It’s ‘funnel week’ at the Capitol. That means we’re at the halfway mark in the 110 day legislative session. ‘Funnel week’ is the first self-imposed legislative deadline we use to narrow the number of bills still eligible for debate and voting. While there are a few exceptions for tax and budget bills, any bill that has not cleared a House or Senate Committee this week is ineligible for consideration the rest of the session.
Upon first look, the results of funnel week are encouraging. While most of the extreme agenda is dead, measures to grow Iowa’s middle class are on the move.
Several members of the house majority party have been pushing a very narrow, polarizing, social and economic agenda. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and many pieces of their extreme agenda were stopped this week.
Here’s a few of those (now dead) bills;
· SF 336 would have abolished the Iowa Department of Education.
· HF 338 would have made divorce even more difficult for children and victims of abuse.
· SF 166 would have allowed lobbyists to write administrative rule.
· HF 346 would have made gold and silver coins used for all financial transactions.
· HF 138 and HJR12 would have outlawed common forms of birth control.
· SJR 5 & HJR 11 would have abolished marriage equality.
· HF 318 would have required rape and incest victims to list their abuser on a birth certificate.
Thanks to the Senate majority, and similar efforts from my caucus in the House, many bills focused on middle-class-economic-security are moving forward.
Here’s a short-run-down of surviving bills to help the middle class;
· SF 51 provides an increase in basic aid to local schools by 4%.
· SSB 1228 makes changes to education that will improve opportunities and accountability for students and educators.
· SF 291 invests a total of $25 million in new funding for community colleges to fill skilled job openings at local businesses. This bill has wide bi-partisan support.
· SF 296 & HF 83 reduces the chances that a serious illness will bankrupt Iowa families and slow the rise in everyone’s health care costs through Medicaid expansion. The Governor opposes this necessary legislation.
· SF 106 & HF 110 cuts taxes for families, small businesses, and farmers through federal income tax coupling.
· SF 15 & HF 93 encourages state government purchases to be made from Iowa companies.
· SF 205 uses tax credits to encourage the growth and expansion of targeted businesses.
· SF 274 helps startup companies expand and grow by providing microloans to small businesses.
These bills and more are needed to build a strong middle class. As our economy continues to gain steam, we have an opportunity to improve student achievement, build a highly skilled workforce, expand affordable health care, and help Iowa small businesses expand to create new jobs.
The key will be to continue to work together and put politics aside for the next two months. A productive 2013 session will strengthen middle class families. It requires work on both sides of the aisle and rejection of those who advocate a polarizing agenda.
In addition to being legislative funnel week, March 3-9 is Problem Gambling Awareness Week. The goal of this campaign is to educate the general public and health care professionals about the warning signs of problem gambling and raise awareness about the help that is available both locally and nationally.
Unbiased, academic research finds that 2% to 3% of the US population has a gambling problem. That’s 6 million to 9 million Americans, yet only a small-fraction get help, such as treatment and recovery programs.
In Iowa, the office of Problem Gambling Treatment and Prevention works to reduce the harm caused by problem gambling to addicts and their families. Services include; outpatient counseling, housing services, and financial counseling for addicts. In addition, the program provides prevention and education services for schools, community groups, casino employees, and other at-risk Iowans. This office is severely underfunded, and I’m fighting to provide them the means to achieve their mission.
Here are some signs of problem gambling. If you or someone you know answers ‘yes’ to any of these questions, take the first step on the road to recovery by calling 1-800-BETS-OFF. Help is available and confidential. It’s important to you, your family, and your friends.
· Have you often gambled longer than you had planned?
· Have you often gambled until your last dollar was gone?
· Have thoughts of gambling caused you to lose sleep?
· Have you used income or savings to gamble while letting bills go unpaid?
· Have you made repeated, unsuccessful attempts to stop gambling?
· Have you broken the law, or considered doing so, to finance your gambling?
· Have you borrowed money to finance your gambling?
· Have you felt depressed or suicidal because of your gambling?
· Have you been remorseful after gambling?
· Have you gambled to acquire money to meet your financial obligations?
Again, if you can answer ‘yes,’ to any of these, call 1-800-BETS-OFF and get help.
I’m proud to represent Newton, Colfax, Baxter, Mingo, Kellogg, Prairie City, Lambs Grove, Ira, and Valeria. Feel free to contact me anytime at (641) 521-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit my website at www.electkelley.com. ‘Friend’ me on Facebook and ‘follow’ me on Twitter.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve.