The Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown conducted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for one of their new residential facilities. This home-like environment will enhance the dignity and respect for our veterans and their spouses. I am proud to be involved with our Veterans Home and have introduced a post-traumatic stress clinic at IVH. Pictured are Emily Young, IVH staff assistant to the deputy director, Lt. Colonel Todd Jacobus, chair of the Iowa Veterans Commission, Representative Mark Smith, I, Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds who delivered the key note address, Senator Daryl Beall, IVM Commandant David Worley, David Huffman from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Mike Hines, staff assistant to the commandant.
Third-graders from Fisher Elementary School in Marshalltown visited the Capitol on April 17. It's always exciting to meet with the young people I represent and talk with them about how state government works.
During the last week of the 2012 Iowa session, I had a chance to review some of the final pieces of legislation with my Senate colleagues in the chamber. From left: Senator Mary Jo Wilhelm of Cresco, Senator Daryl Beall of Fort Dodge, I and Senator Liz Mathis of Robins.
When people who need mental health care don’t get the treatment they need, they can end up in conflict with the law. Story County Sheriff Paul Fitzgerald and other public safety officers testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on public safety implications of failing to adequately fund mental health care. I met with Sheriff Fitzgerald and discussed the ways we can improve public safety by providing better care to those who need it.
We owe our freedom to our veterans and service members. During Veterans Day on the Hill, we welcomed Iowa veterans and the people who support them to the State Capitol to honor and thank them for their sacrifices. During this year’s event on January 23, I got the chance to talk with two chaplains at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown about veteran’s issues. Craig Nelson gave the opening prayer in the House, and Angela Doty gave the opening prayer in the Senate.
During World Wars I and II, people supported the war effort in many different ways. One of those ways was code talking, or using knowledge of a Native American language to transmit coded messages to troops in a different location. On January 23, I spoke with Rob Roberts from Montour, who is championing the recognition of the Meskwaki Code Talkers who served in World War I and II.
Roger Klouda of Cedar Rapids is an example of an Iowa business owner who can’t hire enough workers, despite paying great wages. Roger is the owner of MSI Moldbuilders, the 26th largest moldbuilding company in North America. Tuesday, January 29, he told Senator Matt McCoy and me that he could hire eight people immediately if they had the right training. That’s the catch. He believes Iowa needs more career training programs in specific industries. I agree.
Amber Lewis is a single mom with three kids and she is on the way up. Thanks to new state help for students taking non-credit courses, she’s upgrading her skills. Thanks to students like Amber, we are starting to make a dent in Iowa’s skilled worker shortage. Her local community college has helped her earn her high school diploma, a CPR certification, and made her a Certified Nurse Aide and a Certified Nursing Assistant. Amber is an example of why it pays to invest in Iowans, including adults looking to improve their lives.
What are we doing to better educate Iowa’s students in science and math? February 6 was STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Day at the Statehouse. I talked with educators and students from around the state about the importance of math and science in our students' education and in Iowa's economy. I'm pictured here with Quentin Killborn and Shane Wignall, both from East Marshall.
This week the Iowa Senate Education Committee heard about an intensive community approach in Marshalltown centered on strong schools that help kids learn, grow and succeed. Representatives of Mid-Iowa Community Action, a Marshalltown-based human services agency described how they are helping children and families at Rogers Elementary School in Marshalltown take advantage early learning opportunities and services for families living in poverty. From left to right: Lindsey Upah, program coordinator; Sue Martin; Senator Steve Sodders; and Arlene McAtee.
On February 7, I met with John Benson of Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Agribusiness Association of Iowa board member Craig Struve was at the Statehouse on Feb. 12.
On Tuesday Father Mark Ressler of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Hiawatha gave the opening prayer for the Iowa Senate. Before that Senator Mathis and I got the chance to talk with Fr. Ressler.
I visited with Shelby Ridley, Supportive Services for Veteran Families Case Manager for Marshall County, and Kelly Huntsman, Executive Director of Primary HealthCare, about ways to improve health care to low-income citizens and veterans.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and I in the Senate Chamber.
Making announcements on the Senate floor.
Iowa is one of only five states that do not have independent Elder Abuse laws. But a group of students from Beaman, Conrad, Liscomb, Union and Whitten (BCLUW) Middle School is trying to change that. They have created an awareness group and Facebook page about Elder Iowa Abuse Awareness. Next time you're on Facebook, look up the Iowa Elder Abuse Awareness page and see what these kids are doing to make our state a better place.
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, and I talked with Edgar Ortiz (left) and the organization’s state director, Joe Enriquez Henry (right).
On March 26, Terry Rich, who was reconfirmed as the Iowa Lottery’s Chief Executive, visited the Senate. I had a chance to speak with him in the Chamber along with Senators Jeff Danielson and Joe Bolkcom.
Rep. Mark Smith and I hosted a group from Marshalltown Community College in the House Chamber.
On April 9, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn hosted senators and staff at the World Food Prize headquarters in Des Moines. The building features gorgeous art work that tells the story of Iowa's efforts to feed the world and of Norman Borlaug, founder of the World Food Prize and Cresco native.
Rep. Mark Smith and I gave students and educators from Iowa Valley Continuing Education an informal tour of the Senate Chamber and discussed the importance of continuing education programs to boosting Iowa’s economy.
Abby Stanfield’s fifth-grade class at West Marshall Elementary School came to Des Moines to see the Capitol and learn about state government.
