A study committee examining the care of companion animals by commercial breeders had its first public meeting at the Statehouse on September 29. State Senator Joe Seng, a Davenport veterinarian, co-chairs the committee with Representative Jim Lykam. They heard testimony from many organizations, including Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, the Animal Rescue League of Iowa, the Humane Society, the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, the Iowa Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal, and the Iowa Pet Breeders Association. For more on the work of the committee, go to www.legis.state.ia.us/aspx/Committees/Committee.aspx?id=486.
State Representative Jim Lykam of Davenport gestures as he describes proposed legislation to better regulate pet breeders in Iowa on January 25. Lykam and State Senator Joe Seng of Davenport (right) co-chaired a bipartisan legislative study committee this summer which unanimously approved the ideas on which House Study Bill 604 is based. The legislation is designed to better protect pets and pet owners from irresponsible pet breeders. A key provision of the bill will increase the number of state inspectors to respond to animal health and safety complaints involving USDA licensed facilities.
Senator Joe Seng met representatives from the Iowa Catholic Conference to discuss new legislation to bring technological advances into Iowa’s classrooms. The new bill (SF 2058) passed the Senate Education Committee on February 2 and allows private schools to use existing textbook funding to purchase laptop computers or other personal portable computing devices for non-religious purposes.
Senator Joe Seng poses with Iowa University medical students Megan Srinivas and Michael McCoughlin, both from Fort Dodge, outside the Senate chamber on February 2. The students visited their Legislators to talk about ways for individuals to work with the Legislature to manage tuition and student debt, and brainstormed how to better ensure a stable family physician population in the state of Iowa throughout the coming years.
On February 8, Lori Baux of Ames was at the Statehouse to encourage Iowans to maximize their income tax returns this year by filing electronically for a quick refund, avoiding costly refund anticipation loans and taking advantage of state and federal Earned Income Tax Credits. Many Iowans may also qualify for free electronic filing of their taxes, including low and moderate-income taxpayers, active-duty military, students and seniors. Learn more at the Iowa Department of Revenue's Web site at www.iowa.gov/tax.
On February 17, Senator Joe Seng and other legislators exchanged ideas on how to increase the number of Iowa doctors and improve the affordability and accessibility of health care in Iowa. Doctors visited the Statehouse with the Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association, a group that seeks to advance the philosophy and practice of osteopathic medicine in the state of Iowa.
Senator Joe Seng met with Deb Goodall, a former President of the Iowa Association for Lifelong Learning (IALL) on February 24th. . They discussed IALL’s mission of encouraging personal development and growth for Iowans of all ages, and talked about the local impact of classes offered at the Eastern Iowa Community College that promote entrepreneurship and small businesses.
Senator Joe Seng met with Lou Ann Sandburg, a board member for the Chrysalis Foundation, on March 3. The organization emphasizes education and philanthropy while providing resources to support leadership and economic self-sufficiency for girls and women in Iowa.
Governor Chet Culver signs legislation to improve conditions in Iowa pet breeding facilities, surrounded by legislators, a number of children who supported the legislation, and his dog, Buck. Standing behind Governor Culver are, from left: Representative Wes Whitead, Senator Staci Appel, Senator Pam Jochum, Representative Jim Lykam, Senator Matt McCoy and Senator Joe Seng.
On March 9, Senator Joe Seng attended an American Advertising Federation’s (AAF) event at that Statehouse. The AAF is currently sponsoring television ads and a poster campaign to warn teens of the possible emotional and criminal consequences of sending explicit text messages. The organization is also working to increase awareness of the Des Moines Music Coalition, a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening the live music economy throughout Des Moines and Iowa.
As part of an annual tradition, the Senate was honored with a visit from a member of the Irish Parliament. Senator Ned O’Sullivan (not pictured) and his wife, Mrs. Madeleine O’Sullivan (left) traveled from Kerry County, Ireland to stay in Emmetsburg and enjoy St. Patrick’s Day festivities.
