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Written by Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck   
Monday, 14 February 2011 08:44

Iowa funds K-12 education through a funding formula referred to as allowable growth.  Think of allowable growth as a percentage of change of the base amount of state aid offered for the education of each student in the state.  In reality, the vote for or against allowable growth is many times more complicated and it is debatable whether or not those who vote on the bills understand the full implications.

Though there are many variables, think of the state as funding roughly $5800 per student who attends our public k-12 schools.  House Republicans have announced, through House File 185, their intentions of funding this amount at 0% allowable growth which means this number will not change.  Senate Democrats in Senate File 166 and Senate File 167 have approved, through the committee process, that this number should be increased by 2%.

A short look at history shows how legislative promises in February failed to come to fruition after school districts certified their budgets in April.  In FY 2009 the legislature approved 4% allowable growth then after the realization of overspending, the Governor cut state expenditures across the board by 1.5% resulting in a$32 million cut to schools.  In FY 2010 the legislature again approved a 4% allowable growth promising schools increases then realized due to over spending they cut the expenditure in May by $31 million and in October of the same year Governor Culver cut state expenditures to schools by another $238 million.  In FY 2011 schools were promised 2% allowable growth in February then cut in May by $156 million.

No matter where you stand on the issue, there is a realistic problem between the funds which are promised and the follow through of the legislature.  In the past four years our schools have had $459.7 million taken away from them resulting in $445.6 million of that spending authority falling on your property taxes.

Each year allowable growth is a political football which offers two weeks of media sound-bites.  Somewhere in the noise you will hear our local school leaders pushing common sense requests.  If the legislature promises something then follow through.  If the legislature mandates something, pay for it.  If the legislature appropriates money in February, make sure it really has the money in May.

While in the subcommittee on the 2% allowable growth bills I asked where the additional $64 million appropriation and backfill $266 million would be coming from.  One of the floor managers of the bill said, “Maybe cash reserve,” and the other gave the most honest answer, “I don’t know.”  While you ponder this issue also take into consideration Iowa’s top three expenditures of Medicaid, school aid and salaries will eclipse total revenues to the state in FY 2013.

Shawn Hamerlinck
State Senate District 42

 
Governor Quinn Salutes Illinois’ Public Safety Workers and National Guard Members PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Andrew Mason   
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:23

Efforts Aided More Than 4,000 Illinois Motorists Affected by Major Winter Storm, Maintained Critical State Services

SPRINGFIELD – February 4, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn today thanked the first responders and Illinois National Guard members who assisted more than 4,000 motorists during this week’s major snowstorm. The state’s response effort was coordinated by the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) from the State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC) in Springfield. Liaisons from the state’s key agencies worked around the clock from Monday afternoon through Thursday afternoon on response efforts.

“I thank the public servants and servicemembers who worked together to ensure public safety and preserve critical state services during this dangerous storm,” said Governor Quinn. “Nearly the entire state was affected by this major winter storm, but by working together we were able to help more than 4,000 people in distress and ensure that essential state services were continued without interruption.”

The state’s combined efforts cleared 16,500 miles of highway and assisted more than 4,000 stranded motorists. The coordinated effort was led by the Illinois State Police (ISP), Illinois National Guard (ING), Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) and Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT)

From noon Tuesday through Wednesday afternoon, ISP assisted 3,400 stranded motorists throughout Illinois and handled 270 traffic accidents.

More than 500 Illinois National Guard soldiers and airmen were mobilized Tuesday to assist ISP with response to stranded motorists. Using more than 140 military vehicles, including 114 Humvees, the Illinois Guard assisted more than 200 snowed-in vehicles and assisted ISP with 16 vehicles, six accidents and one ambulance.

Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police (CPOs) also were activated for storm response duties on Tuesday to provide welfare checks and assist stranded motorists on Illinois roadways.  Nearly 50 CPOs used all-weather vehicles, including more than 50 snowmobiles and ATVs, to rescue or provide assistance to more than 550 stranded motorists during the height of the storm. Conservation police rescued several dozen people including a stroke victim and brought others to warming centers open throughout the state.

Since the storm began, 2,800 IDOT drivers have cleared 16,500 miles of highway throughout the state, utilizing 1,629 trucks. As a result of IDOT’s around-the-clock snowplowing effort over the past several days, roads that were virtually impassable during the height of the storm have improved significantly and continue to improve each hour.

Facility management personnel from CMS ensured that necessary facilities were open, including several 24-hour facilities that offer service to the public, ISP and IDOT locations and headquarters that were critical to the response efforts, and garages to support public agency fleets. The agency's division of vehicles played an important role in the state’s response by delivering fuel to keep plows running and making repairs. Some mechanics stayed overnight in the fleet garages to ensure they could get on the road again to continue assisting first response agencies.

The Illinois Tollway mobilized its full fleet of 183 snow plows to quickly clear the roads and kept its snow operations center open throughout the duration of the storm. The Tollway’s dispatch center handled 1,549 incident calls during the storm and the agency worked with state police to respond to 77 traffic crashes, assist 512 motorists, fulfill 33 requests for service (fuel, tire change, etc.) and tow 133 vehicles.

Other storm-related state efforts included providing updated information about shelters and warming centers, road conditions, interstate access restrictions, and winter safety tips; coordinating with critical facilities, such as hospitals and nursing homes, to ensure they had power, water, medical supplies and staffing to remain operational; and tracking power outages throughout the state.