About one million veterans in the United States suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury. These are serious conditions that can occur in the line of duty. The Veterans National Recovery Center held an event at the Statehouse to launch the National PTSD and TBI Awareness Flag Project. The flag carries the motto, “Not everyone who came home from war left war.” It is a reminder of the psychological cost of war.
On April 23, students from North Tama Elementary School in Traer visited me in the Senate Chamber during their trip to the Statehouse.
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.
I serve on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. At a special meeting on May 6, serious issues were raised about conditions at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. We heard testimony concerning allegations of a hostile work environment, mistreatment and harassment. Legislators will continue to investigate this situation and will take further action if needed. We expect the Iowa Veterans Home to be run in the most professional way. Those who have served and sacrificed deserve the highest quality care we can offer.
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.
State Senator Rich Taylor of Mount Pleasant (middle) and I listen as Orville Randolph, president of the all-volunteer Bennett Ambulance Service (right), addresses the Legislature’s Emergency Medical Services Study Committee at the Iowa Statehouse. On Thursday, the bipartisan committee completed two days of discussions on the state of emergency medical services in Iowa and possible improvements. I want to ensure all Iowans have access to high-quality, life-saving emergency medical services, regardless of where they live. A key goal is to better support the volunteers who make up the majority of Iowa’s EMTs.
It was an honor to be recognized with the GOLD STAR Award from the Iowa State Sheriffs' and Deputies' Association. The award goes to those who show leadership on public safety and law enforcement issues in Iowa. My job as a Marshall County deputy sheriff helps me stay focused on what is most important in my work in the Iowa Senate. Safe communities are a big part of what makes Iowa such a great place to live. Photo courtesy of Marshalltown Republican
I participated in a Fort Dodge forum on December 13 focused on creating more economic development opportunities and good jobs across Iowa. Senator Daryl Beall invited me and Senator Bill Dotzler, chair of the Economic Development Budget, to meet with his local business leaders, economic development experts and educators. The well-attended event provided us lots of good input for the 2014 session.
State Center has been awarded a $75,000 Main Street Iowa Challenge Grant for work to the Benson Building. The Challenge Grant money comes from a $1 million appropriation from the Legislature in 2013. The latest round of awards will bring more than $3.6 million in investments to the state. These grants support local economic development, redevelopment of downtowns, preservation of historic resources, and helping local businesses locate and expand in Iowa’s Main Street districts. Learn more at www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com/IDRC/MainStreetIowa.
Working in the Senate is a team effort. You work with your committee, with legislators from your area, and with the Governor. One of the most important teams is the one composed of each senator and their clerk. My clerk again this year is Bob Christenson. It is great to have an experienced, talented person like Bob by my side helping me stay organized. We look forward to your letters, emails, phone calls, and visits!
Helping families become more self-sufficient and successful helps both parents and children. On January 15, a variety of groups doing just that shared information with legislators. I met with Arlene McAtee of Mid-Iowa Community Action in Marshalltown and Lana Ross of the Iowa Community Action Association.
Miyoko Hikiji who was at the Capitol to advocate for changes to the Iowa Code of Military Justice involving military sexual trauma. In confidential surveys, one-quarter to one-third of women in military report that they have been sexually assaulted, according to the US Department of Defense. Iowan Miyoko Hikiji is an Iraq War veteran who is seeking to toughen laws applying to Iowa’s military installations.
Pastor Craig Nelson, chaplain at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, led the House and Senate in prayer at the start of Veterans Day on the Hill on January 22.
Serena Golwitzer of Forest City traveled to the Iowa Statehouse on January 22 to participate in Veterans Day on the Hill. Serena is a “Puppy Raiser” with the Puppy Jake Foundation The nonprofit organization is dedicated to helping military veterans by providing them with highly trained service dogs. While at the Capitol, I talked with her about her hopes that Larry, the Service Dog pictured, will be helping an American veteran soon.
An overflow crowd listened to young women tell how the Iowa Juvenile Home helped them get their lives back on track despite very difficult circumstances, when they spoke before the Senate Human Resources Committee on January 22. Pictured, from left, are Amber Opdahl, Chelsea Reasoner and Melea Speelmon. Amber was an Iowa Juvenile Home resident from 1996 to 2000. She graduated with honors as an LPN from Kaplan University in 2011. Amber is now studying for her RN at Northeast Iowa Community College. Chelsea was at the Juvenile Home from 2009 to 2011. She is currently employed fulltime doing daycare and will enter Des Moines Area Community College in May. Melea resided at the Juvenile Home from 2008 to 2009. She now works with at-risk youth at Faith, Hope & Charity. She too will begin her college education at DMACC in May.
Former State Senator Steve Warnstadt of Sioux City, now a Colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, visited the Senate this week. Senator Warnstadt led the recent bipartisan effort that made Iowa the first state in the national to address all ten of the Defense Department’s Defense quality-of-life issues for military families.
State Senator Jack Hatch, chair of the Health & Human Services Budget, joined me in calling for repair of Iowa’s safety net for troubled children. Part of this effort would be a restructured, refocused, accredited Iowa Juvenile Home.
Canadian Counsel General Jamshed Merchant and a delegation from Canada visited the Statehouse as a part of the first annual Canada Day in Iowa. Canada is one of Iowa's major international trade partners. The cross-border exchange has helped create Iowa jobs and grow our state's economy.
