Education budget sees $48 million increase

CAPITOL LETTERS

BY STATE REPRESENTATIVE DAN A. HUSEMAN

R-District 3, Aurelia

The second funnel week is over, so the list of bills eligible for debate continues to shrink. The good news is that some legislation is being thrown overboard and will not be debated this session. Also, our individual budget bills are starting to move in both chambers. That is a good sign we are nearing the end of session. The grass is really greening up here, so everyone is eager to wrap up and head home.

Shortly after we gaveled in April 3, a special guest arrived in the House Chamber. Ron Dermer, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States spoke to us about the importance of being friends and allies ever since Israel was formed in 1948. He spoke highly of both the United States and Iowa. He also warned that most of the world’s problems and conflicts will originate in the Middle East, which is one of the reasons he was so thankful to have us as an ally. It was an honor having the Ambassador in the House Chamber.

Several of the governor’s priority bills have stalled for various reasons. Her plan to restore felon voting rights passed the House last week and is now in the Senate. Senators have said they need more specifics on who regains their voting rights, and should there be more emphasis on the victim’s rights as well. I agree with those concerns, so we will see if the bill survives the Friday funnel. If not, it will be alive for next session.

Another priority for Governor Reynolds is her birth control access plan. The bill would allow women who are at least 18 years of age to get some form of birth control from a pharmacist without first going to the doctor. There is a concern by some that this could cause some women to skip regular check-ups to screen for breast cancer, cervical cancer and in some cases, even domestic violence. Others are rightly concerned that since these are medications, we need to be careful with how they are dispensed. Many members of my caucus are undecided on this legislation, so it may die in the funnel.

Last week the House passed its version of this year’s education budget. This is a nearly $1 billion budget and appropriates money to the Department of Education, the Regents Universities, community colleges, Iowa Public Television, the Department for the Blind and the College Student Aid Commission. This is not the funding source for the K-12 education bill we passed earlier in the session.  This bill increases spending by about $48 million compared to last year. Community colleges would receive an increase of $7 million and the Regents Universities would see a boost of $15.9 million. This budget bill does a lot of good things, and will have to now go to the Senate for their consideration. We have not seen the Senate numbers yet, so there is a lot of negotiating ahead.

Flooding problems continue in Iowa, even though the Mississippi River may not overflow as much as earlier predictions. It is now estimated that damages are well over $2 billion, most of which is along the Missouri River. It will take several years to recover from this.

You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, or at home is 712-434-5880. You may write me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319. My home address is P.O. Box 398, Aurelia, IA 51005. If you have email, please contact me at dan.huseman@legis.iowa.gov.