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OLSON’S OBSERVATIONS PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Steven Olson   
Friday, 06 April 2012 12:43

The legislation to ban traffic cameras passed the House after lengthy debate. The vote, a 58-42 spilt, bans all traffic cameras and requires cities to remove them by July 1st. Of course, it remains to be seen if the Senate will take this bill up and if it will survive their vote.

One of the reasons the debate was so lengthy is that it was delayed by more than three hours after a letter containing a mysterious white powder was opened on the House Floor. Rep. Abdul-Samad’s clerk opened the letter around 3:30pm and sent the Iowa Capitol into a lockdown. Preliminary testing noted the substance was not toxic and upon further testing the Capitol gave an “all clear” at around 7:50pm but debate had already resumed in the House Chamber.

HF 2229 is legislation that allows a veteran to request that their driver’s license or non-operator’s identification card be marked with the word “VETERAN” to indicate veteran status and it just passed the House. If you are an honorably discharged veteran you can take advantage of this upon renewal of your driver’s license by presenting your honorable discharge papers.

Both chambers approved a bill that would give developers incentives worth up to $16.5 million to build the Dyersville Sports Complex at the site of the “Field of Dreams” movie. This package is much like incentives given the Iowa Speedway in Newton several years ago.

As this column is written on Wednesday debate is scheduled to take place late this afternoon on the Mental Health Reform Program. While it is my own opinion, it appears session could be wrapping up in the next couple of weeks. This would be a refreshing change from last year.

If you have concerns or questions I can be reached at the Capitol by emailing
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AMERICA NEEDS FARMERS PROGRAM TEAMS WITH IOWA HAWKEYES AND IOWA FOOD BANK ASSOCIATION TO HELP EASE HUNGER IN IOWA PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Laurie Johns   
Friday, 06 April 2012 08:56

Hawkeye Fans Invited to Help Replenish Johnson County Crisis Center and Statewide Food Banks by Bringing Donations to April 14 Spring Practice

WEST DES MOINES, IOWA -- April 4, 2012 -- As farmers begin the 2012 planting season in Iowa, the growing problem of hunger in Iowa is on their minds.

“Iowa farmers lead the nation in livestock and crop production and they’re proud that their hard work and innovation brings more food and more choices for all Americans; that’s why it’s unacceptable to have a 30 percent increase in the number of families who visit food banks,” says Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) President Craig Hill.

The Johnson County Crisis Center distributes 60,000 pounds of food a month and they’re facing a critical shortage in both food and donations.  The Iowa Food Bank Association, a collaboration of the eight food banks which collects, coordinates and distributes food and essential supplies across the state, sees similar shortages.

“That’s why IFBF is proud to support the ANF/ Food Bank Drive April 14 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City when fans of the UI football team get their first look at the 2012 Iowa football team.  We hope Hawkeye fans and all Iowans will show that they believe in taking care of their neighbors and friends in need,” says Hill, a fourth generation livestock farmer from Milo.

Those who work with food banks in this state are grateful for the donations and the chance to spotlight a growing problem of hunger in Iowa.  “The current economy has brought higher mortgage rates, medical and fuel costs to more Iowans at a time when they’re finding it tough to find a full-time job with benefits. It all adds to the problem of hunger in Iowa,” says Jordan Vernoy, director of the Iowa Food Bank Association.  Many food banks are seeing a critical shortfall. “But, we want Iowans to know that it’s so easy to help our neighbors in need; every one dollar donated can help us gather $15 of food donations,” says Vernoy.

To encourage donations, the first 1,000 Iowa Hawkeye fans who bring a donation of cash or canned food to the Hawkeyes’ open-to-the-public practice can receive ANF items.   There is no admission charge to attend the scrimmage and the gates open at 11 a.m.

ANF was first launched in 1985 during the height of the Farm Crisis, by legendary Hawkeye coach Hayden Fry, who wanted to show an increasingly urban nation why agriculture matters.  For more information about the Iowa Farm Bureau/U of I ANF partnership, click on www.americaneedsfarmers.org.

To learn more about the growing number of Iowans in need and ways to help, click on http://iowafba.org/.

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About Iowa Farm Bureau

The Iowa Farm Bureau Federation is a grassroots, statewide organization dedicated to enhancing the People, Progress and Pride of Iowa.  More than 153,000 families in Iowa are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve farm and rural prosperity.  For more information about Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit the online Newsroom page at www.iowafarmbureau.com.

 
Braley Announces Long Overdue FEMA Funds for Cedar Rapids PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Friday, 06 April 2012 08:23
FEMA overturns previous denial; approves $13.8 million for hydroelectric project

 

Cedar Rapids, IA - Today, Rep. Braley announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved $13.8 million dollars for the City of Cedar Rapids, to help recover from the floods of 2008.

 

The approval overturns a previous denial of these same funds. Rep. Braley has been pushing FEMA for months, including on calls with FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, to reverse their earlier decision and approve these funds.

 

"These recovery funds are long overdue. I'm glad that after years of fighting through government red tape, we're seeing real progress in getting federal funds to Cedar Rapids to help with the recovery," said Braley. "This investment will create jobs and further help the Cedar Rapids community move forward after the tragic disasters four years ago."

 

The funding will allow the City to repair the hydroelectric power plant, which was initially damaged in severe weather in 2007, and then further damaged during the floods of 2008. FEMA also announced today that funding has been denied for a second, much smaller project, to remove concrete slabs.

