Newsletter February 10, 2017

Newsletter February 10, 2017

Teachers, Law Enforcement & Nurses Targeted by Republicans

Hundreds of teachers, law enforcement, nurses, and other working families packed the State Capitol this week in an effort to stop a Republican bill that would deny workers a voice in their own workplace. The bill is expected to move quickly next week with debate and a public hearing.

Originally passed to stop strikes, Iowa’s bi-partisan collective bargaining law gives workers a say in their own workplace and has served Iowans well for more than 40 years. It simply requires Iowans and their public employer (school, city, county, etc.) to sit down and work together to discuss issues and reach mutually agreeable solutions in the workplace.

The divisive issue is just the latest in a series of bills offered by Republicans, who believe teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement officials are overpaid and underworked.

Many lawmakers oppose the changes proposed by Republicans and believe law enforcement officers, firefighters, teachers, nurses, and other Iowa workers deserve fairness and a voice in their own workplace.

Iowans can participate in the public hearing at the State Capitol on Monday night at 6 pm by signing up at:

House Follows Through on Record Low State Aid for Schools

Students in K-12 schools will likely find higher class sizes and fewer opportunities next year. That’s after Republican lawmakers approved their plan for another historic low increase in basic funding for public schools on Monday.  The level of funding approved is the lowest amount in six years.

Before the bill was approved late on Monday night, more than 200 Iowa superintendents, teachers and parents packed the State Capitol to speak out against the Republican bill.   Iowans told lawmakers there will be severe consequences of inadequate public school funding again next year.

A survey of Iowa superintendents found low state investment in education again this year would force them to raise class sizes, cut teachers, and reduce opportunities for students.  They also said underfunding schools again next year would force them to delay purchases for books or classroom materials, delay new technology, and cut back on literacy programs.

When offered an opportunity to provide adequate funding that would avoid these consequences, the plan was rejected on a party line vote.  Republican lawmakers also rejected the Governor’s school funding plan.

Despite the Republican bill being half the amount of basic aid the Governor recommended, it was signed into law on Wednesday.

The Week in Pictures

I had the privilege of joining students from Cedar Rapids’ Metro High School in solving a communication failure issue with a robot – very similar to some of the work I do in the legislature.  These students displayed and demonstrated design and functions of the robot which they built from scratch. They created new components metal fabricators and 3D printers.  The recent success of Cedar Rapids Metro in national competitions has helped raise Iowa to third in the nation, behind only California and Texas, in high school engineering and robotics initiatives.

The METRO STEAM Academy is in its second year at METRO High School.  During this time students have developed products and services, launched businesses, designed and engineered robotics like those I discussed above, constructed an artificial ecosystem, and deployed a weather balloon over 80,000 feet high into the earth’s stratosphere.

I could not be more proud of the Cedar Rapids students.

Pictured are: Siwena Dezire, Wyatt Martinson, Jason Jaeger, John, Pease, and teachers Shannon Ellis and Chuck Tonelli


The Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa visited the Hill this week.  They were here to learn about voting and the legislative process, and I took a few minutes to drop by and say hi to some of their members from Cedar Rapids.

Republicans in the Iowa Legislature left little doubt Monday morning about where their priorities actually are and it’s not with public education. A hearing was held, in the Supreme Court Chamber at the Capitol, to allow the public an opportunity to speak about education funding prior to floor debate for House file 136. Governor Branstad proposed an anemic 2% increase to public school funding, and House Republicans slashed that even further to a regressive 1.11%. Not only does this fail to keep up with inflation and cost of living increases, but, as we heard over and over Monday morning, this will lead to large and dangerous cuts in staff, services, facilities, and needed materials throughout the state. This will also mean increases in local property taxes for 179 school districts.

More than 200 people signed up to speak at this hearing, all but 2 speaking in opposition to the Republicans’ proposed plan. As the set time for the meeting to end approached, the Republican chair rejected a motion to extend the period of public comment which would have ensured that all who had made the trip to the Capitol (many driving several hours from all corners of the state) and waited so patiently could have their opportunity to speak. After only 90 minutes and just 32 speakers, Rep. Rogers ended the meeting, even after Democrats requested an extension and offered to stay and listen to the remaining presenters. As a clergy member rose to express the need to adequately fund Iowa schools, every Republican Representative present promptly stood up, and walked out; with only Democrats remaining as the meeting continued until all who wanted to speak had had their opportunity.

