in defending water rights and access for farmers, ranchers, developers, businesses, and landowners. The governors are requesting that President Joe Biden delay the new rule defining the Waters of the United States (WOTUS), until the U.S. Supreme Court issues its decision. The ruling is expected this summer.

The new WOTUS rule would expand the definition of "navigable waters" to include ponds, certain streams, ditches, and other bodies of water under the Clean Water Act, as determined by the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“The revised rule creates greater government overreach, produces additional red tape, and leads to uncertainty for landowners and businesses,” said Governor Pillen. “This will have a negative economic impact at a time when our state is already dealing with increased costs, supply chain issues, and staffing shortages.”

Gov. Reynolds Announces Funding to Clear Veterans Trust Fund Backlog

DES MOINES – Gov. Reynolds has approved more than $440,000 to cover a backlog of Iowa Veterans Trust Fund (IVTF) grants that were approved by the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs between March 3, 2021, and November 3, 2022, before the program was temporarily suspended due to insufficient funds. The funds are from the state’s allocation of Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, through the American Rescue Plan Act.

The IVTF, which is funded by the Iowa Lottery Authority and managed by the commission, receives a $500,000 annual appropriation from the Iowa Legislature to help eligible veterans and their families with expenses related to dental care, education, or emergency needs.

Over time, the commission obligated funding beyond the program’s appropriation, recently resulting in a backlog of applications and insufficient funds to reimburse veterans’ expenses.

“I’m pleased that this funding will finally provide veterans the financial assistance they were approved to receive,” Gov. Reynolds stated. “We owe Iowa’s veterans a debt of gratitude and we must ensure that the services we offer them are available when needed.”

“I’m grateful to Governor Reynolds for providing these funds. This will have a significant and very positive impact on veterans in need of emergency support and assistance," stated Todd Jacobus, Commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home and Interim Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs will begin processing payments immediately to fulfill any outstanding grants that were approved between March 3, 2021, and November 3, 2022. No further action is required by veterans whose applications have been approved by the commission and are awaiting payment.

Veterans who have questions about an application or the program should contact Melissa Miller at Melissa.Miller2@iowa.gov or 515-727-3443.

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