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Sunday Talk: Stone on the Iowa House in the 11th Week

Freedom is so valuable, and I worry the value of that freedom has been lost on some. From my years in military service to my days as a state legislator, there is never a day that passes that I don’t think about how lucky we are to have the freedom we do in the United States of America. This is something I continue to fight for as a legislator and will continue to do so as long as I am here.

Last week, we passed a very important 2nd Amendment Bill, which fundamentally removed red tape for Iowans to exercise their constitutional right to keep and bear arms. This week, we passed parental choice in education to help ensure parents have more freedom in choosing the best education option to educate their kids. Parents went through a lot trying to ensure their kids did not fall behind in school. This legislation, and some of the other legislation we passed earlier this year, is vital to making sure every student has the right to an education that works for them.

Freedom really is so incredibly valuable. It matters not just to us as Americans, but to people around the world, that look to America as a true and unequivocal beacon of freedom. It is something so many developing nations can only dream about. While we have passionate arguments on both sides about how we move Iowa forward, we are thankful that the United State of America is grounded on a fundamental idea of freedom, which makes our work possible.

And the good news is: 

House Republicans Lead on Parental Choice  

This week House Republicans continued to hear the concerns of constituents and address the need for more parental choice in education. The decisions of local school boards and administrators have left parents with little if any options when it comes to having input into the education of their children.  This has left parents across the state unhappy with their current public school system and feel like their voices have been ignored.

In addition to passing legislation requiring all school districts to offer 100% in-person learning, legislation was also passed prohibiting the racist and sexist concepts (Critical Race Theory) from being taught in K-12 schools.  The next step is offering additional educational options for families.  Not all families are able to send their children to private school, and some communities do not have any alternatives to the public school system. Charter schools are an avenue to help remedy this issue. Currently, the state of Iowa has the ability to form charter schools with two successful charter schools operating. However, it is very difficult to start a charter school under the current code.  This new legislation gives two ways a charter school can form. Despite the claims of Democrats, charter schools are not private schools. The first line of the bill reads “Charter schools shall be part of the state’s program of public education.”

Iowa’s Child Welfare Plan Approved by Feds

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved Iowa’s Family First Prevention Services Act plan. Family First is a federal law that changes the direction of child welfare services across America. Iowa is the 11st state in the nation to receive approval for its prevention services and programs plan.

Family First is intended to safely reduce the foster care population, place children with known and stable caregivers, and reduce the number of youth in shelter and group care settings. This legislation allows federal child welfare dollars to be used to help keep children out of the foster care system.  Under the previous federal law, most federal dollars could not be accessed until a child was placed in foster care.  This change will allow states to expand access to services that help keep families together before a child is placed in foster care.

Family First however does put significant restrictions on where kids in foster care can be served.  The use of federal funding for placement in a group foster care setting is significantly restricted, with a strong emphasis placed on recruiting and utilizing foster families and relatives to provide care.

Expanding Access to CDL Testing

Commercial drivers play an essential role in delivering necessary supplies, driving school busses and supporting our local communities. About 10 percent of all Iowa license holders have a CDL, but often have long wait times and difficulty accessing testing locations near their work.

In 2019, the legislature directed the Iowa DOT to conduct a study on access to the driving skills test for CDLs, and asked the DOT to evaluate testing options to increase access. The report can be found here. Currently there are 16 Iowa DOT locations, 12 county treasurer locations, and 15 third-party locations.
Based on this report, the House Transportation Committee drafted House File 828 and approved it this week with strong bipartisan support. This legislation allows counties that provide the driving skills test for a CDL to charge $25 for each of the three component tests (pre-trip vehicle inspection, basic vehicle control skills, and the on-road driving skills test). Currently, counties providing this testing do not receive any extra funds, leaving little incentive to maintain testing or expand testing to additional areas of the state. This bill also allows the DOT to charge $25 for the pre-trip test.

Government entities are exempted from all fees under the bill except for one $25 fee if they choose to test at the county level.

Additionally, the House has passed House File 280 which allows for CDL’s to be renewed online every other renewal cycle. These bills are now up for consideration in the Senate.

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