Senator Seng met with Brenda Criswell from the Iowa Department for the Blind to learn more about the many services the department provides to blind and visually impaired Iowans, including job training, career placement, and a library for blind and physically handicapped Iowans.
Sue Curry, Dean of the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health met with legislators on March 23 to discuss ways to build healthy communities, increase quality of life, and promote ‘Generation Public Health.’ For more information, visit http://www.generationpublichealth.org/.
State Senator Joe Seng of Davenport talks with State Senator Bill Heckroth of Waverly during the final hours of the 2010 session about their efforts to help middle-class families and small businesses recover from the national recession. The two legislators were successful in passing a new initiative that makes low-interest loans available to existing small businesses so they can create jobs, shifts tax credits from Wall Street businesses to Main Street businesses, and strengthens Iowa’s Small Business Development Centers. Senator Seng serves Ways & Means Committee. A small business owner, Senator Heckroth serves on the Economic Growth Committee and is the Vice-Chair of the Economic Development Budget Subcommittee.
“Jobs, jobs, jobs” are my top priority for the 2011 session of the Iowa Legislature, which began on Monday, January 10. I hope to increase assistance to Iowa small businesses, help Iowa workers improve their skills, and continue the expansion of the Iowa’s clean energy economy. I took the oath of office for a four-year term in the Iowa Senate. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 515-281-3371.
Hans van Leeuwen, Professor of Engineering at Iowa State University, met with me and other senators at the Statehouse on January 27. Leeuwen gave a presentation about fungal oil production to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Fungal oil can produce a form of alternative energy and is better for the environment than many other forms of fuel.
I talked with Steve Bolie of Creston, executive director for the Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging, February 3 at the Statehouse. The Association helps aging Iowans maintain independence and a high quality of life, and ensures that caregivers have information and guidance about services available to their older loved ones.
Lisa Nolan of Ames, dean of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, visited with me during an Agriculture Committee meeting on February 3. She spoke to the committee about salmonella testing on Iowa egg farms. Salmonella testing at the ISU labs has quadrupled following last summer's egg recall.
Diane Nelson of Davenport, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern and Western Illinois, met with me at the Capitol on March 10 to discuss how the Girl Scouts gives young girls confidence and leadership skills.
Representatives from the University of Iowa Health Sciences Colleges came to the Capitol on March 9 to discuss with legislators their commitment to improving the lives of Iowans through health research. Dr. James Davis, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery and Transplantation at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, visited with me. We are looking at an artificial heart transplant that is used to correct congenial heart defects.
Iowa Congressman Bruce Braley was recently in Afghanistan where he met with General David Petraeus, commander of US forces there. At Braley’s request, the General recorded a short video message for the 3,500 Iowa National Guard Members deployed in Afghanistan. You can check it out at www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtRTSfLh3_E.
Matthew Bonney of Ankeny, a senior in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Iowa, and Andy Veit of Iowa City, program manager for the National Advanced Driving Simulator at the University of Iowa's College of Engineering, came to the Capitol on April 5 to introduce legislators to driving simulator technology. The driving simulator was designed by the University of Iowa through years of research and allows for many different real-life driving experiences. I took a test drive and discussed with Bonney and Veit the economic advantages Iowa receives by licensing this advance technology to other institutes around the country.
Along with veterans and other Iowa legislators, I watched as Governor Terry Branstad signed a bill designating August 7 as Purple Heart Day. I helped pass this bill in the Senate to honor the sacrifice of our military men and women killed or wounded in enemy action, or who suffered maltreatment as prisoners of war.
As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I attended a bill signing in Governor Branstad's office for two important agricultural bills. House File 592 establishes an advisory council for agricultural education. The council's duties will include reviewing, developing and recommending standards for secondary and postsecondary agricultural education. House File 557 eliminates the need for pseudo-rabies testing, which is an unreasonable barrier to hog producers participating in multiple hog shows each year. Iowa has been pseudo-rabies free since 2004. I received the first pen that the governor used to sign the pseudo-rabies bill.