Iowa Adjutant General Tim Orr gave his Condition of the Guard speech to a joint session of the Legislature on Feb. 5. Maj. Gen. Orr reported that, after many overseas deployments in the last 12 years, there are no Iowa soldiers or airmen in Iraq and Afghanistan today. Iowans can be proud of our men and women in uniform. Even in times of overseas deployment, the Iowa National Guard does not lose sight of its mission: homeland defense and support. The Guard (9,200 members strong!) has responded to numerous disasters both in Iowa and across the country.
Iowa's Latino population has been increasing steadily over the last few years. I talked with Omar Padilla, Joan Jaimes and Alba Perez from the Latino Affairs Commission about how Iowa communities benefit from both longtime Latino Iowans and newly arrived families.
Kelsey Pokerny and Linda Babinat are members of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America at North Tama. The student organization promotes personal growth and leadership through Family and Consumer Sciences education. Focusing on the multiple roles of family member, wage earner and community leader, students learn skills for life through character development, creative and critical thinking, interpersonal communication, practical knowledge and career preparation.
Amanda Goodman is a news anchor from KWWL, an NBC news affiliate in Waterloo. She spoke with legislators about the importance of anti-bullying programs in our schools.
An investigative journalist for a California television station interviewed me this week about my proposed legislation to fix sexual abuse in the Iowa National Guard. We did the remote interview with her in California and me in a small meeting room in the State Law Library.
I recently met with Terry Briggs, Carol Hibbs, Terry Grag, Mike Stegmann and Joel Greer of the Marshaltown area to hear their input on what kind of work we should be doing on local recreational trails.
Senator Daryl Beall, chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, and I visited with Sergeant First Class Tom Sage (left) and Lt. Colonial Michael Kuehn after the committee meeting. We discussed SF 2111, a bill to establish response and reporting requirements for sexual abuse in the military.
Cherilyn Eveleth of Union came to the Capitol on Wednesday to watch the passage of a Lyme Disease Task Force bill. Cherilyn contracted the disease from a tick bite in 2012. Since that time, her health has deteriorated. Cherilyn and her husband, Dan, struggled with finding a diagnosis, a specialist and a cure. The couple has advocated for a task force that would draw the strengths of our medical communities, public health departments and patients suffering from chronic Lyme Disease to educate and provide better resources for those whose lives have been affected by this debilitating health issue. Pictured with me, from left: Cherilyn; Sen. Liz Mathis, who floor-managed the bill; Cherilyn's mother, Lois Kruse; and Dan.
The Iowa Senate unanimously approved Senate File 2297, which lessens penalties for people who unknowingly expose someone to HIV or other contagious diseases with no intention of infecting them. Iowa’s existing law in this area was based on inaccurate information and worked against the best interests of public health. This year's legislation is the result of citizen advocacy from members of the Community HIV/Hepatitis Advocates of Iowa and other groups. Pictured, from left: Twyla Berry; Sen. Rob Hogg, who managed the bill; Sen. Matt McCoy; Tami Haught; I; Keenan Crow; Matty Smith and Becky Smith.
Mr. Weig and his Government students at West Marshall were in the Senate Chamber on March 3 when we approved SF 2129. The bill was brought forward by the students to allow schools to establish of philanthropy accounts to give to charitable causes in their communities.
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.
Marshalltown Chamber members are pictured in the Iowa Senate on March 5. It was Marshalltown Day at the Statehouse and I was proud to have my district so well represented.
Northeast Iowa Community College has been selected as the state’s 2014 recipient of the Career Preparedness Award in recognition of its collaborative work in the Opportunity Dubuque initiative, which has proven success in preparing individuals for today’s workforce. The Workplace Success Award went to Bodine Electric Company in Peosta for its efforts to advance career readiness and development for area workers who seek employment in advanced manufacturing. For more information on advanced manufacturing credit programs and non-credit certification programs at NICC, visit www.nicc.edu/advancedmanufacturing.
Norma Garcia, a UNI student from Marshalltown, presented her project on Hispanic Women and Their Perception of Anti-Aging: Buying the Foundation of Youth.
Undergraduate students from Iowa’s public universities presented their senior projects at the Statehouse. Many fields of study were represented, including the STEM, social sciences, communications and fine arts. Toni Proescholdt, an ISU student from Marshalltown, did a project on understanding interactions between butterflies and their floral resources in Iowa grasslands.
On April 7, the Iowa Senate approved an Education Budget that freezes tuition for a second year at Iowa’s public universities, provides an $8 million increase to our community colleges and increases state investment in helping children learn to read. Prior to the vote, I reviewed the legislation with Senate Education Budget Chair Brian Schoenjahn, a retired high school teacher from Arlington.
I had the privilege of helping to recognize Carlo Portes of Marshalltown for his extensive volunteer work. Carlos was inducted into the Iowa Volunteer Hall of Fame on April 8 at the Statehouse. This is the most prestigious state-level honor a volunteer can receive. Those selected have forever changed their community, state, nation or the world by freely giving of their time and talent to benefit others. Carlos arrived in the U.S. as a non-English speaking 9-year old Cuban boy without parents. He rose as CEO of his own financial firm and served his adopted country as Ambassador to Latin American Affairs under two presidents. He was in New York serving as chair of the Board for the Red Cross during 9/11. Since his office was located within the area, he helped with supply efforts, feeding rescuers and translating for Hispanic workers and families. Carlos has also received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award.
GMG DARE students visited me in the Senate Chamber on April 14.
Thanks to Deputy Hungerford for bringing the GMG students down to the Statehouse.
