News from the State House

by State Representative Patti Ruff

This week, the Legislature hit the first self-imposed deadline we use to narrow the number of bills still eligible for debate, called the funnel. While there are a few exceptions for tax and budget bills, any bill that has not cleared a House or Senate Committee this week is dead for the year. The good news is that the bills we need to build a strong middle class are still alive this year. In education, we’re working on plans to expand preschool to more four- year-olds and stop bullying.
There is also some good news in that many of the divisive bills introduced this year didn’t make it through the funnel. Iowans expect us to put aside politics and find common sense solutions to the challenges we face.  There’s no reason to waste time on divisive issues that have no chance of becoming law.
On the front of mental health, there are companion bills in the senate and the house that deal with being able to utilize substance abuse or mental health services across state lines. This is vitally important as it would help get much needed help to those patients in a timely manner. Also, Human Services Director Palmer is looking at having a bed-tracker system that would help facilitate placements of patients across the state hopefully decreasing wait times that can be upwards of 8 to 10 hours. This will be a relief to those working in healthcare and our law enforcement charged with taking care of these patients until they find placements for them.
Starmont Schools have been selected by the University of Iowa to participate in a rigorous extracurricular math and science enrichment program through the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. The three-year program is aimed at empowering high-ability, middle school students living in rural districts across the state with challenging opportunities in STEM. The program was made possible through a $500,000 grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation.
The education conference committee has met twice this week with no movement towards a resolution in public school funding. I receive emails daily from teachers, administrations, and parents on how it is absolutely necessary that we fund our schools at a rate that provides them with money they need to provide our kids with a world class education. They continue to tell us to keep up the fight and make sure we are not short changing kids and short changing Iowa’s future.
Until next week!