I talked with Senator Bob Dvorsky of Coralville, chair of the Senate Budget Committee, during the final days of the 2011 legislative session. I think adequate funding for local schools and strong job creation efforts are top priorities as state budget negotiations move to conclusion.
One of the best moments I had this week was talking with Waukee resident Kennedy Haag, who visited the Iowa Senate during a pause in debate on May 26. Kennedy was very excited and proud because it was also her preschool graduation day. She had just finished up her preschool education at one of Iowa’s quality programs for four-year-olds. Public opposition to education cuts recently convinced Governor Branstad to abandon deep cuts to early education. Disagreement over education funding continues to prevent the Legislature and the Governor from agreeing on next year’s state budget, which is to begin on July 1.
I participated in a series of public hearings on the state budget at the Iowa Capitol this week. These hearings give legislators a chance to learn how the budget could impact Iowans. I am pictured here at the Economic Development Budget hearing on June 8, along with Senators Swati Dandekar of Marion and Bill Dotzler of Waterloo.
On June 28th, I met with Chairman and CEO of Amtrak Thomas Carper and Amtrak Government Affairs Director Derrick James regarding the future of passenger rail in Iowa. I am a strong supporter of passenger rail as a way to provide convenient, environmentally responsible transportation alternatives, but the proposed Iowa City - Chicago route (via the Quad Cities) has faced an uphill funding battle in the Iowa House. Pictured from left: Carper, I and James.
I attended the recent celebration of 100 years of Taiwan democracy. The event took place in Chicago. Taiwan is an important trade partner with Iowa. In fact, Taiwan is the fifth largest market for corn and soybeans. And of course Iowa is the state that leads the nation in production of these crops. As we continue to develop strong relationships with agricultural trade partners, we’ll ensure our state’s continued economic success. Iowa State Senators Steve Sodders and Dennis Black and I are pictured here with Perry Shen, Director General of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Chicago, and his wife, Vivian.
I joined more than 500 state legislators from all 50 states who filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court supporting the constitutionality of the federal health reform law. Our goal is to protect the many benefits the legislation has brought to Iowa: a patient's bill of rights, medical discounts and free checkups for seniors, and increased competition that will lower health care costs. The legislators at the Iowa Statehouse event included, from left to right: Rep. Chuck Isenhart, Sen. Joe Bolkcom, Sen. Jack Hatch, Rep. Anesa Kajtazovic, Sen. Pam Jochum, Rep. Pat Murphy, Rep. Mary Mascher and I. You can learn more at http://www.senate.iowa.gov/democrats/iowa-lawmakers-defend-the-benefits-to-iowans-of-health-care-reform/.
Iowans using innovative community college approaches to recover from lost jobs and fill existing job openings visited the Statehouse to talk about how they did it. I met with Mike Sevart of Cedar Rapids (center) and Fernando Franco of Sioux City (right). Sevart’s 32-year position ended when his employer closed. He enrolled in his community college’s combination welding program while earning an adult high school diploma. When he graduated, he was hired by a local manufacturing firm. Franco lost his job when the John Morrell plant closed. He earned a GED at Western Iowa Tech Community College, a diploma in the Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning program, and an Associate’s degree in Technical Studies in December 2011.
Kim Edwards of the Iowa Foster & Adoptive Parents Association (IFAPA) was in the Capitol on February 16 advocating for foster and adoptive parents in Iowa. IFAPA is an organization that serves as a resource for foster, adoptive and kinship families in Iowa. Foster and adoptive parents greatly improve the lives of many Iowa children by providing them with the care and support needed to grow into successful adults.
Leaders from many AEA agencies from around the state were in the Capitol on February 23. Mississippi Bend AEA's Chief Administrator Glenn Pelecky talked to me about current education legislation and his concern for the need for adequate funding of Iowa’s schools. Making sure our schools have the tools necessary to perform as some of the best in the country means a lot to me and is something I’m working for during this session.
