A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Monday, Jan. 28, 2018:
WORK-BASED LEARNING: Gov. Kim Reynolds signs her first executive order Monday establishing the Iowa Clearinghouse for Work-Based Learning as a joint venture of the state Department of Education and Area Education Agencies.
Those agencies will facilitate K-12 school-business partnerships to build an inventory of established and new work-based learning opportunities. Fareway Stores Inc. will be the first partnership.
In announcing the $250,000 initiative, Reynolds said work-based learning already is happening. The Governor’s STEM Advisory Council’s STEM BEST program has launched 37 projects involving 39 schools or school districts and more than 360 employers. Rod Boshart/The Gazette
TRANSPORTING BOOZE: Iowans would be allowed to legally bring beer and wine and larger amounts of liquor across state lines under a bill that cleared a Senate State Government subcommittee Monday.
Currently, Iowans are allowed to import one bottle of liquor from another state or up to four bottles from outside the country, but they are prohibited from bringing any beer or wine across the state line for personal consumption — although senators said few Iowans are aware of that prohibition, and the statute is rarely enforced.
Under Senate Study Bill 3084, Iowans would be allowed to import up to six bottles of liquor or wine annually or up to 48, 12-ounce cans of beer (totaling 4.5 gallons). Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport, called the bill a “common-sense” change that would avoid having someone with a can of beer in their vehicle crossing the state line become “a criminal.” While relaxing some importation rules for alcoholic beverages, the criminal penalty for “bootlegging” would be enhanced to a serious misdemeanor. The bill now goes to the full committee for consideration.
ENHANCING BICYCLE SAFETY: A Senate Transportation subcommittee Monday approved a bill seeking to enhance safety for bicyclists traversing highways in Iowa.
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Senate File 450 requires motorists to move completely into the left lane and provide adequate separation distance when passing bicycles and to slow down when approaching a bicycle near the crest of a hill before making a pass. The bill carries a $100 fine for violating the passing provision, with enhanced penalties for situations involving injuries or fatalities.
“We want to keep bicyclists safe in Iowa,” said subcommittee chairman Sen. Roby Smith, R-Davenport.
The bill also strikes a provision allowing bicycles to have rear reflectors and requires lights on the front and rear of a bicycle operating on a public thoroughfare. The bill would provide a 72-hour grace period for a bicyclist cited for violating the lighting provision to take corrective action without penalty.
“I think what we have in this bill is a good step forward,” said Mark Wyatt, executive director of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition. “We think it does promote cycling safety, and it’s going to make a big difference.”
PROTECTING EAGLES: Fines for illegally selling, taking, catching, killing, injuring, destroying or possessing an eagle would be increased from $50 to $2,500 under legislation approved Monday by the House Natural Resources Committee. That would match the penalty under federal law.
HF 2037 now is eligible for floor debate.
In recent years, there have been about 40 incidents of people shooting or otherwise harming bald eagles, which were removed from federal endangered species protection in 2007.
ICN FUTURE: Gov. Kim Reynolds is open to selling the Iowa Communications Network, but said Monday any sale or shutdown of the fiber-optic network must be reviewed to make sure there are no “unintended consequences.”
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A few years ago the state put the network created in 1989 up for sale and received a response from one interested party. Reynolds described the offer as “basically a fire sale.”
With changes in communications technology, she said the uses of the ICN should be reviewed to make sure there would be no “unintended consequences.”
For example, Reynolds said the Iowa National Guard has a “fairly significant footprint with ICN, so we just need (to make sure) it doesn’t interfere with the way they are using the ICN security measures.”
FUTURE READY SUMMIT: Registration for the Governor’s 2018 Future Ready Iowa Summit will open Thursday. Gov. Kim Reynolds made that announcement as part of her weekly news conference Monday. The April 3 summit will bring together leaders from business and industry, education, nonprofits, elected officials, students and others to amplify the public conversation about transforming education and the workforce, with a focus on expanding work-based learning and computer science instruction, she said. Speakers will include Brandon Busteed, Gallup’s executive director of education and workforce development; Govs. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and John Hickenlooper of Colorado; Hadi Partovi, Code.org’s CEO; and Jeff Weld, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s senior policy adviser for STEM education. The all-day summit is open to the public and will be held at Community Choice Credit Union Convention Center in Des Moines. The cost is $50 for adults. There is no cost for students. To register, go to iowastem.gov.
UTILITY CHANGES: Utilities are lining up behind a wide-ranging bill that would give them more control of certain ratemaking procedures, and make changes in energy efficiency provisions and emissions standards.
However, environmental groups are opposing Senate Study Bill 3093, which would cap the amount utilities must devote to energy efficiency plans to no more than 2 percent of rate revenues and allow utilities to establish discriminatory rates for customers who get energy from renewable energy sources.
Sen. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, who will chair a Commerce subcommittee hearing on the bill Thursday, said one goal of the bill is transparency in regard to energy efficiency programs. Some, he said, essentially are a tax on customers.
“I don’t think utilities will spend less on energy efficiency. They’ll just be more transparent,” he said.
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SCHOOL BUS RIDE TIMES: Iowa school districts would be given the flexibility to determine the riding time for pupils on regular school bus routes under a bill that cleared the Senate Education Committee on Monday.
Currently, state law limits the one-way duration of a school bus ride to 60 minutes for children though the eighth grade and 75 minutes for high school students. Senate Study Bill 3002 was amended by the committee to allow school bus rides up to 75 minutes and longer if local school boards notify parents at least 30 days ahead of time and hold two public hearings before the change would take place.
Sen. Ken Rozenboom, R-Oskaloosa, noted that a Greene County school that has a “co-located” elementary and high school would be able to eliminate two bus routes and save about $100,000 if school officials were allowed to add 15 minutes to the elementary transportation time and combine all students for a 75-minute bus trip. Sen. Tod Bowman, D-Maquoketa, voted for the bill that drew only one dissenting senator, but he expressed skepticism, telling fellow committee members he hasn’t heard from any parents, students, administrators or others saying they want longer bus riding time for their pupils. The bill now is eligible for debate in the full Senate.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “It’s a waste of time to speculate on what-ifs because I’m focused on really getting to consensus and getting it to the place where I believe we can be respectful of everybody and with as little of disruption as possible.” — Gov. Kim Reynolds responding to questions about differences between her deappropriation plan and one by Senate Republicans