This continues what has become an alarming trend, this session, of Republican committee chairs scheduling public hearings at times that are inconvenient for the those most affected (like educators and school administrators Monday) cutting short the time for public comment, and moving forward with an agenda in the face of massive resistance from constituents.

The children of Iowa deserve better. We all deserve better.



After hours of debate about the “woefully inadequate” funding for public schools, the Iowa House Republicans passed a 1.11% State Supplemental Aid (SF166) for K-12 education, on a nearly party line vote at 11:10 pm Monday night. The vote: 55 to 40 with 5 absent. Only Rep. McKean (R) voted with Democrats in opposition to the bill.


At the Capitol Monday, visiting the Iowa House, was a very engaging and bright group of students from Uganda. The students were sponsored by Drake University as part of a program to broaden global learning, partnership and cooperation towards a better world of understanding.


The Iowa Alliance of YMCAs visited the Hill Tuesday morning, which gave me the opportunity to visit with Duane Jasper and Bob Carlson. Bob is the CEO of the YMCA of the Cedar Rapids Metropolitan Area, and Bob is the Chair of the Board.

There are 55 YMCA branches, serving nearly 350,000 people in Iowa. Among the initiatives the YMCA advocates are summer programs for school children aimed at fighting summer learning loss, and programs for seniors that seek to help them live more active lifestyles with things like water aerobics.

In Cedar Rapids, Duane and Bob updated me about plans to expand and update YMCA facilities.

Pictured: Left, CEO Bob Carlson; Right, Chair of the Board Duane Jasper.


Representative Amy Nielsen and I met with Doug Elliott, Executive Director of the East Central Iowa Council of Governments, Tuesday morning, at the ICOG legislative breakfast. The Iowa Association of Councils of Governments is the trade association for the 17 Councils of Governments (COGs) in Iowa. ICOG’s mission is Building strong Iowa communities by bringing statewide leaders together to improve public sector services and solve regional issues.

In 2016, the 17 councils that make up ICOG collectively received an appropriation of $200,000. This funds only $11,674 per region. They were here today to ask for an appropriation increase. They would like to use this funding to, among other things, create regional economic development grant programs, support rural economic vitality, increase funding for the state housing trust fund, and create regional Watershed Management Authority organizations to help maintain water quality.


It’s always a pleasure to speak to Marty Lenss, the Airport Director at Eastern Iowa Airport, in Cedar Rapids. Marty was here Tuesday morning at the Iowa Public Airports Association legislative reception, and he updated me about some of the IPAA’s priorities for this session.

The state currently allocates only $2.25M dollars/year on vertical infrastructure to be distributed to Iowa’s public use airports, both commercial and general aviation. Recognizing that, in order to compete in a 21st century marketplace, Iowa must have a modern transportation infrastructure, the IPAA considers the next logical place for increased investment to be Iowa’s air transport infrastructure.

According to the State Aviation System Plan, for 2010-2030, Iowa’s aviation system need is $816M or $43M/year. With this in mind, IPAA is proposing the state of Iowa make a commitment to assist its airports in developing and maintaining our airport infrastructure by creating a special airport infrastructure program (AIR-Iowa).


The Department of Transportation (IDOT) and Iowa Interstate Railroad (IAIS) were in the Capitol Rotunda Tuesday. During their visit I spoke with IAIS Chief Engineer, Chad Lambi, PE; and Onna Houch, also with IAIS.

They updated me about a joint project with the state of Illinois that could potentially increase carrying capacity for railroads in the I-380 corridor, as well as plans in the works to increase access to rail transport services for rural parts of Iowa that aren’t as well served, called trans-loading. During this process, products like ethanol could be trucked from their manufacturing facility a short distance to the nearest rail loading facility. Once there, they would be loaded onto rail cars for wider distribution, at a more cost effective rate.
I look forward to continuing correspondence with IAIS – to stay current on these developments.