Iowa’s population is slowly growing older, and the needs of aging Iowans are becoming more important. The Iowa Association of Area Agencies on Aging is working to meet those needs. I met with Christa Merrit, executive director of Generations Area Agency on Aging in Davenport, about the work of the Association. Christa explained that the 16 regional offices in Iowa work to help elderly citizens maintain their independence and continue living long, healthy lives.
The Iowa Senate observed St. Patrick’s Day on March 15, and I had the privilege to play some Irish music to the General Assembly in honor of the holiday. Along with Senator Merlin Bartz, I performed the song "Danny Boy" to the assembly. Pictured with me in the rostrum was Senator Merlin Bartz, Senator Jeff Danielson, and Senator Jack Kibbie.
Controversial legislation to fund a new nuclear power plant will lead to significantly higher electrical rates if legislation to build a new nuclear power plant becomes law. That was the message I and other legislators brought to a Statehouse news conference on March 20. The legislation puts consumers at risk in order to finance a project that Wall Street investors see as too risky. See video from the event at http://youtu.be/eLMcqWT0W7w. From left: Senator Jack Hatch (Des Moines), Senator Daryl Beall (Fort Dodge), Senator Joe Bolkcom (Iowa City), Senator Rob Hogg (Cedar Rapids), Senator Tom Courtney (Burlington), Senator Pam Jochum (Dubuque), Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm (Cresco), Senator Amanda Ragan (Mason City), Senator Joe Seng (Davenport).
State Senator Bill Dotzler and I talked briefly with U.S. Congressman Bruce Braley of Waterloo this week. Rep. Braley is working at the federal level to do more to get radon, a colorless, odorless radioactive gas, out of our kids’ classrooms. Iowa is one the states most affected by radon exposure, a known cause of lung cancer.
There were 1,097 Iowa children in family foster care last year. The licensed foster parents who give these children a family are great, generous people. On February 19, I got to meet a few of them when the Iowa Foster and Adoptive Parents Association visited the Statehouse. I talked with Angela Stark of Pleasant Hill about what it is like being a foster parent.
Bishop Martin Amos of the Diocese of Davenport talked with Senator Rita Hart of Wheatland and me when he was at the Statehouse on Feb. 20. One priority issue for Iowa’s bishops this year is Medicaid expansion, which they say will “help Iowans who’ve lost their jobs or are struggling in jobs without health benefits get access to quality care. It will reduce costly emergency visits and reduce the burden on Iowa’s providers who provide care to Iowans who currently lack coverage.” I agree with efforts to make health care more readily available and affordable to all Iowans.
The Leopold Center at Iowa State University works to increase the sustainability of Iowa agriculture. I met several staff members of the Center, including Communications Specialist Laura Miller.
Robert Enlow is the President and CEO of the Foundation for Education Choice. He stopped by the Statehouse on Wednesday to discuss school issues.
It’s always nice to be visited by my constituents! On Wednesday Linda Duff, President of Assumption High School, stopped by the Iowa Statehouse to chat; right now their boys basketball team is playing in the State Tournament in Des Moines. Go Knights!
Jake Gervase and Drake Grenier, two basketball players for Assumption High School.
Assumption High School students Mary Kate Phillips and Hannah McAfoos.
Mary Rolfstad and Will Rolfstad, two students at the All Saints Catholic School in Davenport.
The goal of the League of United Latin American Citizens is to advance the economic condition, educational influence, housing and health of the Hispanic population in the United States. They support expanding Medicaid in Iowa since this move would mean an additional 150,000 Iowans would have health insurance. On Tuesday, the group visited the Statehouse. Senator Steve Sodders and I talked with the organization’s state director, Joe Enriquez Henry.
In honor the upcoming St. Patrick's Day and a visit from Deputy Marcella Corcoran-Kennedy, a member of the Irish Parliament, I brought my accordion into the Senate Chamber to celebrate.
