Urgent: Deaf/Hard of hearing language acquisition bill

Dirk Hillard, Carly Armour, Robert Vizzini, and Vania Kassouf advocate for legislation designed to help Deaf and hard of hearing children be better prepared for kindergarten. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Did you know there are 28 million Americans and approximately 430,000 individuals in the state of Iowa who are Deaf or hard of hearing? Did you know that Iowa’s Deaf and hard of hearing children ages 0-5 are not showing up as kindergarten ready due to lack of language acquisition?

The Language Equality & Acquisition for Deaf Kids to be kindergarten ready (LEAD-K) bill is needed because a majority of Deaf and hard of hearing children are academically very far behind when compared with their peers. This is a serious national education concern, which some states are beginning to address. Iowa’s children are no exception, but the State Department of Education has a long way to go to make changes.

Senator Rob Hogg introduced Senate File 2076, and State Representative Art Staed introduced the companion bill, House File 2140. We are writing to correct some misperceptions about this bill, which have been brought to our attention.

Continue Reading...

GOP lawmakers approve third-smallest K-12 funding increase in four decades

Iowa House and Senate Republicans approved about $32 million in additional spending for public K-12 school districts today, which works out to $67 per pupil, according to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency. The 1 percent increase in allowable growth, sometimes called supplemental state aid, is the third-smallest by percentage since Iowa adopted the current school funding system in the early 1970s.

Continue Reading...

Five cases against Iowa's phony "water quality" bill

Iowa House Republicans capitulated on January 23, sending the Senate’s version of a bill to fund water programs to Governor Kim Reynolds’ desk. During the floor debate on Senate File 512, several Democrats and Republican State Representative Chip Baltimore argued for the water quality language House members had approved last year with strong bipartisan support. Whereas agricultural lobby groups were the primary supporters of Senate File 512, a large number of stakeholders were involved in crafting the House amendment. Insisting on the House version would have sent the legislation to a conference committee for further negotiations. All 41 House Democrats and five Republicans (Baltimore, Mary Ann Hanusa, Jake Highfill, Guy Vander Linden, and Ralph Watts) opposed “receding” from the House version, but the other 54 Republicans approved the motion to abandon that language (roll call).

The subsequent 59 to 41 vote to approve final passage of the Senate bill mostly followed party lines, but four Democrats who represent smaller towns and rural areas voted yes: Bruce Bearinger, Helen Miller, Scott Ourth, and Todd Prichard. Miller has taken a particular interest in farm-related issues over the years; she is the Agriculture Committee Chair for the National Black Caucus of State Legislators as well as a member of State Agricultural and Rural Leaders.

Four Republicans joined the rest of the House Democrats to oppose Senate File 512: Baltimore, Hanusa, Highfill, and Vander Linden. As floor manager of this legislation in 2017, Baltimore led a group of GOP House members who opposed the Senate’s approach. More recently, he was sidelined as the Iowa Farm Bureau and allies pressured the “Baltimore 16” to accept the Senate bill without amendments. Appearing on Iowa Public Radio’s “River to River” broadcast on January 22, Baltimore sounded discouraged, saying there was a “snowball’s chance in hell” of a water quality compromise. His final words on that program called for “reasonable minds” to get something “comprehensive and collaborative done, rather than shoving one bill down another chamber’s throat and promising to work on it later.”

New floor manager John Wills promised passage of Senate File 512 would be “just the beginning, not the end” of legislative discussions on water quality. No one I know in the environmental community believes Republicans will approve any further funding increases for water programs, much less a bill that would measure progress so the public could find out what methods work best to reduce water pollution.

I enclose below some of the best takes I’ve seen on the worse-than-doing-nothing bill Reynolds will soon sign.

Continue Reading...

Who's who in the Iowa Senate for 2018

The Iowa Senate begins work today with 29 Republicans, 20 Democrats, and one independent, former Republican David Johnson.

I enclose below details on the majority and minority leadership teams, along with all chairs, vice chairs, and members of standing Iowa Senate committees. Where relevant, I’ve noted changes since last year’s legislative session.

Just six senators are women (five Democrats and a Republican), down from ten women serving in the chamber in 2013 and 2014 and seven during 2015 and 2016. All current senators are white. To my knowledge, the only African-American ever to serve in the Iowa Senate was Tom Mann, elected to two terms during the 1980s. No Latino has ever served in the Iowa legislature; in 2014, Nathan Blake fell 18 votes short of becoming the first to join the Senate. No Asian-American has served in the state Senate since Swati Dandekar resigned in 2011.

Some non-political trivia: the 50 Iowa senators include two with the surname Johnson, four Marks, and two men each named Bill, Richard (Rich and Rick), Robert (a Rob and a Bob), Dan, Jim, Tim, Tom, Jeff, and Charles (one goes by Chaz).

Continue Reading...

Democratic swing not large enough in Iowa Senate district 3

Democrats across the country are celebrating tonight after Alabama voters chose Doug Jones over Roy Moore, one of the worst candidates a major party has nominated for a U.S. Senate seat in my lifetime.

In Iowa Senate district 3, a Democratic swing was evident but not large enough for Todd Wendt to carry the day against Republican Jim Carlin.

Watch out, though: the coming special election for Carlin’s Iowa House seat should be competitive.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Republicans found yet another way to hurt teachers this year

No matter how closely you were following the horror show that was the Iowa legislature’s 2017 session, chances are you didn’t notice every Republican favor to moneyed interests at the expense of working people, especially public sector employees.

So it was that I learned just this week about a new law that could cost some Iowa educators part of their retirement savings.

Continue Reading...
View More...