The immediate backlash against a plank in the Iowa Republicans legislative agenda was on full display Tuesday afternoon as state, county, and city employees held a protest outside of the Governor’s office. The rally was in support of public employees whose collective bargaining rights are under attack (HSB 84).
The legislation strips away at the collective bargaining rights of educators, correctional officers, nurses, snow plow drivers, fire fighters, and other public employees. Those in attendance voiced their opposition to these attacks, and encouraged legislators to protect the rights of Iowa workers.

The message rang loudly in the halls of the Capitol as both Rotundas were filled to capacity and chants of “This is what Democracy looks like” echoed through the building. House pages were kept busy delivering hundreds of notes to their legislators while constituents waited patiently to speak with their elected official. It was a chaotic and surreal atmosphere, yet one that needs to continue until every public employee can be assured that these irresponsible bills are defeated, and their authors and supporters are held accountable.
Republicans control the Iowa House, the Iowa Senate, and the Governor’s office. They have the ability to implement their agenda, and they are doing so with zeal.


Off duty Iowa firefighters and other public employees from all over the state joined together in protest against HSB 84, Tuesday afternoon. Here to have their voices heard were Cedar Rapids Firefighters (from right) Matt Humphrey, Lucas Kennedy, Jake Corell, and Dave Corell. Even my nephew in-law, Nate Smith and his daughter Lucy, supported the cause.


The Iowa Voters for Companion Animals (IVCA) hosted a lobby day at the Statehouse Tuesday afternoon, which gave me the chance to meet with one of my most energetic constituents, Sandy Galer, and another great constituent Carole Gauger.

Iowa ranks as one of the top four dog producing states in the country. Among them, Iowa is the only one without state-level oversight.

IVCA is proposing a mechanism for increased oversight of problematic USDA licensed dog breeders. This oversight would not place any new regulatory burdens on commercial dog breeders, but instead only increase the oversight, ensuring better compliance with existing laws. Additionally, this would not apply to livestock, would not change licensing requirements for small-scale breeders, and would not change the exemption for hunting dogs in Iowa Code Ch. 162.

Pictured here, Sandy Galer sits in the House Speaker’s chair with Carole Gauger directly to her left and IVCA supporters from all over Iowa surrounding us in the House Well.


A group of pharmacy students made their way through the House chamber Tuesday morning during the Iowa Primary Care Association legislative reception. I went down to visit with these students and had a chance encounter with a young constituent!

Nicole Potter is a Cedar Rapids resident and a 1st year graduate student in Pharmacy at the University of Iowa. It was a pleasure to speak with Nicole about her education, her interests, and some of the issues important to the Iowa Primary Care Association this legislative session.


In the midst of a very busy and eventful day on Tuesday I was able to visit with Iowa electricians about several pieces of dangerous legislation that directly impact their safety and the safety of others.
An example is HF 16. Apprentice Electrician Changes – at present an apprentice electrician is required to be in the presence of a licensed electrician at all times to perform electrical wiring. HF 16 would amend the definition of “the direct personal on-the-job supervision and control and in the immediate presence” to require only that the licensed electrician be present for a minimum of 25 percent of each day’s work period for the apprentice electrician or to perform electrical wiring.

Another is HF 4 – “Right to work free of regulation” – legislation that would do away with almost all licensing requirements and damage the concept of professionalism of skilled tradespeople. This bill would put the public at great risk.

Pictured with constituent Tad Gusta, IBEW; Blaine Luck, IBEW; Kelly Steinke-President Hawkeye Area Labor Council; Ryan O’Leary, IBEW 288

2nd Picture with Mike Olson, Bill Hanes, Rich Good, Tyler Lony, constituent Jimmy Jensen, Jeff Colling and Andriy Lapitskyy, all members of IBEW Local 405


Tuesday afternoon, immigration supporters filled the Public Safe Committee room before the meeting and later protested the votes during passage of HSB 67. Protestors were removed from the room, one at a time.
After contentious debate, the final vote was along party lines with all Republicans voting in favor. HSB 67 “prohibits the state of Iowa and any state agency, officer, or employee or a county or city from adopting or enforcing any rule, policy, procedure, ordinance, motion, resolution, or amendment that limits or restricts the enforcement of any federal immigration law to less than the full extent permitted by federal law.” The bill is directed toward the concept of “sanctuary cities”.

