I toured the stormwater infrastructure program at UNI, on Tuesday. I learned about the importance of stormwater infrastructure for water quality, lessening soil erosion, and flood damages. We also discussed innovative models of conservation. Thanks for all that UNI does, to help improve our water quality and the environment in Iowa.
In the Statehouse Newsletter, you will find information about:
Reproductive Freedom at Risk in Iowa
Officials Confirm Child Labor Bill Violates Federal Law.
State Infrastructure Improvement Plan Approved
Safe Haven Law Expands Abandoned Newborn Protection.
Summer Food Programs Ready to Serve
Please share your comments!
Going forward, I will be listening and working closely with local leaders and community members, to make sure the state is partnering with those in our community who need help and assistance. I’m available by email, phone, and social media, to answer questions and listen to your concerns. You can always reach me by email or call me at home at 319-266-9021. We can also stay connected through social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I appreciate hearing from you and I thank you for your continued support.
Thank you for taking the time to read the Statehouse News. Please keep in touch!
Reproductive Freedom at Risk in Iowa
In the next few weeks, the Iowa Supreme Court is set to decide a case that could limit reproductive freedom for Iowans. If the court agrees with Governor Reynolds, a new abortion ban will be in effect after just six weeks, before most people know they are pregnant.
Currently, in Iowa, abortion is still legal for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. However, a year ago this month, the federal Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the case in 1973 that established a constitutional right for an individual to get an abortion.
After Roe was overturned, the question of abortion rights is now up to each state to decide. This led to the Iowa Supreme Court rehearing a case to determine if a previously ruled unconstitutional 2018 six-week abortion ban should now be allowed to take effect.
Last session, Iowa Democratic lawmakers introduced several bills to expand reproductive freedom for Iowans. As part of their People Over Politics agenda, the bills include extending Medicaid postpartum coverage to 12 months, making birth control pills accessible through pharmacists without a prescription, and guaranteeing reproductive freedom by adding it to Iowa’s Constitution.
As we continue to wait for the decision from the Iowa Supreme Court, we will continue to fight for the rights of Iowans to make their own healthcare decisions.
Officials Confirm Child Labor Bill Violates Federal Law
Last month, the Governor signed legislation that drastically weakened Iowa’s child labor protections and jeopardizes Iowa businesses with federal labor regulations.
In a letter to lawmakers, U.S. Department of Labor officials confirmed that jobs not specifically allowed by federal regulation are prohibited from being performed by 14-and-15-year old and may be considered oppressive child labor.
Specifically, federal officials claim provisions allowing 14-and-15-year olds to work six-hour nightly shifts in industrial laundries, on light manufacturing lines, or in meat freezers is explicitly forbidden under federal law. The new Iowa law allows employers to recruit 14-18-year olds for a “work-based learning” program that could potentially include hazardous job requirements under relaxed supervision, which are generally prohibited according to Department regulations.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor has been more aggressive in enforcing child labor laws due to a 69% increase in violations nationwide. Federal officials say they currently have over 600 open labor investigations nationally, including in the state of Iowa.
Recent federal investigations found more than 300 children working more hours than allowed at restaurants, with some working unpaid shifts. In a larger inquiry, federal investigators concluded that more than 100 minors were paid to clean up blood and animal parts on overnight shifts in Midwestern slaughterhouses. The sanitation company paid a $1.5 million fine.
Iowa’s business industry has experienced a massive labor decrease due to low wages and hazardous working environments over the past three years. Rather than address Iowa’s persisting labor shortage by offering fair wages and a safe working environment, the Iowa Majority Party is relaxing child labor laws for younger Iowans to fill the state’s employment gap and appease their donors.
Senate File 542 passed both chambers with bi-partisan opposition. During the debate, House Democrats proposed prohibiting Iowa businesses with previous child labor violations from hiring minors and requiring employers to demonstrate that hands-on learning opportunities are provided rather than exploiting Iowa kids for low-cost labor. However, the Majority party rejected these efforts.
House Democrats will continue to fight for fair wages, benefits, and a safe working environment.
State Infrastructure Improvement Plan Approved
Iowa’s bridges and roads continue to see a facelift throughout the state in a new plan approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT) Commission.
More than $4 billion in funding will go toward infrastructure improvements across the state. Projects are selected using safety, traffic, congestion, conditions, and various other data points to be included.
The DOT Commission prioritizes projects that are set to improve the safety and conditions of existing state highways and bridges that Iowans are already traveling. The five-year infrastructure program includes more than $3.5 billion in investments in existing infrastructure. This money includes a significant investment in bridges across the state, at $1.3 billion.
Interstate projects include construction on Interstate 29, Interstate 80, and Interstate 35. These projects include bridge replacement, interchange reconstruction, and the widening of the roads.
