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Letters to the Editor

February 26, 2013

Statehouse ‘honeymoon is over’

CENTERVILLE — Hello good people of Iowa House District 80.

Well the last two weeks included a recovery period for my three broken ribs and a minor surgery.  

The “honeymoon is over” and our time is filled with many presentations and debates on issues — some great, some small.  To highlight, we had presentations from the director of Iowa Workforce Development, Teresa Wahlert, who declared our state unemployment rate has gone down; director of Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, Mary Cownie; supervisor of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, Adam Schnieders; vice president of the University of Iowa, Daniel Reed and Iowa Economic Development Authority, Debi Durham.   Durham had some exciting news about a couple of fertilizer businesses opening up in Lee County. These companies will be investing billions of dollars and bring much needed revenues and financial growth to our state.  

We’ve had seven bills pass through the House awaiting Senate approval, but one bill passed both House and Senate which provides certain taxpayers additional time to file a claim for refund or a credit of individual income taxes.

The House anxiously waited for the education reform bill to be brought to the floor.  The bill was proposed by Gov. Branstad at the beginning of session, and Rep. Jorgenson introduced it to the House floor.  It contains over 30 amendments, so as you can imagine, it was not a brief debate — ending at midnight Tuesday with closing remarks the following morning. The bill passed with a 52-44 vote.

While most of the proposals remained the same, the Education Committee made several major changes:

• The program is optional for school districts. If a school decides that the program would do more harm than good for their particular school they can opt out.

• Administration has the choice whether or not to mentor their new teachers with more experienced teachers.  

• Allowable growth is now called “Supplemental State Aid” and passed at 2 percent.

• The threshold for Rural Transportation Aid was lowered from 250 percent to 170 percent of the average — which means school districts with long bus routes in rural areas might get extra funding.

Funding the bill would cost an annual appropriation of $157 million, with a start of $10.2 million investment; this dollar amount was added by the House Appropriations Committee. My concerns for our small schools were satisfied with the changes and I voted “yes” to this reform bill, but now the Senate needs to approve it.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns at larry.sheets@legis.iowa.gov or (641) 895-6153.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about food prices. Are you paying more than you were last year for certain food items? According to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, "the cost of 16 food items" increased by 3.5 over 2013, as reported by the Des Moines Register. So, the question of the week is, "Are you feeling the food price increase pinch?"

A. Yes, and it hurts.
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C. Not sure.
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