On April 14, the Iowa Senate recognized this year's extraordinary accomplishments of Coach Fred Hoiberg and the Iowa State University men’s basketball team. The ISU team had one of its best years in recent memory, winning the Big 12 championship, advancing to the NCAA tournament, and getting knocked out in the Sweet Sixteen by the eventual champions, the University of Connecticut. Congratulations, Cyclones, for making Iowa proud.
The 2014 session wrapped up Friday morning with many bipartisan successes. There was more I'd hoped to accomplish, but in the end, we built on efforts to provide greater economic security for Iowa families by standing up for workers and investing in skills training, job creation and the best educational opportunities from preschool through college.
West Marshall fifth-graders at the Statehouse.
On January 12, I was sworn in as Senate President Pro Tem for the 86th General Assembly. You can see several of my Republican colleagues in the background.
Iowa has three outstanding state universities: Iowa State University, the University of Iowa, and the University of Northern Iowa. To keep a great education affordable to Iowa families, I strongly support freezing tuition for an unprecedented third year. Preventing tuition increases is one way to reduce student debt. This week at the Statehouse, I talked with Hannah Walsh, member of the Board of Regents. Hannah was also a Page during my first session in the Senate.
Many of Iowa’s rural communities and small towns don’t have enough doctors. This shortage makes it tougher to find health care. It also makes attracting and keeping new businesses and residents more difficult. This week I met with medical students from Des Moines University who have a plan to help solve this problem. They asked legislators to support Iowa’s new Forgivable Loan Program for medical students. In exchange for the forgivable loans, the students agree to work in rural Iowa for five years. Seventy-five percent of the students in this program choose to keep living and working in rural Iowa when the five years are up. (During their visit to the Iowa Statehouse, the future doctors offered short, free checkups to any interested person. I agreed to let them check my blood pressure. I passed the test!)
I talked with Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady just after he addressed a joint session of the Iowa Legislature. Iowa’s well-run and respected court system is an advantage to businesses looking for a state with a reliable, predictable legal system.
Woodbury County officials this week told legislators about their special Veterans Court to help veterans who become involved in the legal system. Often these vets are coping with substance abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Traumatic Brain Injury. The Veterans Court model involves regular court appearances, mandatory treatment sessions and random drug testing. The supports and structure provided by the Veterans Court make it less likely the veterans will become repeat offenders. The goal is to ensure veterans meet their obligations to themselves, the court and their community. They deserve all the help we can provide.
Volunteers help our communities in many ways. Recently, volunteers from throughout Iowa converged on the Statehouse to discuss ideas to expand volunteerism and help meet critical community needs. Lynne Carroll is with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Marshall County, just one of many Iowa initiatives to improve lives, strengthen communities and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.
The YMCA is our nation’s leading not-for-profit committed to strengthening communities through youth development, healthy living and social responsibility. In Iowa, 13,000 YMCA volunteers provide services to more than 290,000 residents. I talked with Carol Hibbs, CEO of the Marshalltown YMCA, about how YMCAs are making Iowa communities healthier, more attractive places to live, work and play.
I enjoyed talking with community college students and the staff helping them gain the skills that Iowa businesses need to thrive and expand. Among those who visited the Senate chambers were Mialisa Wright, a Kirkwood Pathway Navigator; North Iowa student Chrystina Davis; and, NIACC Pathway Navigator Heather Wright.
Technology plays an increasingly large role in Iowa’s economy, creating jobs that often pay significantly more than the average wage. Members of the Technology Association of Iowa work to foster a tech-based economy. Pictured with me are Mark Joyce and Brian Waller with the Technology Association of Iowa and Gary Scholten of Principal Financial.
I enjoyed a visit with the Mosher family of Liscomb along with Justine Stevenson of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association. We talked about some of the key issues the legislature is taking up this year, including road funding, agriculture and the school start date. I believe that school districts are in the best position to make decisions that are right for local families. Pictured, from left: Justine Stevenson, Jim Mosher, I, Leah Mosher and Lauren Mosher.
The League of United Latin American Citizens visited the Statehouse to discuss a variety of issues with legislators. I talked with the group, including Joe Henry, about issues I am addressing as chair of the Judiciary Committee.
Improving relations between the United States and Cuba offer increased trade opportunities for Iowa producers. As a member of the Legislature's International Relations Committee, I met with Carlos Portes, former Special Ambassador for Latin American Affairs (appointed by President Carter) and discussed the benefits that improved relations may bring our two countries.
Student podiatrists and board members of the Iowa Podiatric Medical Society want to make sure that proposed changes in Iowa’s health care system continue to cover foot care. They told me how untreated diabetes, for example, can easily cause circulation problems in the feet, leading to disability and even amputation. As with many medical issues, helping prevent problems is the best and least expensive approach.
I spoke at the unveiling of a medical cannabis reform law that would allow Iowans access to medical treatments that are already available to the majority of Americans.
Samantha Dewitt of Gladbrook was at the Statehouse with the Iowa Pork Producers.
The mission of Crisis Intervention Service is to provide those affected by domestic violence, sexual assault and homicide with professional, confidential, 24-hour services, and to prevent violence in our communities through education. Senators Ragan and Wilhelm and I welcomed Crisis Intervention Service Executive Director Mary Ingham, Theresa Meggers and Colleen McRoberts to the Senate Chamber, where we discussed domestic violence legislation I am working on.
The Iowa Senate recently welcomed former Prime Minister of Iceland Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. She was in Iowa to speak at the Governor’s anti-bullying conference. She is Iceland’s first female prime minister and the world’s first openly gay head of state. She successfully guided Iceland through the global financial crisis and made sweeping reforms to revitalize the Icelandic economy.
