Government

More bottle bill talk, extending school sales tax, science standards scrutiny: Iowa Capitol Digest, March 21

(File photo)The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, photographed on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
(File photo)The Iowa State Capitol building in Des Moines, photographed on Tuesday, June 10, 2014. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Wednesday:

MORE BOTTLE BILL TALK: The leader of a Senate Ways and Means subcommittee Wednesday said he is interested in finding a workable way yet this session to maintain the state’s popular deposit law for cans and bottles while removing the empty containers from grocery stores and food establishments.

Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, said he hopes lawmakers and stakeholders can find a solution to modernize the state’s bottle bill law so carbonated beverage containers can be moved out of retail businesses without affecting the intent to clean up road ditches and encourage recycling.

Three subcommittee members spent 15 minutes listening to pros and cons from grocers, environmentalists, redemption center operators and others before adjourning without yet defining a clear path to resolution.

Feenstra said Senate Study Bill 1186 will become a vehicle for action, but just repealing the law will not be an option.

“There are so many moving parts from the retailer to the recycler to those redeeming the cans,” Feenstra said. “We have to think through how we do this.

“I think the can bill has been a value to our state for many decades, and I think it still has value. It’s just a matter that it has to be modernized a little bit, and that’s our goal.”

EXTENSION FOR SAVE: The Senate Ways and Means Committee unanimously agreed Wednesday to approve legislation that would extend the 1-cent sales tax for school infrastructure until 2050.

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Senate File 2216 would remove the current 2029 sunset for Secure an Advanced Vision for Education, or SAVE, to provide schools with funds for safe, modern schools and technology.

“It has been very helpful in helping to modernize our schools,” Sen. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said of the bill, which goes to the full Senate for consideration.

In separate action, the committee approved legislation boosting some criminal fines and adjusting surcharges in a way that would be “revenue neutral” to the general fund but would direct more money to crime lab testing of rape kits and technology upgrades for the state court system.

CHARITIES BARRED: Two charities mailing sweepstakes-based solicitations to Iowans have been barred from any further soliciting in the state, under agreements with Attorney General Tom Miller.

Although the Veterans Relief Network and Healing Heroes Network appear to be unrelated, Miller they both used prize-oriented solicitation tactics that violate Iowa laws protecting consumers from unfair and deceptive fundraising practices.

The companies repeatedly implied the recipient was on the verge of getting a big cash prize, and that all that remained to do was to send back a form — with a requested donation, Miller said.

For more information or to file a complaint, contact the Consumer Protection Division at iowaattorneygeneral.gov or (888) 777-4590.

SCIENCE STANDARDS SCRUTINY: Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said Wednesday his agency is seeking public comment on K-12 computer science standards that are under consideration in Iowa.

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Wise announced public forums throughout the state April 10 and April 12. In addition, an online survey is open through May 12.

The Computer Science Standards were developed by the Computer Science Teachers Association.

Wise convened Iowa’s Computer Science Standards Review Team earlier this year in response to Senate File 274, which former Gov. Terry Branstad signed into law in 2017.

The legislation encourages computer science in every Iowa school, establishes voluntary computer science standards and creates a computer science professional development fund to help prepare teachers.

Wise said feedback will guide the Computer Science Standards Review Team, which is expected to submit a final recommendation to the State Board of Education in June.

If adopted, computer science standards will be optional for school districts.

APPRENTICESHIP INFO: Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was appointed to President Donald Trump’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion last fall, has launched a website to encourage Iowa employers and job seekers to explore Registered Apprenticeship opportunities.

It focuses on helping employers understand how the Registered Apprenticeship Program, works, the value it brings to businesses and the resources available to help employers set it up.

Reynolds said the Registered Apprenticeship model is a proven solution for recruiting, training and retaining world-class talent in Iowa. Expanding Registered Apprenticeship opportunities also will help Iowa reach its Future Ready Iowa goal of 70 percent of the workforce having education or training beyond high school by 2025, she said.

The website, earn andlearniowa.gov, is a collaboration between Iowa Workforce Development, the U.S. Department of Labor/Office of Apprenticeship in Iowa and Iowa Economic Development Authority.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s nice to be here again for the proclamation, and this time I’m in the chair, not standing behind it.” — Gov. Kim Reynolds, who was lieutenant governor when representatives of the EPIC Corporate Challenge Day were in the governor’s office last year for a proclamation signing.

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