 

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This Week in the Senate by Senator Shawn Hamerlinck PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Shawn Hamerlinck   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 12:15

April 3, 2012

The 2012 Legislative Session is quickly coming to a close as debate begins on how to align budget bills and move the body to conclusion.  The calendar is designed in a way to limit the amount of legislation which can be sponsored in a year and also push politicians to pass budget bills and go home.  Notice, the longer politicians have time to mess with policy, the longer it takes to clean up in the future.  Only bills dealing with taxing and spending are now available for consideration.

The key is finding the size of the entire pie and then working in baseline appropriations for key projects like education, the prison system, and care of the poor.  Leftover funds are either saved for a rainy day, used for additional one-time projects or used to grow and create new, ongoing expenditures.  History shows using one-time money for ongoing expenses is rarely wise.  The total size of the pie for House Republicans is 1% larger than last year’s total budget.  Governor Branstad has a budget proposal 4% larger than last year, and Senate Democrats have a budget 5% larger than last year.

House Republicans appear to spend 1% more due to their desire to fully fund property tax credits.  Historically, both parties have underfunded tax credits in tight budget years as a means of freeing up cash from the general fund.  Otherwise, they hold the line on spending less than they take in.

The only budget bill which was agreed upon and passed by the House and Senate is the transportation budget bill.  This legislation covers expenditures for roads and bridges from the Road Use Tax Fund.  Since this account is constitutionally protected, it is difficult for politicians to scoop funds; therefore the bill is usually the first to move.

The second bill moving towards passage is the Rebuild Iowa Infrastructure Fund (RIFF), which largely spends gambling revenue for vertical infrastructure like the maintenance of buildings.  This bill caused consternation as it appeared in the Senate with funds for a Des Moines Social Club, water and recreational trails, the zoo in Des Moines, and $2 million for buses in Des Moines.  Apparently, it’s not an earmark for some when the money goes to Des Moines.  I beg to differ.

Sound budgeting practices and a fiscally responsible mindset by Iowa politicians will ensure we don’t find ourselves in the same self-destructive path as some of our neighboring states.

Thank you for letting me serve you in the Iowa Legislature.

For more information please visit www.shawnhamerlinck.com.

hamerlinck signaturesmall.jpg
Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senator
District 42

 
Simon advocates for rape crisis funding in Moline PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Tuesday, 03 April 2012 11:56

Touts strip club fee to save critical counseling services

 

MOLINE – April 3, 2012. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon recognized Sexual Assault Awareness Month today by visiting a rape crisis center in Moline where she advocated for a new funding stream to protect services for sexual assault survivors and save jobs.

 

Simon is backing Senate Bill 3348, which would require all strip clubs that permit alcohol to pay a $5-per-patron fee. The revenue would help fund community-based sexual assault prevention and response programs, such as the one run by Family Resources in the Quad Cities.

 

Like other agencies statewide, the Rape/Sexual Assault Counseling and Advocacy Program of Family Resources has seen its state funding drop 28 percent since 2009 and staff decline, while demand for crisis and counseling services has increased.

 

“Whenever a sexual assault survivor calls for help in Moline, we need to know an advocate is ready to respond,” Simon said. “Budget cuts are putting these critical services and jobs at risk in the Quad Cities and statewide. That’s why I’m supporting a common sense way to fund rape crisis centers that will not affect most Illinoisans’ pocketbooks, but help many people receive the counseling and legal advocacy they need.”

 

The Family Resources program provides comprehensive services to victims and survivors of rape and sexual assault and their non-offending family members in Rock Island County and parts of Henry and Mercer counties.

 

The center provided services in the forms of counseling, advocacy, crisis response, prevention education and training to 30,000 individuals last year through the domestic violence and sexual assault services. In Illinois alone, the program responded to more than 300 crisis clients by phone or in-person and provided medical or legal advocacy to another 74 people.

 

“These services are vital to the health and well being of the Quad Cities community,” said Family Resource Director Nicole Cisne Durbin. “Sexual violence is a community issue, not just an issue for victims, survivors and social services. It affects everyone. The revenue raised from this proposed tax would allow our program to continue to provide these critical services to the community in a consistent manner without constant fear of losing more funds.”

 

Senate Bill 3348, sponsored by Sen. Toi Hutchinson (D-Chicago Heights), counts among its co-sponsors Sen. Tim Bivens, who served as the Lee County sheriff for 20 years and is a past president of the Illinois Sheriff's Association. R.T. Finney, president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, supports the bill as do more than 30 rape crisis centers and Dr. Richard McCleary, a University of California-Irvine professor and leading adult entertainment business researcher. Read testimony on SB 3348 from Finney, McCleary and Simon here.

 

Last year, the Texas Supreme Court upheld legislation that funded crisis centers through a $5 entrance fee at strip clubs that permit alcohol based on the correlation between alcohol, live nude dancing and negative secondary effects, such as sexual assault. The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge of that decision, effectively opening the door for other cities and states to purse similar measures. California is among the states seeking legislation; it is considering a $10-per-patron fee.

 

Simon’s visit to the Quad Cities comes after stops at rape crisis centers in East St. Louis and Carbondale last week. Read Simon’s editorial on SB 3348 here.

 

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