Girl Scouts from across Iowa recently visited the State Capitol. Girl Scouts work to empower girls and teach such values as honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence and citizenship through a variety of activities. The girls have many opportunities to enjoy camping, do community service, learn first aid and earn badges by acquiring practical skills.
Rep. Mark Smith and I enjoyed a visit with Marshalltown Community College Student Senate and staff on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, schoolchildren rallied on the east steps of the Iowa Capitol in support of timely and adequate funding for our local schools. A good education prepares our students for the jobs and training they need to build a thriving Iowa economy.
I spoke with Senator Kevin Kinney of Oxford on the day the Iowa Senate passed legislation to crack down on human trafficking. Before retiring, Kevin worked on some of the first successful Iowa investigations of human trafficking as Lieutenant with the Johnson County Sheriff's Department. Human trafficking often involves the sexual exploitation of children for money. Because of Iowa’s interstate highways, it is one of our state’s fastest growing forms of organized crime. Advocates hope the Iowa House will also support the effort to increase both the effectiveness of Iowa law enforcement actions against human trafficking and the support provided to victims.
Cole Moody researched sustainable agriculture in Haiti. Cole is a student at Union High School in La Porte City and studies under Louis Beck.
Oumaima Fares (pictured), Dayana Carrera and Hannah Lindgren researched water scarcity and dietary diseases in Mexico, Somalia and China. They are students at Marshalltown High School and study under Susan Fritzell.
Madde Green researched water and sanitation in Tanzania. Madde is a student at West Marshall High School in State Center and studies under Jason Carolan.
Senate interns volunteer their time to assist us with everything from photos to press releases to Facebook. Their hard work helps us accomplish so much more than we could otherwise. These students come from colleges and universities throughout Iowa. I am pictured here with Brayton Deprey from Des Moines. She is studying Political Science at the Drake University. You can learn more about internships with our staff office at the Statehouse at www.senate.iowa.gov/democrats/internships.
On April 30, many legislators wore pink to show support for teachers who received pink slips because House Republicans had refused to compromise on adequate funding for schools for this fall. Senate Democrats are committed to increasing student achievement and improving teacher quality. You can help by encouraging legislators to compromise on funding that will give local schools the resources they need to avoid teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and cuts to course offerings and extracurricular activities.
May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week.
The World Food Prize just hosted its fourth annual Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University. The program is widely recognized as a national model for STEM education. Students participated in immersion and roundtable sessions and interacted with elected officials, business executives and science and education leaders. Participants wrote a paper and presented their ideas to solve critical global food security challenges. They presented their research and recommendations to a panel of experts and were recognized as Borlaug Scholars, receiving a $500 scholarship to ISU's College of Agriculture & Life Sciences for their tremendous work and promising future as a leader in agricultural and STEM fields. Haley Shope researched education in Malawi. Haley is a student at South Tama County High School and studies under Terri Guenther-Mayer.
Getting some work done on the Senate floor during the final days of the 2015 session. It's an honor to serve and represent the people of Marshall, Tama and Black Hawk counties.
I had the chance to help enhance Iowa's trade relations with Taiwan during a recent visit to the country. Our U.S. delegation included legislators from several Midwest states. We're pictured at Asus in Taipai, one of the many companies we learned about during our trip.
Three Marshalltown High School students have received recognition in the National Merit Scholarship Program. Collin Krukow, left, and Tim Potter, center, were named commended students and Ellyn Boland, right, is a national semifinalist. Congratulations on a job well done!
I recently hosted a listening post in Marshalltown to hear Iowans concerns about Governor Branstad’s unilateral decision to privatize Iowa’s Medicaid program. If fully implemented, the Governor’s decision would have negative impacts on Iowa’s most vulnerable citizens and Iowa’s healthcare providers. We are concerned that people in our communities will be denied critical medical services and that local providers will not be adequately reimbursed for the medical care of patients.
News from the Marshalltown Community School District: Anson Elementary School held a Bingo for Books family night on Nov. 17. A representative from Mid-Iowa Community Action was on hand, giving out free books and bookmarks. The event drew 225 guests, who enjoyed dozens of pizzas and played literacy-based Bingo games. Students received additional books and small prizes when they got a "Bingo."
News from the Marshalltown Community School District: Lenihan Intermediate School students learned first-hand how restaurants work from Leona McDonough on Jan. 8. McDonough, owner and operator of Heavenly Breads, talked to a group at Lenihan about running a restaurant business. Students learned about finances, food safety and marketing. The students are working on creating their own mock pop-up restaurants, under the direction of teacher Vanessa Engel.
Senator Bill Dotzler of Waterloo is a passionate advocate for Iowa jobs and economic development. He’s the chair of the Economic Development Budget Subcommittee and I’m the vice chair of the Economic Development Committee. By the second day of the session, we were already busy discussing proposals to grow and strengthen Iowa’s middle class.
Every legislator has a legislative assistant that sits beside us, helping us stay on schedule and stay organized. Bob Christenson will serve as my legislative assistant this year. I’m lucky to have Bob’s experience, technical know-how, and strong people skills on my side. Together we are a team working to represent your concerns and needs of my district.
This week five-year-old Lily Frelund let me ride in her bus to show support for safe routes for Iowa kids walking and biking the school. Lilly’s visit to the Statehouse was organized by the Iowa members of the American Heart Association. Safe and convenient opportunities for kids to bike and walk to school have been found to help fight childhood obesity. In addition, encouraging physical activity helps improve academic performance and reduces healthcare costs. You can learn more at www.healthieriowa.com.
