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Capitol Notebook: Highway 30 coalition continues four-lane push
Also, House panel advances bill prohibiting teaching of gender identity in certain grades
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau
Feb. 13, 2023 6:47 pm
DES MOINES — Iowa’s state transportation commission would be required to prioritize making Highway 30 four lanes under a bill advanced by a panel of state lawmakers.
A Senate transportation subcommittee Monday advanced to full committee Senate File 111 by Sen. Chris Cournoyer, R-Le Claire, which would require the state to make the entire length of Highway 30 four lanes — including a 40-mile stretch between DeWitt and Lisbon and between Carroll and Ogden in Western Iowa.
Economic developers, business leaders and government officials in Clinton County have advocated for the better part of two decades for the state to modify and expand Highway 30 between DeWitt and Lisbon to four lanes.
Representatives with Grow Clinton County, which works to promote business growth in the region, told lawmakers such a project would spur rural business development, foster population growth, improve roadway safety, lessen congestion on Interstate 80 and match the majority of Highway 30’s cross-state footprint.
Cournoyer’s district includes Clinton County.
Instead of a four-lane layout, the Iowa Department of Transportation’s five-year highway plan calls for changing the current two-lane layout of Highway 30 from Lisbon to Stanwood to a “super-two" configuration that would enable the construction of wider lanes, a hard shoulder and occasional turning and passing lanes. Construction is slated to occur in 2025 and 2026.
Meanwhile, work is ongoing to finish four-lane construction in Benton County, which is slated to be completed by next year, according to the DOT.
Stuart Anderson, director of transportation development for the Iowa DOT, said the DOT decided against a four-lane layout in favor of the “super two” alternative due to cost savings. He said the DOT estimated it would cost 15 to 20 percent of the cost of upgrading to a four-lane highway and wouldn’t require nearly as much property acquisition.
DOT officials too doubt that expanding the highway to four lanes would, on its own, spur an economic boom.
“I'm really just trying to keep this in front of the commission to make sure that they understand how important the full four-lane Highway 30 is to the rural parts of our state and what it can do for economic development, and in terms of taking pressure off of I-80 and just helping move goods and people across the state in a safe way,” Cournoyer said. “So I'm going to recommend passage so we can keep the conversation going.”
Bill prohibiting teaching of gender identity advances
A panel of House lawmakers Monday advanced a bill that would prohibit public schools from teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grades.
It also requires school boards provide age-appropriate and research-based instruction in human growth and development.
Supporters of House File 8 argued that the topic of gender identity should be exclusive to parents and their children — and not discussed in public schools.
Opponents said the measure undermines LGBTQ support in schools and endangers the safety, welfare and autonomy of transgender and gender-fluid youth.
Senate Republicans have advanced a similar proposal that would prohibit public schools from teaching gender identity in grades K-8.
Some parents who spoke in favor of the bill requested it be amended to ban the teaching of gender identity in all grades K-12.
“Promoting and advertising and encouraging the LGBTQ lifestyle to impressionable young children at school is wrong and reckless,” parent Courtney Collier said. “Schools do not need to teach children about gender identity and sexual orientation in order for children to be encouraged to be kind and respectful to all. Unnaturally highlighting and pointing out differences to children does not lead to unity.”
House education subcommittee member Rep. Steven Holt, R-Denison, said he would support expanding the prohibition to higher grades, but did not specify which grades.
Subcommittee member Rep. Sharon Steckman, D-Mason City, noted parents currently have the option to have their child “opt out” of such teachings, and that evidence-based research shows that children who are free to express their gender identity and learn about their gender are safer and healthier.
Steckman, LGBTQ advocates and representatives with the Iowa Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics argued the bill will further isolate, stigmatize and promote bullying against a marginalized segment of the community.
“There is no science behind this bill,” said Dr. Amy Shriver, an Iowa pediatrician.
Holt and committee chair Rep. Skyler Wheeler, R-Hull, signed off on the bill, which now moves to the full House Education Committee for consideration.
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