INSIDE THE CAPITOL: Jim Carlin, Chris Hall, Tim Kacena, Jackie Smith

INSIDE THE CAPITOL: Jim Carlin, Chris Hall, Tim Kacena, Jackie Smith

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Editor's note: Every other Sunday through the conclusion of this year's session of the Iowa Legislature, our local lawmakers will share their Statehouse views.

Sen. Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City

Iowa is one of the most heavily licensed states in the country. Nearly one-third of Iowans in the workforce are required to maintain a license to perform their jobs. Government licensing of many industries is appropriate, necessary, and in the interest of consumer safety. However, licensing in some professions is either unnecessary, too burdensome, or too expensive. Licensing can even be a method for some to reduce or eliminate potential competitors. It can also be a barrier to employment, and with unemployment in Iowa below three percent for more than two years, overcoming the hurdles for employers to find qualified workers has been a priority for legislators all session.

To address these problems, Senate File 2114 reforms occupational licensing in Iowa. First, it provides for universal recognition of licenses from other states for most licenses. With this change, someone may relocate to Iowa for family or career-related reasons and not be required to go through redundant licensing requirements.

One final piece of the bill lowers the fees for low-income Iowans applying for a professional license for the first time. A trade is often an accessible path out of poverty. Lowering the barrier to obtaining a license eliminates one more obstacle low-income Iowans face in rising out of poverty.

One of the first things we did during our fifth week in the Senate was pass our education funding bills, Senate File 2164 and Senate File 2142. These bills together mean approximately $90 million in increased funding for Iowa schools. We are working with the House and governor to find middle ground on a funding amount that is sustainable and responsible. Our defined goals are to prioritize K-12 education and ensure money remains to fund other priorities, like public safety and easing the tax burden on Iowans.

Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City

The University of Northern Iowa brought many of their students and faculty to the Capitol this past Monday. It was great to see the showcase and hear directly from campus leaders. Within that group, I was extremely pleased to visit with Dr. Alan Heisterkamp.

Many Journal readers will know Alan from his work in Sioux City Community Schools and later with the Waitt Institute. Alan now leads the Center for Violence Prevention at UNI which does incredible work across the state and also houses the Governor’s Office on Bullying Prevention. (Side note: Alan and Roger Wendt knew me as a sixth-grader at Hoover Middle School, where they saw me in the principal’s office just once or twice.)

The Center for Violence Prevention works with school districts and colleges to improve the environment our students live within during their daily life. They describe it by saying, “as parents, educators, and community stakeholders, we owe it to our young people and to ourselves to speak up and take collective action in order to foster healthy relationships, nurturing homes, safe schools and thriving neighborhoods in all Iowa communities.” Many thanks to Alan and his colleagues. What a great organization and cause for our support.

Several years ago, the Iowa Senate passed an important bill to reduce bullying in our schools. It sought to update our laws to reflect the new forms of bullying that take place in social media, and although it passed 43-7 with strong bipartisanship in the Senate, it never cleared the House. Working with a group called Iowa Safe Schools and Sen. Jackie Smith of Sioux City, I was proud to file an updated and improved bill this past week. Twenty of my colleagues joined in signing onto the bill, numbered House File 2426. This bill is part of the renewed effort to see change for our students and improved culture around bullying.

Rep. Tim Kacena, D-Sioux City

Good Sunday to all.

It has been quite the busy couple of days at the Capitol, as this past week was the first funnel week. This means bills that did not make it out of committee last week are more than likely dead for the session. This week I would like to touch on three bills that I was heavily involved with.

HSB 584: Allows cities and counties to establish a length of service awards program as described in section 457(e) (11) of the Internal Revenue Code for volunteer firefighters and emergency medical care providers. The bill authorizes municipalities that choose to participate the opportunity to establish a fund, matched by state dollars, that will help retain our volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel at a time when so many are leaving. We cannot thank those local heroes enough who voluntarily risk their lives and provide services in a time of need, but this bill is a step in the right direction.

H.F. 2259: This bill relates to human trafficking prevention training and reporting for employees of lodging providers in the state. The human trafficking prevention training must focus on the accurate and prompt identification and reporting of and response to suspected human trafficking. No later than Dec. 31, 2021, the commissioner must develop and certify a lodging provider’s voluntary completion of prevention training. The bill also states that a public employer or public employee cannot use public funds if the lodging provider failed to certify.

H.F. 684: During past legislative sessions we passed bills dealing with immunity for those youths who call 911 during a drug overdose. H.F 684 extends that immunity to persons under the age of 21 to include alcohol poisoning. The bill creates a new code section, 701.12, which provides that a person under the age of 21 shall not be prosecuted for public intoxication, possession under the legal age, if the person in good faith sought emergency assistance for a person due to alcohol overdose.

Sen. Jackie Smith, D-Sioux City

February 21 was known as the “first funnel” at the state Capitol. That means policy bills (that don’t concern taxes or the budget) must be passed by a committee to be considered during the remainder of the session. It’s often the busiest week of the year; every day is filled with meetings as Iowans push for their priorities to move forward.

Senate Democrats have introduced legislation designed to solve problems and help Iowans. I remain committed to initiatives that put Iowans first, including proposals to:

• Create good jobs and improve economic security.

• Ensure our students are getting the best education in the country.

• Revitalize every Iowa neighborhood and community, both rural and urban.

• Enhance the quality of life for all Iowans.

While we are at it, we must do no harm. For example, a workforce shortage should not be justification to jeopardize Iowans’ safety.

Many jobs require a professional license, which helps ensure competency and business and ethical standards. However, there is a push among some legislators and organizations to roll back or eliminate professional licensure in Iowa so that entrepreneurs can quickly get into business.

I am all for eliminating unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy, but not at the risk of endangering Iowans’ health and safety.

Take hearing aid specialists and audiologists licensed to dispense hearing aids. Hearing aid specialists are part of our health care workforce and are federally recognized and regulated in all 50 states, but a Senate bill (SSB 3089) would eliminate the licensing requirement in Iowa.

Last year alone, one Iowa hearing aid provider referred more than 500 patients to ear, nose and throat specialists. Some were found to have tumors. This is just one situation in which changes to licensure could pose health risks for Iowans.

I’m committed to carefully assessing all legislation of this type so that we strike the right balance between protecting consumers and growing our economy.

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