A bill which creates a major reorganization of state government is on its way to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. State Representative Tom Jeneary of Le Mars says it’s been a long time since government has been streamlined in Iowa.
The bill required much deliberation to reach a final structure.
The bill was long overdue
The 16-hundred page bill reduces the number of Iowa government agencies from 37 to 16. Jeneary says no state services will be eliminated, and no jobs will be eliminated.
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The Iowa House also passed a bill which permits public schools to designate use of restrooms and changing facilities.
State Representative Tom Jeneary of Le Mars was in favor of the measure.
The bill does allow schools to make exceptions for some students.
Rep. Jeneary says the bill protects all boys and girls in Iowa public schools. House Democratic Leader Jennifer Konfrst of Windsor Heights says everyone, including transgender students, care about safety and privacy and the bill is an attack on a small group of already marginalized students.
RAIL MERGER APPROVED
Federal regulators approved the merger of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads Wednesday. The U-S Surface Transportation Board chair, Martin Oberman, talked about the decision in an online news conference. He says one of the underlying factors is merging the two small railroads together, will actually provide a stronger competitive landscape in the rail industry. He says there are many gateways in the rail system that overlap and give shippers an option and this agreement will protect that with very stringent supervision. The merger will eventually triple train traffic through parts of eastern and southern Iowa. There were hearings in Iowa on the merger and that included people opposed to the increased traffic, noise and plans to shut off some rail crossings. Several cities agreed to settlements with Canadian Pacific to finance improvements around the tracks.
LE MARS SCHOOL DISTRICT BUDGET
The Le Mars Community School Board has approved publication of the district’s 2024 fiscal year budget, and has set a public hearing for its passage. The ending balance in the current budget is estimated to decrease 89-thousand dollars, from 7.58 million to 7.49 million dollars Total revenues for FY ’24 are projected to be 33.8 million dollars, and expenditures 32.17 million. The tax levy next fiscal year will be 10 dollars, 14 cents per thousand, slightly higher than the current 10 dollars, 12 cents. The notice of the public hearing on the budget will be March 27. The hearing will be at the next board meeting, April 11.
EPA WATER RULES
Water utilities in Iowa and nationwide would be required to monitor drinking water for six so-called “forever chemicals” under a proposal from the U-S Environmental Protection Agency. The measure sets legally enforceable levels for PFAS chemicals in drinking water. The health concerns of these chemicals include cancer and decreased fertility. University of Iowa researcher David Cwiertny says the proposal is a fairly aggressive nationwide standard. Cwiertny says many more community water systems would need to figure out treatment to be in compliance with what the E-P-A deems safe. The Iowa D-N-R says six of the state’s water supplies exceed the limit of the four-parts-per-trillion level that’s proposed by the feds. The E-P-A is taking public comments on the rules and hopes to finalize them by the end of this year.
BICKFORD – GEHLEN CATHOLIC MISSION HONDURAS
Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras will leave for a 10-day mission next Tuesday. Carolyn Bickford has led these missions involving students and adults since 2005. But for the first time, Bickford will not be the group leader.
32 people, students and adults, will make up this year’s group.
Bickford describes where the group will work in Honduras.
Their mission is to build homes for the Hondurans.
Then comes work on the inside walls, painting, and then decorating the homes.
The houses are painted in the Mission Honduras colors – blue and white
Gehlen Catholic Mission Honduras also provides equipment to store water. Since the homes are made of wood, kitchens must be built outside the house.
Bickford says the mission trip exposes the group to the affects of poverty, and creates a spirit of giving. They return on March 30th.
GOVERNMENT REORGANIZATION PASSES
The Iowa House has sent Governor Kim Reynolds the state government reorganization plan her staff and a consulting firm developed over the past year. It reduces the number of state agencies from 37 to 16. It also shifts some government functions, like fire investigations and services for students with disabilities, to different areas of state government. Representative Jane Bloomingdale, a Republican from Northwood, says the nearly 16-hundred-page bill will streamline state government and make it more efficient. Fifty-eight House Republicans backed the bill. All Democrats and five Republicans voted against it. Democrats say efficiency in state government is important, but the bill was rushed through the process and it gives the governor too much power. Governor Reynolds calls the bill transformational and she says it will bring an end to a bloated bureaucracy.
ERNST QUESTIONS VILSACK
On issues ranging from electric cars and ethanol to farm subsidies for billionaires, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst questioned U-S Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack Thursday during a hearing before the Senate Ag Committee. Ernst, a Republican, says it’s hard to understand why the largest ten-percent of farms are raking in 70-percent of commodity payments, and she says critical reforms are needed in how the U-S-D-A decides who gets the cash.
Vilsack, a Democrat and a former Iowa governor, says proper procedures are being strictly followed with regards to the millions of dollars in agricultural grants that are being awarded.
Ernst applauded the U-S-D-A’s efforts to promote green energy, but denounced what she called an “ardent push toward electric vehicles,” calling Iowa-made, corn-based ethanol a ready-made resource that’s a cheaper energy solution and that’s “very beneficial for our farmers.” Vilsack didn’t address those comments directly.
VEEP DISCUSSES ABORTION ACCESS
Vice President Kamala Harris was in Des Moines Thursday for a roundtable discussion about abortion access. Her visit comes as a federal judge is deciding a lawsuit which seeks to ban abortion pills. Abortions, including medication abortions, are legal in Iowa up until the 20th week of a pregnancy. Governor Reynolds is asking the courts to allow a 2018 law go into effect that would ban abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, when fetal activity can be detected. The vice president has met with groups in 38 other states since the U-S Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that had legalized abortion.