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Lawmakers wrapped up session with increase to school funding

Training facility, child care reforms deserve another look next year

Iowa’s lawmakers recently demonstrated that they are capable of getting things done in a short period of time.

After an unprecedented recess prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic sent the legislators home in the spring, they returned to Des Moines during the first week of June and proceeded to wrap up all of their essential business before adjourning on June 14.

During that time they finished a no-frills budget totaling about $7.78 billion. It’s a largely status quo budget that keeps most spending categories pretty much the same.

There is one important exception, however. Funding for k-12 education was increased by about $100 million. Rural school districts, like many of those in the Fort Dodge region, will get a little extra money to compensate them for the high transportation costs they incur because of the long bus routes needed to get kids to and from school.

A state budget that increases school aid without raising taxes is a notable achievement.

There were a few things that did not get done during the legislative session that are disappointing.

Lawmakers did not act on a proposal to fund a bigger and better training building at the Fort Dodge Correctional Facility. Leaders of Iowa Central Community College presented that idea to the legislature in February, saying more inmates could be earning college credits and degrees that would help them lead a productive life if a better training facility was available.

Iowa Central leaders will make their case for the facility again next year. They plan to start by asking Gov. Kim Reynolds to include money for it in her proposed budget for 2021-2022.

Bills introduced by state Rep. Ann Meyer, R-Fort Dodge, to improve child care in the state passed the House of Representatives, but not the Senate. One of those measures would prevent parents from losing all of their child care assistance if they get a raise. Under Meyer’s bill, the child care assistance amount would be gradually trimmed down instead of being eliminated all at once, pushing the parents off of a financial cliff.

Meyer also authored a bill that had the potential to save lives. It would prohibit people from talking on the phone or using any other electronic device while driving. Unfortunately, it never came up for a vote in the House. She is already planning on introducing a new version of the bill next year.

The proposed inmate training facility, the ban on electronic devices while driving and the child care reforms have the ability to make Iowa an even better place. We hope lawmakers revisit those proposals next year.

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