Iowa veterans deserve our support
On January 18, hundreds of veterans from around the state visited the Iowa Capitol to meet with legislators. I was pleased to welcome local veterans to the Senate and listen to their concerns and ideas.
Throughout the day, veterans had the chance to meet Adjutant General Timothy Orr of the Iowa National Guard, Commandant David Worley of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, Todd Jacobus, chair of the Iowa Commission of Veterans Affairs, and Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs executive director Jodi Tymeson.
In recent years, the Legislature re-established the Veterans Affairs Committee to ensure bipartisan work toward meeting the needs of those who serve. This year, we continue to explore opportunities to support Iowa veterans and their families, enhance existing services at the state and county levels, and help returning service members make a smooth transition back to civilian life.
Iowa troops who are in harm’s way and those who’ve served over the decades deserve our gratitude and dedicated support.
Ensuring Guard members get promised education benefits
The first bill approved by the Iowa Senate this year will help our National Guard soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan get the college tuition assistance they were promised. Senate File 2007 invests an additional $1.3 million in the Iowa National Guard tuition assistance program.
Helping Iowa’s returning soldiers attend college and improve their skills makes a lot of sense. We want these young people qualify for good jobs at good wages and help build a stronger Iowa economy.
Last month, the Guard told us that the dollars available for tuition assistance would fall short due increased demand among returning soldiers hoping to get a college education. In fact, the average grant fell from 90 percent of tuition to 50 percent. The cuts went into effect for the spring semester, which meant that Guard members currently enrolled in college classes had to find other sources of assistance to pay their bills.
If the Iowa House also approves the legislation and Governor Branstad signs it, the benefit to soldiers at Iowa’s universities would be up to $1,300 per semester in additional aid.
Ensuring our soldiers get to go to college was a good start to what hopefully will be a productive session focused on training a skilled workforce and creating jobs for all Iowans.
Recently at the Iowa Statehouse, I met with Executive Director of the Iowa Board of Regents Bob Donley, Regent David Miles and Senator Amanda Ragan. Keeping tuition affordable for Iowa students attending our nationally recognized public universities is an essential part of rebuilding our economy. Our universities provide Iowa employers with talented, innovative employees and university students will make up a large part of the next generation of Iowa entrepreneurs.
Increasing safety for school children
Each year children die because drivers fail to obey school bus laws. A bipartisan bill in the Senate aims to keep Iowa kids safer when getting on and off their school bus.
This legislation was proposed after the tragic death of Kadyn Halvorson of Northwood. Kadyn was killed while crossing the road to board her school bus.
Current law prohibits drivers from passing a stopped school bus that has its lights flashing and the stop arm out. Yet every year, hundreds of drivers violate this law and endanger the lives of children heading to school and home.
“Kadyn’s Law” would enhance the penalties for unlawfully passing a school bus by increasing fines and giving the court the option of sending the offender to jail. The bill also calls for the Iowa Department of Transportation to conduct a study of how best to increase school bus safety for children.
State funding improves local libraries
Local Iowa libraries play key roles in literacy, workforce and economic development, lifelong learning and entertainment. Iowans use their libraries to find jobs, do homework, apply to college, learn about medical treatments, access government information and more.
Every day, more than 55,000 Iowans walk through the doors of public libraries in our state. According to Iowa Library Services, more than two-thirds of all Iowans have active public library cards, and use of our libraries increases each year.
A new report showing how state funding improves our libraries is available at www.statelibraryofiowa.org/go/EnrichIowaFY11. Have a look and see how our local libraries used the state funding they received for 2011 to improve their services.
News you can use
Radon in your home causes cancer
January is National Radon Action Month, a good time for Iowans to make themselves aware of the risks of radon in their homes and how to protect their families. According to the Iowa Radon Coalition, radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the U.S. Seven in ten Iowa homes contain elevated levels. This is an unnecessary risk when you consider that radon is easy to test for and to mitigate. Tests cost as little as $10 and are simple to perform. Learn more about testing for and fixing a radon problem at www.healthhouse.org/radon/ia.cfm#b.
Keep Iowa Beautiful offers scholarships
Keep Iowa Beautiful is offering up to four $500 scholarships to Iowa high school seniors in 2012. Iowa students enrolling in an Iowa college or university and planning to major in community enhancement or environmental studies are eligible to apply. The application deadline is February 7. For complete details, go to www.keepiowabeautiful.com/byers-environmental-scholarship.cfm.
World Food Prize opportunity for students
The World Food Prize is hosting the first annual Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University on April 30. Schools nominate students to participate in the event. Those nominated by their school must submit a research paper addressing a global issue concerning hunger and poverty by April 1. Those selected to be a part of the Iowa Youth Institute may earn the chance to attend the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute, apply for the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship, apply for the USDA Wallace-Carver Internship and receive an Iowa State University scholarship. To learn more, visit www.worldfoodprize.org/youth.