At the Iowa capitol

~with Senator Jerry Behn

 

Sen Jerry Behn
Sen Jerry Behn

Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015

The 2015 General Assembly gaveled in at 10:00 am Monday morning. I really enjoy seeing the families and friends of all the newly elected senators as they gather around in the chamber to see their Senator take the oath of office. It makes me pause, and reflect for a moment what a truly great country we live in! No protests, no gun-fire, no overthrow of a current crop of legislators; just a quiet, joyous time as we transition to a new group of legislators, with the goal of doing the best job of representing their constituents, as they possibly can.

After the oath, we go about the process of getting our desks assigned and all our committee info together.

That sets us up for the Governor’s State of State speech on Tuesday. Governor Branstad gives us his vision for Iowa and in addition to that, he provides his budget ideas for the year. That provides the legislature with a great starting point to work through the entire budget process.

Here are some of the highlights from Governor’s Branstad’s address:

  • Bringing an end to bullying in Iowa schools continues to be an issue of concern for all Legislators. The Governor is proposing the Bully Free Iowa Act of 2015.
    • This would include social networking sites.
    • Parental notification
    • A training component
  • Growing Iowa’s economy requires commitment to ensure Iowans across the state, including all rural areas, have access to technological advances. For the past several months, Governor Branstad has signaled a desire to Connect Every Acre.
    • I believe this initiative will be advantageous for small businesses, families and help advance our ag sector.
    • One portion of the plan would establish a grant program to provide $5 million in broadband investments.
    • Provide 100 percent tax exemption for infrastructure in place after July 1, 2014.
    • Streamlines the permitting process.
  • I was pleased to hear the Governor’s intention to help reduce student loan debt. For the third consecutive year, the Legislature will vote to freeze tuition for undergraduate students at Iowa’s regent schools.
    • Iowa ranks ninth worst nationally in regard to student loan debt.
    • Average student loan debt for each Iowan is $29,370, according to the Institute for College Access & Success.
    • Last year’s tuition freeze was historic.
    • For the second time in three decades, tuition was frozen in back-to-back years
    • 2,665 people were convicted of domestic assault in 2014.
  • Domestic abuse is a horrible crime, and it happens too often across Iowa.
    • 2,665 people were convicted of domestic assault in 2014.
    • 162 of those were charged with the same crime for a third time.
    • Governor wants to increase mandatory minimums for habitual offenders from one to three years.
    • Another component of the Iowa Safe & Secure Communities Plan would be to enhance use of electronic monitoring for habitual offenders.

The Governor’s Budget

The Governor released his Fiscal Year 2016 budget on Tuesday.

    • Budget is 5 percent increase from Fiscal Year 2015.
    • Budget proposal is $7.324 billion.

On Wednesday, we heard from the Chief Justice of the Iowa Supreme Court, and he laid out the current state of the judiciary in Iowa.

He was pleased with the progress we’ve made in finding alternatives to jail for minor offenses and he focused on what he called “racial disparity”, and his thoughts on addressing that.

Next week, we will hear from General Orr regarding the State of the National Guard. From there, the real work begins, as we pour over the Governor’s proposed budget and start having sub-committees to determine which proposed bills continue to move forward.

It is truly a privilege and an honor to represent the great people in Senate District 24 and I look forward to a productive legislation session.

As always, I want to hear from you. My senate number is 515-281-3371 and my home number is 515-432-7327 or write me at: State Capitol, Des Moines, IA 50319 or at my home address: 1313 Quill Avenue, Boone, IA 50036 or email me at jerry.behn [at] legis [dot] iowa [dot] gov.

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