The Iowa Workers Compensation Advisory Committee stopped by the Statehouse on Tuesday. I took the opportunity to talk to Ken Sagar, a member of the Iowa Federation of Labor. We discussed Iowa’s workers compensation system and how it could be improved.
Rep. Brent Siegrist (R) and Sen. Seng
Royce White played basketball and was the leading scorer for Iowa State from 2011-2012 before he went on to be a first-round draft pick in the NBA. He also has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), which causes people to experience exaggerated worry and tension, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Since going public with GAD, he has become an outspoken advocate for those with mental health issues.
Legislators have worked hard during the 2013 session to create more opportunities for Iowans who want to improve their skills and businesses that need more skilled workers. This is the best way to grow Iowa’s middle class and our state’s economy. We can do it by providing more resources to our community colleges so that Iowans can get their GED, learn basic skills and earn industry-recognized certificates in welding, health care, technology and other areas. I shared those thoughts this week with Senator Brian Schoenjahn of Arlington, chair of the Senate Education Budget, which provides funding for many of Iowa’s most successful job-training initiatives.
Paws & Effect is an Iowa-based nonprofit that trains service dogs to help with a variety of disabilities, including autism, Traumatic Brain Injury and mobility impairments. Volunteers recently brought their service dogs “in training” to the Statehouse, where legislators had a chance to learn more about the work they do. Pictured with me here is puppy raiser Cori Priebe of Ankeny with her puppy, Bliss. For more on Paws & Effect, go to www.paws-effect.org.
I visited with Congressman Bruce Braley when he visited the Statehouse on January 22. Since redistricting after the 2010 census, he is no longer my representative in the U.S. House, but we still stay in touch.
The Agribusiness Association of Iowa was at the Iowa Statehouse this week to thank lawmakers for last year’s bipartisan initiative to invest more than $22 million to help farmers, landowners and communities on conservation practices and other efforts to improve water quality. I talked with Joel Brinkmeyer, a cattleman and the organization’s CEO, about the group’s ideas to help keep agriculture a vital part of Iowa’s economy.
Former State Senator Maggie Tinsman from Bettendorf championed the fight to help families and children during her long career in the Iowa Legislature. As a Republican, Senator Tinsman often worked with Democrats to make smart investments in communities that paid off in better schools, higher-skilled workers and a stronger social safety net.
Realtors from across the state came to the Capitol to discuss issues related to buying and selling homes and other real estate. I met with a group from my district in the gallery overlooking the Senate Chamber.
The state of Iowa has made major investments to maintain our leadership in agriculture. The Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory at the Iowa State University is an essential resource for Iowa’s farmers. Senator Bill Dotzler and I met this week with Tim Johnson, executive director for the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association, and Dr. Darwin Schipper of Preston to discuss their work.
On February 19, Bishop Martin Amos of the Davenport Diocese talked with me about the contributions Iowa’s many Catholic schools have made to Iowa. One of the Iowa Catholic Conference’s top 2014 priorities is to increase state support for Catholic schools and other private schools. I'm strong supporter of all aspects of Iowa education. In the most recent fiscal year, more than $44 million in state and federal funds were used to increase services for Iowa students attending accredited, non-public K-12 schools. Those dollars helped pay for transportation, textbooks, shared-time students, and media and education services through Area Education Associations, school lunches and tuition tax credits. In state funding alone, Iowa invests more than $1,000 per year for each private school student.
As chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I had a chance to sit down with members of the Iowa Pork Producers Association on March 4. We had a good discussion about the issues important to them and their work.
Nereida Castro and Ismael Ochoa are among hundreds of Iowans who have lost their hard-earned money due to wage theft. Iowa workers and honest Iowa employers suffer when bad actors short paychecks, confiscate tips, misclassify workers, take unauthorized deductions and fail to pay overtime. Ultimately, Iowa workers are cheated out of more than $600 million a year.