I’m chair the Senate Judiciary Committee. I’m working with Senator Kevin Kinney, a former investigator for the Johnson County Sherriff’s Department, to fight human trafficking. Senator Kinney invited experts to tell a packed committee room of the crimes being committed right here in Iowa. Some of what we learned was difficult to hear. They made several suggestions on ways we can fight this deplorable crime.
Representatives of the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa, also known as the Meskwakis, should have control over investigating and prosecuting criminal activities on their settlement. The Iowa Senate approved a bill this week to send that message to the federal government.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Fisher Elementary School Teacher Librarian Alicia Patten reads to 3 and 4 year olds and their parents during the first Fisher Elementary Read Aloud Program on Jan. 20. The event is designed to provide information on preschool and kindergarten. At left is Fisher Principal Vicki Vopava. Future Read Aloud events will be from 1:50 to 2:20 p.m. on Feb. 10, March 16, April 13 and May 11 in the Fisher School Library. All 3 and 4 year olds in the area are welcome to attend. For more information, contact Fisher Elementary School at 641-754-1030.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Woodbury Elementary School second graders Jocelyn Ortiz Hernandez (left) and Joana Chavez (right) take part in a poetry reading with teacher Becky Jacobson. Second graders and their parents packed into the Woodbury Elementary School gym for the second annual Hot Chocolate Poetry Hour on Jan. 22. Students recited poems in front of the audience to practice their reading and public speaking skills.
News from Marshalltown Schools: The Marshalltown High School Color Guard won several awards at the Marching Auxiliary Regional Dance Competition Jan. 23 at Southeast Polk High School. Pictured are team members, front row, from left, Monica Gomez, Erin Duffy and Maggie Grimm. Back row, Haley Bell, Juan Andrade, Whitney Canaday and Dhalia Jara Tapia. The team took home a first place trophy with a superior 1 rating in team auxiliary and a plaque for best choreography. MHS junior Whitney Canaday competed in the solo division where she choreographed and performed her own routine and took a first runner-up trophy. The MHS Color Guard is led by Megan Assenmacher-Umthun, who also competed and took two first place trophies in the open auxiliary division. Absent were Angel Cuellar and Amber Bullock.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Jocelyn Frohwein, English teacher from Marshalltown High School, is joining more than 200 of her peers from across the country in San Francisco at the National Education Association Minority and Women's Leadership Training Conference January 29-31. At the conference, she will sharpen her leadership skills and share strategies focused on how to advocate for student-centered policies. Leadership training conference sessions will be tackling issues that have an impact on students and educators in Marshalltown High School and the Marshalltown community, like creating a leadership vision for tomorrow and minority relationships in educational settings.
Jim Rouse is executive director of the Iowa Crop Improvement Association. He accompanied me to Havana Cuba in December, and presented to the Senate Agriculture Committee on our trip to promote trade and an agriculture education exchange between Iowa and Cuba. Iowa is the first state to offer to invest in Cuba. We hope to break barriers and build trust.
When the Manitoba Pork Council visited Des Moines for the Iowa Pork Congress, I had a chance to speak with Andrew Dickson. I invited his organization to make a presentation to legislators on pork trade between Canada and the U.S.
The Iowa Afterschool Alliance seeks to develop strong statewide systems of support for high-quality, affordable and accessible before school, after school and summer programs. Students and staff from Cedar Falls School District shared their stories with me on a recent visit to the Statehouse.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Art teacher Maggie Parks looks at a work in progress by fourth-grader Dellainey Potter at Fisher Elementary School. Parks will receive a national excellence award next month from the United States Society for Education through Art. Parks teaches at Fisher Elementary School and Woodbury Elementary School and has worked for the district for 15 years. Parks said the notice of her work planning a statewide art conference helped her land this award. Parks received the Art Teacher of the Year award from the Art Educators of Iowa in 2010 and has received several other awards and accolades during her 25-year teaching career.
The Iowa Senate followed the law this week by approving a 4 percent increase in basic state aid to K12 schools for 2017-18. For more than 20 years, Iowa’s law has put local school funding first when developing the state budget for the next fiscal year. That way, school officials know 18 months in advance how much money they’ll have to keep the lights on, gas up the buses, purchase up-to-date textbooks, pay employees and cover other basics. The struggle to provide sufficient and timely funding has put local schools in a bind in recent years.
A French delegation visited the Statehouse Monday to discuss ag issues with Iowa legislators. Mr. Yann Nedelec works for a young farmer's union that has a lot of influence on European Union agricultural policies, and Mr. Cedric Sabouret is an advisor to the French Senate's Commission for Economic Affairs on issues related to agriculture, trade and sustainable development.
Congratulations to Captain Christopher Jones and Sgt. Patricia Thein of the Marshalltown Police Department, who recently graduated from the prestigious Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
Jennifer Fuchs, Jennifer Wilson and Jacque Goodman from the Association of Iowa Workforce Partners talked with me about ways to improve workplace opportunities for Iowans. AIWP is a statewide organization of regional Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Partners that provide specialized workforce services to Iowans, including hard-to-place, at-risk, low-income youth, and dislocated and unemployed individuals.
This map from the Iowa Department of Revenue shows business and residential solar tax incentives by county, 2012-2015.
