The Behn Report

Sen Jerry Behn, (R) Boone
Sen Jerry Behn, (R) Boone

~by Senator Jerry Behn, District 24

April 15, 2016

This week in the Senate, we only debated a few bills each day as we try to get budget bills through the legislative process. Hopefully, we’ll see these bills come to the floor soon so we can move closer towards adjournment.

Third grade retention and reading proficiency: On Wednesday the Senate passed HF 2413, a bill meant to clarify the intent of a 2012 law, focusing on early childhood literacy and provide school districts with better direction on the expectations of literacy for third graders.

These changes include clarifying that students in kindergarten through third grade must be provided intensive reading instruction if they are not reading proficiently. They must then be reassessed for proficiency prior to being retained.  The bill also replaces references to a student’s “substantial deficiency in reading” with “persistently at risk in reading,” which is defined to mean a student has not met grade-level benchmarks on two consecutive screening assessments. Lastly, it strikes the requirement for annual parental notification of a student who is not reading proficiently and replaces it with “regular updates regarding the student’s progress toward reaching or exceeding the targeted level of reading proficiency.”

We need to ensure our children are proficient readers by third grade, so they can continue to learn.

Career and technical education: On Wednesday the Senate also took up HF 2392, the career and technical education (CTE) modernization bill. The bill modernizes the “career and technical education” (often called “vocational education”) delivery model in Iowa’s high schools and community colleges. The bill updates code references to federal law and helps eliminate duplications in career and technical education.  The bill is intended to help create more and improved pathways to career and technical education and employment.

The changes in the bill are based off recommendations made by the Secondary Career and Technical Education Task Force in 2015.

Some of these changes include:

  • Requires students to have individual career and academic plans in 8th grade in order to prepare for meeting graduation requirements, identify relevant career oriented coursework, and prepare the student for completion of a state-approved career guidance system
  • Creates “career guidance teams” in each school district to consult with employers, workforce systems, higher education, and career training programs
  • Updates “vocational service areas” to “career technical service areas” which are:
  • Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources
  • Arts, Communication, and Information Systems
  • Applied Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Manufacturing, including Transportation, Distribution, Logistics, Architecture, and Construction
  • Health Sciences
  • Human Services, including Law, Public Safety, Government, Public Administration, and Education and Training
  • Business, Finance, Marketing, and Management
  • Establishes standards for the 6 career service areas, regional CTE planning partnerships, regional centers, and career academies
  • Allows for career academies to be between at least one school district and a community college to create career-oriented or occupation-oriented programs of study that are designed to meet industry standards and prepare students for future education or employment.

This bill passed the Senate unanimously.

Uber bill passes the Senate: The Senate debated HF 2414, a bill regulating transportation network companies (TNCs) or ride sharing services, like Uber and Lyft, and also taxi companies. The bill establishes a number of regulations for these services, like background checks and insurance requirements.

The bill passed the Senate 50-0 and ensures Iowa can attract innovative companies like Uber and Lyft.

The regulations in the bill include the following:

  • Drivers must pass background checks, including the sex offender registry and driving history
  • Establishes minimum insurance coverage standards
  • Establishes a statewide regulatory structure for TNCs and taxi companies
  • Clarifies a driver must be at least 19 and not have more than three moving violations in the prior three years
  • Requires the TNC to disclose the driver’s face and the vehicle make, model, and license plate number to a rider
  • Requires the TNC to provide a digital receipt to a rider
  • Prohibits TNC drivers from accepting street hails
  • Prohibits the disclosure of rider information to third parties without rider consent

Extending biofuel tax credits: On Wednesday we also took up SF 2309, extending the tax credits for renewable fuels.

The bill extends the tax credits for E-15 gasoline promotion, E-85 gasoline promotion, and biodiesel blended fuel B-5 and higher, to January 1, 2025. This bill also includes a sales and use tax refund for bio producers.

The biodiesel blended fuel tax credit rates will change under this bill after January 1, 2018. The rate for blended fuel classified between B-5 and B-10 will be .035 cents, while the rate for fuel classified as B-11 or higher will be .055 cents.

The passage of this bill will incentivize motor fuel retailers to continue to offer ethanol products in Iowa and help ensure the biofuel sector of Iowa’s economy has demand for its products. This is a great bipartisan bill to help an industry important to Iowa’s economy and keep Iowa competitive with other states.

The bill passed the Senate 49-0.

The Senate pages did start putting together and stacking boxes for all of us in the chamber this week, a sign we’re getting closer to the end of session. Each year the pages put together then stack all the boxes and see how high they can get it. This year they made it well past the Senate gallery before it all came toppling down.

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

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