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Kalona, Iowa
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Newspaper Article Archive of
The Kalona News

March 23, 2017 Opinion - 03-23-2017
Article Pages -- as published on the The Kalona News website.

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ARTICLE DESCRIPTION:

Senate votes to make school funding fairer

The Kinney Report

By Sen. Kevin Kinney

Iowa’s approach to school funding has provided a strong foundation for the success of Iowa’s public schools and students, with the vision that every child is worth the same no matter where they live.

Although Iowa’s approach is fairly equitable compared to other states, the Senate recently voted to improve how we allocate money to schools.

SF 455 is designed to equalize the amount school districts receive by increasing the statewide cost per pupil over 10 years and making up for the differences in transportation costs among districts. The chart below shows how much additional money our local schools will get.

Transportation costs can siphon off a lot of dollars that could be going to a student’s education in the classroom. SF 455 starts to fix that disparity by offsetting transportation costs so that each Iowa student really does get the same amount for their education once they arrive at the school doors. New funding will be phased in over 10 years.

This bill is now under consideration in the Iowa House. Be sure to contact your State Representative and let them know that this is a good investment that will ensure high-quality educational opportunities for all Iowa students.

Budget goes in red for second

Rep. Amy Nielson

House

District 77

The state’s non-partisan budget experts said the state budget is in deficit again and lawmakers will have to find another $131 million to keep the state budget balanced this year.

The non-partisan Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) met on Tuesday and reduced their projected revenue for fiscal year 2017 (FY17), which ends on June 30, 2017, to $7.1 billion. The Governor and Republicans are signaling that they plan on taking the $131 million shortfall from the state’s reserve funds, which are full at $738 million.

The members of the REC noted that the growth in Iowa’s economy is slow, but we still have unprecedentedly low unemployment rates, commodity prices seem to be stabilizing, and home sales remain strong. Two revenue items that didn’t meet their expected levels are sales taxes and income taxes.

Earlier this year, Republican lawmakers had to make an additional $114 million in budget adjustments and those have already been signed into law.

FY 2018 & 2019

For the fiscal year 2018 state budget, which the Legislature must approve before adjourning this year, budget experts told lawmakers there will be $192 million less in revenue than previously predicted with revenues totaling $7.36 billion. After applying Iowa’s 99% expenditure limitation, the Legislature can appropriate just under $7.3 billion for FY 2018. Fiscal year 2018 begins on July 1, 2017, and runs through June 30, 2018.

This was the first time that the REC made a prediction for FY 2019, and they predicted 3.6% growth, showing revenue at $7.6 billion.

Lower Wages for 65,000 Iowans Passes House

Instead of increasing the minimum wage, Republican lawmakers approved a bill last week that lowers wages for 65,000 Iowans.

Passed on a party line vote, the bill would preempt local ordinances on wages and products sold. After waiting for Iowa lawmakers to act for nearly a decade, four counties have recently increased the minimum wage in their own community to finally give a boost to the lowest wage earners. The bill, House File 295, takes away the minimum wage increases already approved in some Iowa communities.

Now set at $7.25 per hour, Iowa’s minimum wage was last increased in 2008 and every state surrounding Iowa (except Wisconsin) has increased their minimum wage above $7.25. To meet basic living expenses, a single person in Iowa resident should make at least $13.16 an hour and that rises to $21.52 an hour for a single parent with one child. One of the counties that took action to increase the minimum wage is Wapello County, which has the third highest poverty rate in Iowa and second lowest per-capita income.

The bill will now go to the Iowa Senate for further consideration.

Bills Allow

Schools Flexibility

in Funding

Two bills have passed the Statehouse that allows school districts flexibility in using funds after they have met the obligations of their intended purpose. This would allow school districts to fill in some gaps in educational programing.

Democrats warned that this should not be seen as a cure-all of the underfunding of our K-12 school system for the last seven years, but welcomed the local flexibility to school districts these bills will provide. Statewide, districts have millions of dollars in unspent balances, and in creating a flexibility account for schools, they could better meet the needs of students.

After hearing concerns from Talented and Gifted educators and those that work with at-risk programs, the funding from those programs would not contribute to the flexibility accounts, but could receive funds from the flexibility accounts. In addition, Democrats advocated for and were able to change the bill so the flexibility accounts could be used the following budget year, as opposed to sitting idle for one year as the bill was originally drafted.

Week 10 busy

On the Hill

By Rep. Jarad Klein

March 13 - March 17, 2017

We are already on week 10 of the 2017 legislation session. This week was busy with committee meetings and some floor debate. This week I wanted to discuss something that I have been working on for a few years: synthetic drugs.

For years, the House has been working hard to stop the spread of synthetic drugs in Iowa. Unfortunately, politics often got in the way of good policy. This year presents another opportunity to improve the law. House File 296 is similar to legislation proposed in previous years aimed at curbing synthetic drugs in our state and keeping children safe.