Safe Haven Law Expands Abandoned Newborn Protection
After being signed by the Governor, Iowa’s Safe Haven Law will be expanded to protect more abandoned newborns.
The bill, House File 425, expands the locations where an individual can turn over an infant as part of the Newborn Safe Haven Act. The Newborn Safe Haven Act currently allows parents, or someone authorized by the parents, to leave an infant up to 90 days old at an institutional health facility or to a first responder who is responding to an emergency call. The person can only relinquish a newborn without fear of persecution for abandonment if the newborn is directly handed to someone at one of the eligible facilities or if the parent immediately calls the facility where they took the newborn.
This bill will now allow individuals who wish to remain anonymous to place the newborn in a safety device box, which will be located at some fire stations or emergency medical care provider locations. The safety device box is climate-controlled and required to have an alarm that sounds once the newborn is placed in it to alert the medical staff.
Iowa implemented the Safe Haven law in 2001, and since its inception, more than 50 infants have been relinquished to the state’s care.
Summer Food Programs Ready to Serve
As summer goes into full swing, summer food programs are also underway.
Summer food programs are available at various locations throughout the state, including schools, churches, community centers, parks, libraries, housing complexes, and camps. There are three easy ways to find where summer meal sites are operating:
Meals will be provided on a first-come, first-serve basis. One change for this year compared to last year is that the students will have to eat their meals on-site. During COVID, they were required to get their meals to go. Find more information about Iowa’s summer meal programs at: educateiowa.gov/pk-12/nutrition-programs/summer-food-service-program.
Other Iowa News
WILDFIRES CAUSE AIR QUALITY PROBLEMS AROUND STATE: Smoke from wildfires in Northern Canada has contributed to air quality exceedances over the last month. The Department of Natural Resources Air Quality Bureau recorded 32 ozone exceedances and 1 exceedance for fine particulate matter, sometimes called PM 2.5, between May 18th and May 31st. For comparison, the state averaged less than 4 ozone exceedances annually over the last 5 years. The exceedances included locations in Western Iowa (Pisgah), Northern Iowa (Emmetsburg, Waverly), and Eastern Iowa (Clinton, Coggon, Davenport, Cedar Rapids, and Scott County). Wildfire smoke carries large amounts of particulates and can cause ground-level ozone. Ground-level ozone is the main ingredient of “smog.” These pollutants can be lofted into the air by the heat from wildfires and as the smoke cools the pollutants can descend rapidly into areas a great distance away. These pollutants can cause breathing problems and exceed levels that the EPA considers “unhealthy for sensitive groups,” such as older adults, children, and people with asthma and other lung conditions. Real-time air quality information for the country can be found on the federal EPA’s website at airnow.gov. Wildfire-specific graphics and information, including the extent and trajectory of smoke plumes, can be found at fire.airnow.gov. Guidelines on what precautions can be taken regarding ozone and fine particulates can be found at airnow.gov/publications/activity-guides-publications.
VISIT IOWA’S STATE PARKS AND WIN PRIZES THROUGH STATE PARK PASSPORT: Ready to explore Iowa’s happy trails and hidden gems? Visit Iowa’s State Parks and download the State Park Passport for a chance to win prizes as you visit parks and forests across Iowa! From June 1 – Oct. 31, State Park Passport holders can earn points by checking into more than 60 state parks and forests. You can earn and bank points to be redeemed for various prizes. Along with checking into parks through the passport, visitors can discover “Hidden Gems” as they explore. Each park and forest on the passport includes a description of a “Hidden Gem” feature, such as a historical marker, scenic overlook, special trail, and more. Post a selfie at the hidden gem with the hashtag #IowaStateParks on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for prizes. To learn more about the passport go to: iowadnr.gov/Places-to-Go/State-Parks/Parks-Passport.
TEACHERS WITH MASTER’S DEGREE TO GET BREAK ON LICENSE RENEWAL: In a new measure to recognize the hard work it takes to be a teacher, there will now be no renewal requirement for teachers with master’s or doctoral degree that have been employed for over 10 years (unless they are teacher evaluators). They would also still have to have a background check every 5-years, and keep up with their mandatory reporter training. This would also apply to teacher librarians with a master’s degree. Now, under the new law, they too can get a break on renewal requirements for their licensure as a school librarian with a master’s degree. The Governor has signed House File 672 which will take effect on July 1, and the Board of Educational Examiners will have an application process on their website at: boee.iowa.gov.
GOLDIE’S KIDS CLUB SUMMER BREAK PROGRAM: Now that summer break is in full swing it’s time to check out the Goldie’s Kids Club summer break programs. Goldie’s Kids Club is a group for children under the age of 12 through the State Historical Society of Iowa aimed at teaching kids about Iowa’s history. Summer break activities include story time, innovative activities, and guided tours of historic sites across Iowa. More information about Goldie’s Kids Club can be found online, at iowaculture.gov/goldie/break-programs.