Matthew Sieloff is a medical student at Des Moines University. Before coming to Iowa, he was a nurse in Michigan, a state that privatized its Medicaid health care safety net in the 90s. While working at a family clinic, Sieloff frequently saw families unable to receive care because their local doctor was not covered under their managed care corporation. His experience raises concerns about Iowa’s proposed Medicaid privatization. Sieloff’s biggest concern is for patients in rural areas. Because there are fewer physicians, it is more likely patients won’t be able to receive care from local doctors and must instead travel long distances for the health care they need.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Marshalltown Learning Academy teacher David Ackerman, center, talks about the recent academic decathlon. Taking part in the decathlon were MLA students Noel Diggins, left, and Brandon Howell, right. Both Diggins and Howell received multiple awards at the event, which featured 10 rounds of academic competition with a focus this year on India.
Amanda Howard was on hand when the University of Northern Iowa hosted their day at the Capitol on Monday. UNI showcased their diverse collection of majors and opportunities for students, including their best-in-the-state teacher education program and their business school that consistently ranks among the top in the country. UNI also provides students with opportunities outside the classroom, including more than 300 clubs and organizations. While at the Statehouse, students told us about their appreciation for UNI’s smaller class sizes and easy access to professors.
This week, I voted to confirm Judy Bradshaw’s appointment to director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy, which is responsible for providing all basic training for Iowa police officers and jailers, along with specialty leadership training for law enforcement personnel. Bradshaw is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and is the former Chief of Police for the City of Des Moines.
News from Marshalltown Schools: A new tutoring program is bringing business professionals and sixth graders together for shared learning and community connections. Staff from Emerson/Fisher visit classrooms each week. Pictured here, Samuel Ibarra tutors math to Lenihan Intermediate School sixth graders on Feb. 23. The initiative is helping students improve in reading and math. In addition, students get a chance to learn about the volunteers’ jobs and how their school subjects can be applied in the business world.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Marshalltown High School junior Ashley Macbeth holds one of her charcoal drawings that helped her receive a fourth place award in a recent Simpson College high school art contest. Ashley’s entry consisted of three charcoal pieces. She has an interest in pursuing a double major of art and psychology in college.
It's always great to be visited by students from Marshalltown Community College!
Sue Harden, clinic manager for Mercy Home Care in Sioux City, helps organize Medicaid services for people returning home after a stay in a hospital or nursing home. Sue works with nurses, home health care aides and social workers to ensure people remain safe at home and avoid future hospital visits. Sue shared several concerns about Medicaid privatization, concerns that I’ve also heard from local health care providers. One worry she has is that essential social services will either be denied or become unavailable due to low reimbursement rates from the for-profit managed care companies. If that happens, the overall cost of care will increase while the quality of care goes down.
Dr. Keith Mueller, head of the Health Management & Policy Department of the University of Iowa’s College of Public Health, is a national expert on Medicaid privatization. While it is true private managed care companies administer some Medicaid services in more than 30 states, Iowa is one of only five states that have privatized all Medicaid services. In Kansas, the results were disastrous. Most states use private managed care mostly for acute care, such as short-term treatment after an accident or temporary conditions like pregnancy. What most other states have not done is put private corporations in charge of caring for the elderly and people with permanent disabilities. That’s where more than 70 percent of all Iowa Medicaid dollars go. When dealing with complex medical issues that persist throughout the patient’s life, saving money without hurting their quality of the care is difficult.
Four-year-old Kaitlyn Haakenson has epilepsy. In 2015, Kaitlyn had 75 to 150 seizures a day and couldn’t walk, talk or control her hands. Since beginning treatments with hemp oil, her seizures have stopped, she can walk and talk, and her total medications have dropped by five. Kaitlyn’s parents traveled to Des Moines from their home in Davenport to urge legislators to give Iowans the same access to medical cannabis that most other Americans already have.
Girl Scouts from across Iowa visited the Statehouse this week, where they had lunch with legislators and talked with us about their activities in their communities.
The Iowa Senate unanimously approved a tax agreement that couples Iowa’s 2015 tax code with federal changes. If House File 2433 becomes law, thousands of Iowa farmers, small business owners and teachers will benefit from larger tax deductions. Afterwards, I talked with Senator Kevin Kinney, a farmer from near Oxford, about our hopes that Governor Branstad will sign the bill.
Gail Hull and Jim Kidd of Marshalltown work for Consumer Energy. Iowa’s Rural Electric Cooperatives (REC) provide safe, affordable, innovative and environmentally friendly energy to more than 650,000 Iowans. They make Iowa a more attractive place to live and do business.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Five Marshalltown High School students had successful showings at the State Individual Speech Contest on March 12 at North Scott High School in Eldridge. Senior Megan Emerson received Division 1 ratings in original oratory and poetry. Senior Elliot Weidenaar received an overall Division 1 rating in literary program. Junior Isabella Pedersen received Division 1 ratings in original oratory and Division 2 ratings in solo musical theater. Sophomore Hadley Wagner received a Division 2 overall rating in solo musical theater. Freshman Mackenzie Moyer received Division 2 ratings in after dinner speaking. Coached by Brianna Yates and Jocelyn Frohwein, the students qualified for state after all receiving Division 1 ratings at the district speech contest.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Jean Klosterman, right, of the Marshall County Farm Bureau talks to families at Rogers Elementary School during healthy learning night on March 17. The event featured information on Rogers school programs, as well as a fitness and nutrition fair that drew dozens of people. The event was part of the Carol M. White Physical Education Program grant for health and fitness.
