The Rozenboom Report – April 7, 2018

by Ken Rozenboom

Everyone is quietly anticipating the end of the 2018 session as negotiations on tax reform and appropriations between the two chambers are continuing. As we begin to think about adjournment, I’d like to reflect on some important accomplishments signed by the governor this week:

The “Health Care Savings and Associations Expansion Bill” allows self-employed Iowans to seek lower priced health insurance. Senate File 2349 was signed by Gov. Reynolds on Monday, and is a good first step in addressing the skyrocketing premiums of those who are not covered by an employer insurance plan. I fully support this bill and have high expectations it will help Iowa citizens, and perhaps will lead to expanded options next year.

Also, the “Future Ready Iowa Bill” was signed by the governor on Wednesday. This goal of this initiative is for 70 percent of Iowa workers to receive training or education beyond high school by 2025. This proposal may help fill the gaps in our workforce, and provide a better standard of living for our citizens.

While the governor was signing the bills already mentioned, the Iowa Senate continued to push forward with discussion of new ideas and solutions to problems. There are a few other bills that deserve some attention:

A New Look at an Old Crop?

Iowa could be reintroducing an old crop back into its soil. At one time Iowa produced 25% of the hemp for the war effort amounting to 50,000 acres. During WWII Iowa hemp was used to create rope, parachutes, airplane lube oil, and military uniforms. In fact, in 1941, Henry Ford introduced a car that was constructed largely from hemp, and was designed to run off hemp bio-fuel.

In 2016 the U.S. bought $688 million worth of imported hemp products. Our nation is the largest consumer of hemp products yet we import most of our hemp from Canada, China, and Europe. Senate File 2398 establishes a carefully regulated pilot program for industrial hemp in Iowa. It will be overseen by the Department of Agriculture and complies with the federal guidelines set out in the 2014 Farm Bill. Iowa will be the 35th state to pass a hemp pilot program if we can find agreement with our friends in the Iowa House.

School Policy Changes

Concussions are the most commonly reported injury in children, often occurring during high impact school sports. As injuries continue, so do the discussions. House File 2422 requires training on brain injuries to help ensure that best practices are in place for protecting our students. This bill requires the development of new training materials relating to brain injuries and concussions to be used to educate coaches and contest officials. Students and parents will also be provided with information when they participate in extracurricular interscholastic activities. Students will be immediately removed from an activity if they show signs consistent with a concussion until they are evaluated by a licensed health care provider.

The Senate also passed House File 2467, which allows schools to “setoff” (collect from tax refunds) school meal debt at the end of every year if the school has made reasonable efforts to collect the debt. The bill also requires schools to provide adequate notice on how to apply for “Free and Reduced Lunch” twice each school year. This bill provides schools a mechanism to collect school lunch debt while ensuring that students with a negative balance are not singled out in front of their peers.

Online education is a tool that can improve educational opportunities for students in rural Iowa. A number of adjustments have been made for online education in the state of Iowa with Senate File 475, which strikes limitations on online education including which schools may have online learning, enrollment caps, and a school’s ability to develop and offer online education. These adjustments make room for educational opportunities and allow easy participation of local extracurricular activities. It also streamlines health requirements, therefore reducing administrative burdens.

Additionally, the bill works to recognize the work of students who are proficient in two or more world languages, one of which must be English, by requiring the Department of Education to develop a seal of biliteracy. Students who successfully fulfill the needed requirements will receive an authorized endorsement to add to their high school diploma.

It is an honor to serve as the voice of District 40 in the Iowa Senate. As we work through these final weeks, please feel free to contact me with your concerns or questions.

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