Throughout the winter storm, IEMA continually updated information on www.Ready.Illinois.gov to ensure citizens had access to vital storm-related information. Between Tuesday and Thursday there were more than 2.2 million hits to the state’s preparedness site, more than four times the total number of hits during the month of January.

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Grassley Works to Clear Rape Kit Backlog PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Monday, 07 February 2011 14:21

Friday, February 4, 2011

WASHINGTON — Senator Chuck Grassley this week introduced the Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2011, along with Senator Al Franken of Minn., to help clear the backlog of untested rape kits around the country.  Senators Dianne Feinstein of Calif., Michael Bennet of Colo., Richard Burr of N.C., Bernie Sanders of Vt., and Bob Casey of Pa, also cosponsored the bill.

“There’s a problem when rape kits sit on shelves for years at a time, while perpetrators roam the streets potentially harming others,” Grassley said.  “The delays we’re seeing are unacceptable, so we’re working to end the backlog and help victims of sexual assault find justice in a timely manner.”

Grassley said that it takes approximately one week to process a DNA evidence sample, so there is no reason every rape kit shouldn’t be tested in a timely manner.

The Justice for Survivors of Sexual Assault Act of 2011 would also prohibit the current practice—permitted by federal law—that allows jurisdictions to bill rape victims and then force victims to seek reimbursement from state crime victims’ funds.  It would also require jurisdictions receiving Debbie Smith funds to report backlog levels to the Department of Justice and specify how much of their Debbie Smith grant funds have been used to analyze DNA from sexual assault cases.

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Iowa House Moves Marriage Inequality Amendment Forward PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Paul Guequierre   
Wednesday, 02 February 2011 10:09

Senate Majority Leader vows to fight discriminatory amendments

 WASHINGTON — The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights group, today criticized the Iowa House for passing an amendment to the state constitution that would prohibit any form of relationship recognition for same-sex couples. The amendment passed by a 62 to 37 vote and will now be sent to the Iowa Senate for consideration.

“The actions of the Iowa House have the potential to place families at risk,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “The people of Iowa deserve better from their representatives. Iowa has a proud tradition of protecting the liberties of all of its citizens and we call upon the Senate to restore that tradition.”

“The proposed amendment devalues families and divides Iowans,” said One Iowa Executive Director Carolyn Jenison. “The Constitution is meant to protect the freedoms and liberties of all Iowans. It is inappropriate to use the political process to single out and deny a group of Iowans of their constitutional protections. ”

House Joint Resolution 6 proposes an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa specifying marriage between one man and one woman as the only legal union that is valid or recognized in the state. The language prohibits civil unions and domestic partnerships as well as marriage for same-sex couples. Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal has vowed to fight any attempt to amend the constitution to discriminate against same-sex couples. In order to end up on the ballot, the proposed amendment must pass through both chambers of the Iowa Legislature in two consecutive legislative sessions.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

 

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Capitol Comments - Call It A Reality Check PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Shawn Hamerlinck   
Monday, 31 January 2011 15:33

Think of the difficult cuts which are being made now as a stepping stone to setting Iowa on track to a solid fiscal future.  The Governor’s budget is not a step-by-step manual for eliminating a deficit but rather a starting point for discussion.  It is highly unlikely the budget Governor Brandstad presented on Thursday will be the same one he will sign at the end of the legislative session.

The legislature has three possible responses to our budget deficit: raise taxes, find efficiencies or cut nonessential programing.  This past week I have been asked by a number of special interest groups to increase the sales tax by half a percent because it is “no big deal” and “no one would notice.”  The sheer audacity of those making those statements is almost as scary as the actual concept of a tax increase right now.  I wonder if those who believe the state should just keep spending actually understand the pressure many Iowan’s feel right now.  Most people can’t fill up a tank of gas or buy a week’s worth of groceries for less than $50.  The long-term answer is not found in, “simply finding new revenue for the state.”

It is a wonder how some politicians can avoid recognizing structural deficits and continue to spend as if the problem will just go away.  I heard on many occasions that we have one billion dollars in unspent money so we can save programing.  This claim is correct, as long as you don’t recognized the $1.7 billion in programing you promised to fund with only the $1 billion you claim to have.  Apparently basic math doesn’t count when politically, you really want something.

For the last two weeks, each department has promoted their programing by saying, “for every dollar you spend with us, you will get seven in return.”   If true, with so much return on investment then why are we in debt?  When I ask this question I am quickly informed the state would be further in debt if we didn’t fund these programs originally.  By the rationale of this claim, the state would have been $32.6 billion in the hole if we weren’t “getting seven in return.”  At some point we have to turn on the reality switch.

In these meetings I think about the silent majority: A group which doesn’t belong to an association or have a paid lobbyist.  They are a group of Iowans willing to pay taxes with the expectation that those dollars are being used responsibly.  This group is willing to chip-in and help out but they don’t want to be used as simply a checking account.

As Iowa begins correcting its budget problem I am growing concerned of Congress’s willingness to negotiate plans for three states to declare bankruptcy.  Legislators in these states have offered no roadmap for improving their budgets.  Politicians either refuse to accept the reality of their budgets or spending has become an addiction to them.  Ultimately, taxpayers in states like Iowa will foot the bill for bailing out states with politicians who forgot there is a “no” button right next to the “yea” button.

Senator Shawn Hamerlinck

District 42

 
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