On March 18, I participated in Read Across America when I visited the fourth-grade classroom of South Tama teacher Deloris Ryan.
Team prISUm, an Iowa State University club, builds some of the nation’s fastest solar powered cars. PrISUm is a student-led organization founded in 1989. This elite group of ISU students gain vital skills often not taught in the classroom while constructing record-breaking vehicles. Members showed me their Phaëton car on a recent visit to the Statehouse. Over the past quarter of a century, PrISUm has developed 12 award-winning solar vehicles. Learn more about Team prISUm at www.prisum.iastate.edu.
On St. Patrick’s Day, a member of the Irish Parliament joined us in the Iowa Senate. John Deasy, from Dungarven, Ireland, addressed the Senate and praised legislators who work in a bipartisan way to move our state forward.
Reading to South Tama fourth-graders as part of Read Across America.
Iowans from around the state are urging the Iowa House to debate legislation that would legalize the use of medicines made from cannabis. Four out of five Iowans believe residents of our state should have controlled access to these medicines. Braedy Grittman of Tama suffers from severe epilepsy, and his dad is an advocate for using medicines made from cannabis to treat seizures. Last year, a bipartisan majority of the Iowa Senate voted to create a regulated, medically controlled system to provided help to Iowans with specific diseases and conditions.
I enjoyed the trivia night fundraiser at Fisher Community Center for Iowa Valley Leadership class project.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Marshalltown High School senior Nathaniel Harris accepts a $1,000 check from Gayle and Vic Hellberg, owners of Hellberg's Jewelers. The money will be used to purchase American flags for classrooms. Nathaniel wants every student to have the chance to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. The pledge is currently recited only at the lower grade levels. The Helbergs stepped in to help Nathaniel in his effort to instill patriotism in the younger generation.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Top dodgeball fundraisers from Lenihan Intermediate School include Cesar Corona, Jake Dunham, Emily Diggins, Hannah Seltman and Emily Heckman. Lenihan held a dodgeball tournament with students, staff, parents and community members to raise money for the American Heart Association on March 31. The event was led by the Lenihan student leadership group Ricochet and raised more than $1,000.
On Wednesday, Governor Branstad signed SF 2022, legislation I sponsored to grant the Sac and Fox Tribe jurisdiction over misdemeanors by settlement residents on tribal land. It was a historic day for Iowa-Native American intergovernmental relations.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Sue Cahill and Jeni Sloan have been recognized by the Iowa Association of School Librarians with the Outstanding School Library Award. Cahill is a teacher librarian at Woodbury Elementary School and Sloan is a teacher librarian at Hoglan Elementary School. The Outstanding School Library Award recognizes qualifications of staff, teaching and learning, library management and administrative support. An essay including the library mission, four exemplary moments from the library, and an explanation of how their school library has had a positive impact on student learning is also part of the application process.
Governor Branstad signed new privacy protections into law. Thanks to Senate File 2185, “peeping Toms” who film, photograph or view a person in their residence without their knowledge can be prosecuted in Iowa. The legislation was, in part, a response to a case in which a landlord used holes in his apartments to spy on tenants.
The International Relations Committee talked with the delegation from Japan on various topics, including The TTP Partnership, trade relations and the environment. We also enjoyed a traditional Japanese comedic performance called Kyogen by Tokuro Miyake.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Three Miller Middle School students were selected for the prestigious Blank Summer Institute for Arts & Sciences: Avy Smith in social sciences, Donovan Gavagan in performing arts and Gaby Perez Gonzalez in creative writing. Alternates include Zach Swartz in math and Trevor Ketcham in science. The Summer Institute is a week-long residential program at the Belin-Blank Center at the University of Iowa with advanced educational opportunities. Only 15 students in the state are selected in each category. Students are selected based on teacher nominations, test scores, an essay and a portfolio. This year's institute will be held from June 27 to July 1. It will feature 120 of Iowa's gifted students in grades 7 and 8.
As a member of the International Relations Committee, I had the pleasure of welcoming the group “Walk on U.S., Talk on Japan” to the Iowa Senate. We discussed a wide range of issues that affect both Iowa and Japan, including trade and climate change.
As the 2016 legislative session nears its end, I’m pushing for stronger consumer protections for Medicaid recipients under the state’s newly privatized system. In March, Republican and Democratic Senators voted for tough Medicaid oversight, including more independent, state-funded advocates to help families denied care. I discussed my concerns with Senator Amanda Ragan of Mason City. She chairs the Health & Human Services Budget and is a powerful advocate for Iowans when it comes to health care.
Iowa has had a sister-state relationship with Taiwan since 1989. Retired State Senator Dennis Black (left) played a big role in establishing that relationship. It contributes to strong bilateral trade, educational and cultural exchanges, and tourism. Calvin Ho (center) of the Taipei Economic & Cultural Office in Chicago joined us in the Iowa Senate to discuss ways we can continue to strengthen the ties between Iowa and Taiwan.
News from Marshalltown Schools: Marshalltown High School history teacher Alex Abbe has received the James Madison Memorial Fellowship to assist in his professional learning, the only Iowa teacher to receive the honor this year. Abbe will receive $24,000 to pay for his master's degree studies and participate in a four-week summer institute in 2017 at Georgetown University in Washington DC.
Members of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Des Moines brought a small Cuban delegation to meet with legislators and tour the State Capitol. As a member of the International Relations Committee, I enjoyed talking with the delegation about the role of state government, as well as similarities and differences that Cubans and Iowans face in their communities.