Everyone in Iowa takes advantage of solid waste services, and it is important to keep these services cost effective and environmentally sound. I recently had a conversation at the Statehouse about keeping Iowans informed on solid waste operations with Kathy Morris from the Waste Commission of Scott County.
I watched Governor Branstad sign House File 2427, the corn check-off bill. It allows Iowa corn growers to vote whether to increase or decrease the corn check-off, currently at 1 cent per bushel. The funds collected are used by the Iowa Corn Promotion Board to promote corn and corn products. A notable success is expanded use of ethanol fuels.
I attended the Family Support awards presentation sponsored by the Iowa Department of Public Health and Prevent Child Abuse Iowa. I learned about the HOPES program (Healthy Opportunities for Parents to Explore Success), which helps single mothers and others. Pictured with me are participants and presenters Lynne Meeske and Lisa Ergenbright, along with Senators Daryl Beall and Rita Hart.
Legislative efforts to encourage Iowa’s wind energy economy are helping create jobs across the state. Rob Hach (left) of Alta, Iowa, founded a company that had seven employees when the 2008 recession hit but has grown to a workforce of 33 today. Rob's company, Wind & Solar Specialists, works throughout the state to help individuals, farmers and businesses site, install and maintain wind turbines of various sizes. I talked with Rob and Roger Lutes (right), a Marshall County farmer working to launch a wind farm on his land, when they visited the Statehouse on April 16 for the Iowa Wind Energy Association’s legislative day (www.iowawindenergy.org).
Elizabeth Heidt, 17, of Davenport was also a national finalist in the 2014 River of Words Environmental Poetry and Art Contest for her artwork titled, “Have Confidence in Your Reflection.” (Photo: 2014 River of Words)
Emily Delleman, 15, of Davenport received national recognition for art she submitted to the 2014 River of Words Environmental Poetry and Art Contest. Emily was a finalist for her artwork titled, “Drought.” The annual River of Words contest inspires youth to express creatively what they see in the natural world around them. All national winners and finalists are posted at www.stmarys-ca.edu/center-for-environmental-literacy/river-of-words. (Photo: 2014 River of Words)
It was an honor to take the oath of office for another four-year term as a member of the Iowa Senate. I look forward to representing the people of my district and working with legislators from across the state to help move Iowa forward. I’m counting on your advice and suggestions to help me accomplish that goal.
As part of the swearing in ceremony, I signed my name in the official register of the members of the Iowa Senate. I enjoy doing my part to build on their accomplishments.
My clerk Mary and I met this week with advocates from the Independent Living Council, which helps people living with disabilities be as independent as possible. The independent living movement began after World War II with leadership from disabled veterans. It is based on the philosophy that the “problem” with disability rests not with the individual, but with the barriers preventing full inclusion in society, such as public attitudes, physical barriers and the lack of support for independence. It is these barriers that need to be fixed, so that people with disabilities can live, work, acquire assets, have families and participate in society just like anyone else.
Last week, Wednesday’s Senate session opened with a beautiful rendition of “God Bless America” sung by internationally renowned opera singer Simon Estes. While he was at the Statehouse, Mr. Estes, a Centerville native, spoke passionately about the importance of arts in our local schools and support for our students’ artistic endeavors.
On Wednesday, I talked with members of a new organization, Grow Iowa Ag. This group is working on a multi-year effort to grow Iowa agriculture through investments in research and extension services. They are passionate about continuing Iowa’s farming tradition.
On Wednesday, the Senate passed Senate Resolution 32 honoring the achievements of Iowa State wrestler Kyven Gadson. Kyven’s remarkable senior season included a 30-1 record and the National Championship at 197 pounds. In addition to his outstanding athletic accomplishments, Kyven was named Academic All-Big 12 and has enrolled at ISU for graduate school. Kyven is an inspiration to young Iowans, and I was proud to honor his achievements with SR 32.