The week continues at the Capitol as we begin debate on the government re-organization bill (SF 2088). The legislation is the result of months of hard work by Rep. Mary Mascher and Sen. Staci Appel to identify efficiency and savings in state government. The bill itself will save over $100 million. Coupled with the early retirement legislation passed by the House and savings from the Governor’s executive order, we have already saved the state’s taxpayers over a quarter of a billion dollars.
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In This Issue
1. Texting Ban Passes Committee
2. Iowa’s Disaster Case Management System a National Model
3. Protecting Older Iowans’ Rights
4. Capitol Visits
5. Coming Attractions
Texting Ban Passes Committee
Texting while driving a motor vehicle would be illegal and young drivers in the graduated driver’s license program would only be able to have one unrelated person in the vehicle under separate bills that passed out of committee. These bills were done in response to studies showing the increased likelihood of accidents when persons are texting, and the likelihood of accidents among young drivers due to inexperience and distractions in the vehicle.
Violators of the texting ban will be fined $30, but the fines will not begin to be issued until July 1, 2011. For a one-year period, beginning this July, only warnings will be issued. The bill does exempt the use of global positioning systems, navigational systems, and using cell phones to make phone calls. A person who is texting and gets into an accident resulting in serious injury will be fined $500 and could lose their license for up to 90 days. If the accident results in death, the person is fined $1,000 and could lose their license for up to 180 days.
Graduated Driver’s License
Beginning drivers go through Iowa’s graduated driver’s license program before they turn 18 and are eligible to receive an unrestricted license. This program begins with the instruction permit. The House bill increases the amount of time that a person must have the instruction permit from six months to 12 months. This allows the permit drivers to obtain more driving experience before moving on to the intermediate license.
Under the bill, drivers with an intermediate license would be restricted to one unrelated minor passenger, instead of just limiting the passengers to the number of seat belts in the vehicle. Siblings and children living in the same household would not fall under this restriction. This passenger restriction would also apply to kids holding a school license. This license allows them to drive to and from school.
Intermediate license holders would not be allowed to drive between the hours of 11pm and 5am unless they have a signed waiver stating that they are traveling to or from work or a school related activity. Under current law, this restriction applies between 12:30am and 5am.
Both bills are ready for debate by the full House.
Iowa’s Disaster Case Management System a National Model
One of the Legislature’s actions immediately following the flood and other natural disasters in 2008 created a case management system to assist Iowans in working their way through the maze of federal and state disaster recovery programs. That system has become a national model with discussions at the federal level to incorporate the case management system into federal disaster response.
The case management system used local organizations to work with disaster victims, helping them find the right federal and state programs to assist in their recovery. For thousands of Iowans, it helped eliminate red tape and cut through the bureaucracy. Although no one wants to see another disaster like the one Iowa experienced in 2008, the fact is that another flood is always a possibility. The House Rebuild Iowa Committee approved legislation this week to make the case management system a permanent process available in the future and incorporate lessons learned from the past.
The legislation also creates a task force to work with business leaders to create a similar system for small and large businesses affected by future disasters. This component was missing in 2008.
The bill must now be considered by the full House and Senate before heading to the Governor for his signature.
Protecting Older Iowans’ Rights
The House Human Resources Committee passed legislation to establish the Office of Long-Term Care Resident’s Advocate with a charge to protect the rights of older Iowans. The state long-term care resident advocate, along with the local long-term care resident advocates, will investigate and help resolve complaints regarding administrative actions and the health, safety, welfare, and rights of residents. The new office would oversee residents and tenants of long-term care facilities, assisted living programs, and elder group homes.
House File 2328, which unanimously passed out of committee, is now ready for consideration by the Iowa House.
The week kicked off on Monday with visits from Sharon Haselhoff and Chris Kivett-Berry. Wednesday was the United Ways of Iowa Day on the Hill. Sarah Olson and Lois Buntz with the United Way of East Central Iowa made the trip. One Iowa also had a large contingent at the Capitol including Trish & Kate Varnum, Ebony Luensman, Anthony Brown, Harvey Ross, John Cairns, and the Rev. Tom Capo. Jim Kaas, Jeff & Deanna McLaud, and Roberta Steichen came to Des Miones on Wednesday to talk about keeping houseboats in Ellis Harbor. Mary Audia and other members of the Iowa Chiropractic Society visited on Thursday. I also ran into Bill Nicholson, Bob Rush, Mark Chipokas and Darin Luneckas in downtown Des Moines.
If you visit the Capitol, make sure to send a note into the House so I can say hello. If I am not sitting at my desk please ask Janny, my legislative clerk, to track me down.
The Ceramics Center, in The Cherry Building (329 10th Ave. SE, Cedar Rapids) is now offering adult and kids classes in ceramics and pottery. This Monday, Feb. 15, beginning at 7PM, The Ceramics Center is once again offering its Beginning Wheel class for adults. They tell us this class is an introduction to working with clay on the potter’s wheel. Students will explore various forms, such as bowls, mugs, and vases. All are asked to wear old clothes and bring a one-gallon bucket, a towel, and a basic pottery tool kit. Tuition for the 8-week class includes one bag of clay, glaze materials, open studio time, and some firing costs. This class is for individuals with little to no experience. $95. Reservations and information are available through (319) 365-9644.
Buckwheat Zydeco returns to Legion Arts at CSPS (1103 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids) for a concert Wednesday, Feb. 17, beginning at 8PM. Zydeco’s new CD, the Grammy-nominated "Lay Your Burden Down," marks 30 years for Louisiana’s barnstorming musical ambassadors and their first studio album in four years. The reigning king of zydeco, Stanley Dural, Jr. (or Buckwheat, as he’s better known) is acclaimed for his unsurpassed artistry and tireless touring, as much for his mastery of the piano accordion and Hammond B-3 organ. This is always a good show. $25. Reservations and information are available through (319) 364-1580.
Have a great weekend!