During the meeting, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Holt, claimed that there are 50+ “entities” across Iowa where law enforcement officers are not fully cooperating with federal immigration officials. When pressed for additional information from Democratic legislators he admitted that he had not spoken with city officials or law

enforcement officers in any of these “entities”. Pressed further he revealed that he garnered his information from the Internet website called the Center for Immigration Research. Everyone interested in this debate should look closely at the history and nature of this organization – the source of Rep. Holt’s information about Iowa.

Passed in committee, the bill now moves to the House floor for consideration and debate.
To read the bill go to:


Two subcommittees were held Wednesday morning – one in the Iowa House and one in the Senate, HSB 84 and SF 213 moving legislation that will gut collective bargaining for public employees.

Even though Republicans in both chambers are using procedures to swiftly move the bills to passage, those in opposition to the bills continue to fill the rooms, with standing-room-only crowds that extend into the hallways of the Capitol.

This came just one day after hundreds of Iowa nurses, educators, firefighters, teachers, and every type of public worker serving Iowans, packed both the first and second floor rotundas here at the Capitol, rallying in support of public employees’ right to collective bargaining and asking their Republican legislators, from across the state, to stop what they are doing to destroy the rights and wages of working Iowans.

I fully support these public employees. They are our neighbors, our friends, our relatives – even our children’s teachers. I will do everything that I can to help make sure that chapter 20 collective bargaining rights are maintained and that HSB 84 and SF 213 are defeated.


I had the opportunity, Wednesday, to speak with Juliana Taimoorazy in the House Lobby. Juliana is a Senior Fellow at the Philos project and was here to share information about the Iraqi Christian Relief Council, and Operation Return to Nineveh in Iraq.

In October of 2016, after two years of displacement, Assyrian Christian towns were liberated, and thousands of families sought to return home in northern Iraq. Operation Return to Nineveh funds the cleanup and reconstruction of Assyrian Christian towns and churches destroyed by ISIS.
Juliana is asking the Iowa Legislature to draft a letter to President Trump requesting that he support the refugees in northern Iraq, politically, and with US aid.

Learn more about Juliana here:


I took photographs in the Iowa House, Thursday morning, with Cornell students from China who were visiting at the Capitol with legislators and the Governor. My conversations covered immigration, visas and the appointment of the governor as ambassador to China.

With the students are Ling Zhang, Associate Director of Admission and International Recruitment, Cornell College; Jonathan Brand, President of Cornell College; Representative Todd Taylor and Representative Ashley Hinson.


Iowa EMS workers gathered in the Rotunda Thursday morning as part of the Iowa Emergency Medical Services Association Day on the Hill. IEMSA workers presented legislators with a variety of priorities for the session. These include:

• Township Taxation for Fire/EMS; Iowa Code Chapter 359 currently requires townships to provide fire protection, cemetery maintenance, and mediate fence line disputes. The IEMSA believes that as part of modernizing Iowa Code townships should be required to help fund emergency medical services, which would begin to close the gaps in coverage that predominately affect rural Iowa.

• Behavioral health Transport; Iowa’s system of helping patients with behavioral health crises is broken. We rank 50th in the nation in the number of beds available for mental health emergencies. This is unacceptable.

• Incentives for EMS education; Iowa is already facing shortages in qualified applicants for current positions, and will soon need to replace EMS workers who have been in the profession for 30 or more years. IEMSA is proposing an incentive program to attract more talent into the field.

Local emergency medical services are often ignored – until we need them, and they need more support than pulling to the right when we hear their sirens. EMS cannot be taken for granted. The legislature should address the gaps in service and make sure that all Iowans have medical services nearby for emergencies – saving lives.

Pictured (left to right): Mark McCulloch, Matt Fults, Mary Briones, Linda Frederiksen, and Orville Randolf all board members with the IEMSA. Also pictured is Dennis Frisch, an EMT from Durant, Iowa.

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To read the rest of my Statehouse News go to:

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