Happy Friday — and happy start of the 2019 Iowa legislative session.
Lawmakers convened in Des Moines Monday for what is officially the 88th Iowa General Assembly. This year session is slated to run for 110 days, or until May 3. We shall see if the Legislature keeps to its schedule!
This week also marks the return of our weekly legislative e-newsletter, The Weekly 3. It's so named based on research that three things is about the most things people can retain on a given subject at any sitting. We'll try each week to highlight three things you should know about legislation affecting Iowa children and their families.
It just so happens the Center has three staff members who are registered lobbyists and represent our organization — and really, Iowa kids and their families — at the Capitol. Sheila Hansen is there day in and day out during session, keeping an eye on the wide range of child policy issues, with a special focus on early childhood. Mary Nelle Trefz is our point person on all things health, and Angelica Cardenas focuses on child welfare issues. Please don't hesitate to connect with any of them as we go along.
Below you can read about our 2019 policy priorities: our agenda for making sure every Iowa kid has a fair shot at a happy and prosperous future. It's ambitious, and we understand well the challenges we face in achieving it. But we sure won't achieve it if we're not present as our elected officials debate.
The reason we are able to be present to advocate on behalf of Iowa kids and families is the individual Iowans who contribute financially to our organization. Many thanks to those who have supported our work over the years. If you haven't, we'd be grateful and honored if you would consider doing so. Please visit www.cfpciowa.org to donate securely online. Donations are tax-deductible as allowed under federal law.
2019 policy priorities
This week the Center released its 2019 policy priorities. We're calling it a child opportunity agenda. Its specific agenda items — related to child mental health and welfare, health care, Pre-K-12 education, child care, tax policy and state budgeting — are the building blocks of child well-being and of the future prosperity of the state as a whole. Read it here.
Notes from week 1
The first week of session was a relatively quiet one, but two key events merit note. First was Gov. Kim Reynolds' Condition of the State address Tuesday. We were particularly heartened to hear her support for a children's mental health system, but had hoped to hear more on other issues important to Iowa families, including how to fix problems in the state's Medicaid program.
Here's what the Iowa Fiscal Partnership, a joint effort of the Center and the Iowa Policy Project, had to say:
Governor Reynolds' Condition of the State address was upbeat, but exceedingly short on specifics of issues critical to the prosperity of Iowans. In fact, the speech was most noteworthy for issues that it did not address.
Positive notes included a 2.3 percent increase in per-pupil funding for K-12 schools. While still inadequate, especially in the wake of a 1.7 percent average increase over the last nine years, the proposal takes a baby step forward.
The term "dignity" ran throughout the Governor's address and it is an important one — a term that should be carried to many issues left unaddressed. She ignored such critical issues as raising the minimum wage, confronting wage theft with strong enforcement of existing law, and greater access to child care, all of which would reward and promote the dignity of work that she espouses.
Read the full statement here.
Also this week the Republican-controlled Senate voted to change long-standing rules of many committees, a worrisome a move away from transparency, accessibility and fulsome debate. One rule change eliminates the 24-hour notice for a subcommittee meeting. Another eliminates the requirement that subcommittees be open to the public. A third changes rules on "germaneness" of amendments, essentially severely limiting the voice of the minority party during committee. A decidedly less upbeat part of the first week, and one that merits ongoing monitoring.
Early Childhood Day on the Hill
Thursday, Jan. 17 was Early Childhood Day on the Hill — an opportunity for child advocates to talk with legislators about child care. The Center, along with a dozen other and partners, set up shop in the Capitol rotunda. Pictured (left to right): Center executive director Anne Discher speaks with Jeff Anderson of the state Early Childhood Iowa office and Rep. Michael Bergan (Dorchester); Center policy director Sheila Hansen talks with Senator Herman Quirmbach (Ames) and ECI area director Marion Kresse of BooSt Together for Children, the local ECI group for Boone and Story counties.
The ECI Day on the Hill is just one of many lively Capitol events each day. In fact, the FaDDS (Family Development and Self Sufficiency) program had their Day on the Hill last Wednesday. We got the scoop, including photos and quotes, on our Facebook page. Check it out here — and give us a "like" if you haven't already.