House File 296 focuses on three key areas in the law; 1) changing how synthetic drugs are categorized, 2) ensuring imitation controlled substances are appropriately prosecuted, and 3) allowing the legislature two years to evaluate the temporary designation of scheduled substances.

Under current law, the chemicals that make up common synthetic drugs are scattered throughout the code. This makes it difficult to determine what drugs are truly schedule I and what drugs aren’t currently listed. HF 296 properly lists synthetic drugs as schedule I controlled substances and adds several more synthetic drug formulas to the list. Keeping these chemicals categorized as schedule I substances helps keep these drugs off the streets and ensures those selling them will face appropriate penalties.

County Attorneys have struggled to prosecute sellers of synthetic drugs when the drug is being sold as an imitation controlled substance. An imitation controlled substance is not a controlled substance, but is mistaken for one, because of its appearance. Synthetic drugs, not on the schedule drug list, can be packaged to look like an illegal synthetic drug. These imitation controlled substances can have the same deadly effect as a scheduled drug. Selling an imitation controlled substance is how many dealers attempt to get around the law. HF 296 includes imitation controlled substances in the same category as simulated and controlled substances. Under the proposed bill, the penalty for selling an imitation controlled substance would be the same as selling a simulated or actual controlled substance.

The Board of Pharmacy can designate a new substance as a controlled substance if federal law also designates that substance the same way. If the General Assembly does not affirm the board’s designation within 60 days of the beginning of session, the designation will be repealed. HF 296 would allow the General Assembly two years to concur with the Board of Pharmacy designation. This ensures there is enough time for the legislature to learn about the substance and determine if the designation should become permanent.

Synthetic drugs go by different names (K2, Kronic, Black Mamba, MoJo), but all are poisonous and extremely dangerous. The effects on the user can be different every time. Various chemicals are sprayed on plant material to create these drugs. Depending on the chemicals used, and the amount sprayed, the effects can differ drastically each time a person uses. Common side effects include: hallucinations, intense paranoia, anxiety, increased blood pressure, confusion, vomiting, and in some cases it can lead to death. Several Iowans have died after using these drugs and many others have been severely injured.

The House looks forward to working with the Senate to move this bill quickly to the Governor’s desk without the political hurdles faced last year.

If you have any questions or concerns, please reach out to me. My cell phone number is 515-689-5430 to call or text me. My email is jarad.klein@legis.iowa.gov. If you do contact me, please include your address so I can respond to the people of House District 78 first. It is a pleasure to serve you and important to hear from constituents.

On the Backroads

By Ron Rife

Columnist

I’ve now been at the Pioneer Place care center for almost 5 weeks. The medical professionals keep redressing my feet each day and keep telling me it’s all better. I believe them because they are feeling a lot better, I’m walking a lot better, and have high hopes to get home by early April. Once that happens I’ll be loafing around the farm doing things. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to do, but at least I’ll be on familiar territory where I can get my hands on information to help me write columns and other stuff and keep up with paying bills and getting a little correspondence done.

I called my Texas neighbors last week. Talked to Kathy for awhile and she said it was cold, wet, and only 70 degrees. They live in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota and know real cold weather. Anyway, we chatted for awhile. They’re going back to Minnesota on April 1. Lee has hip surgery scheduled for early April. I didn’t ask if he was going to get them done at the same time or consecutively. Whatever it is I wish him the same luck I had with mine almost 10 years ago.

The big thing in Iowa that is non-financial is the voter I. D. law. All the liberals are saying it’s discriminatory against voters and will shut out many minority voters. In my humble opinion all they are worried about are still being able to make sure that Democrats can vote more than once. I am not accusing all Democrats of being crooked voters, or any for that matter, but I don’t have any idea why they would be objecting so much if they weren’t trying to slip an extra vote in.

When I first moved back here from Nebraska I worked the elections for a few years. I was usually either in Lone Tree or out in Lincoln Township at the Marvin Hotz farm so there was no problem with identifying voters. There was one time in Lone Tree when a fellow who lived in Louisa County tried to vote because he said he also owned property in Johnson County. I don’t recall if he had voted in Louisa County, but he didn’t vote in Lone Tree that evening.

One year I got sent to Iowa City to work a place on the east side at the golf course. I think it was Fair Meadows and has since become a housing development along old Highway 6. After that one day I decided I wasn’t going back to Iowa City. I don’t recall how many ‘illegals’ we had, but it was more than 10. I don’t know if they had already voted someplace else, but were not residents of the precinct we were working. I’m not saying this was cheating. We may have been the closest to where they lived or worked, but they couldn’t vote there.

For the sake of poll workers it seems that an I. D. with a name, address, and photograph would solve a lot of problems, especially in populous districts. The guest column written in the March 15 Gazette by Jennifer Sessions quoted the Secretary of State as saying, “Iowa has got one of the cleanest election systems in the country.”

Lets pass the voter I. D. law and keep it that way.

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