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Sunday, May 1, 2016

$2 million for computers, but nothing for local anti-drug task force?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Iowa Legislature

This morning the Iowa House passed the first budget bill of 2007. The Appropriation and Regulation budget deals with a relatively small piece of the entire pie. It is less than $100 million out of an almost $6 billion budget, but it is probably a harbinger of things to come. In this small budget area, we have increased spending 10% over last year. Two million extra dollars committed to finish installation of an internal computer billing system for government agencies but no extra dollars to re-establish a joint anti-drug task force for a nine county area that includes Buena Vista and Sac counties. $65,000 spent on two grounds keepers at Terrace Hill, while refusing to consider a bid from a private firm for $47,000 for the same work. And an extra $1.8 million for utilities for the Capitol complex while refusing an amendment that would have required an energy audit for those facilities. This begins a troubling trend of unfettered spending...

As I write, we are about to begin debate on a preschool bill. This bill will mandate that every four year old in the state shall have access to state approved voluntary preschool program. The goal should be applauded, but the procedure to achieve that goal is flawed. The bill will create serious problem for many private, parochial, and community sponsored childcare centers. The bill requires that every preschool provider shall supply ten hours of instruction per week by a certified teacher, but there will be no support for any non-public school provider to fund these teachers. This will force most private, parochial, and community based childcare providers to drop their preschool programs because of cost concerns. The loss of revenue will affect the financial viability of many of these private childcare facilities.

The House passed a bill this week that will allow a high school junior or senior that is at least 17 years old to serve as a poll worker on Election Day. Many counties have a difficult time finding enough people to staff precinct-polling places. The student would be required to attend the training for poll workers, and would serve a normal shift as directed by the Commissioner of Elections. The student would be required to declare a party affiliation or as an independent, if serving as an Election Board Member during a partisan election. Students would have to clear their service with their school and the school would be required to count the day as an excused absence. This may create a unique opportunity for public service for our young people...

Negotiations are underway on a combination of revenue programs that would raise $200 million for the Department of Transportation for maintenance and new construction. Revenue will come from fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees. The Governor has not committed to support any new funds for roads and without his backing, this issue will go nowhere. New money for DOT is essential if a four lane Highway 20 is to be built from Fort Dodge to Sioux City.

A bright spot in the Administration and Regulation budget is the increased funding for CASA. Court Appointed Special Advocates are assigned to represent and work with victims of domestic abuse and child abuse. These trained volunteers do an outstanding job... Buena Vista and Sac counties have some CASA volunteers but more are desperately needed.

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