On the Hill with Klein – Week 7
It was “funnel week” here at the Capitol this week which means that it is one of the final chances to get a bill eligible for debate. Several committees were meeting late into the night to get bills passed out of committee and onto the floor for debate. If a bill cannot pass out of committee then it faces significant hurdles before becoming law or even making it to the floor.
The Education Committee was one of these groups that had to stay late as they hashed out the details for the education reform package, and passed House Study Bill 517 late Tuesday night. The committee took Governor Branstad’s bill and kept selected sections, got rid of others, and changed the language of the rest. Overall there were 29 amendments added to the bill.
One of the most discussed parts of HSB 517 was the third grade literacy portion which would hold back third graders who are not deemed proficient in reading comprehension. Members of the committee chose to delay the implementation of date of retention, to allow for school districts to get systems of support in place for future students. This will ensure that students who have difficulty reading will be able to get early attention and improve their reading scores before the end of third grade.
Most of the bill remained intact with only small changes made to the online learning component, teacher and administrator performance, educator employment and professional development matters, and charter school changes. Parts of the bill that were not changed include: the Innovation Acceleration Program Fund, the School Instructional Time Task Force and national board certification. The Parent Advocacy Network and State Board of Education licensure provisions sections were completely struck from the bill. HSB 517 will be debated on the House floor in the coming days or weeks with the opportunity to add amendments and changes to the bill. The Senate also passed their version of a bill but has some major differences from the Governor’s bill.
Last year the Iowa House passed a bill banning K2, salvia divinorum and bath salts, which are dangerous synthetic drugs that cause harm to many people. K2 has been known to cause several harmful symptoms such as seizures, elevated blood pressure, increased heart rate, and numbness to pain. Countless people have been hospitalized or killed as a result of using synthetic drugs.
However, synthetic drug producers have changed up their chemical mixtures and have been able to skirt their way around last year’s law. This week the Public Safety Committee passed House Study Bill 609 which is in response to the producers of K2.
One other bill that may be of interest is House Study Bill 586 which makes it easier for young people to register to vote. Currently an individual must be 17 1/2 years old to register, but HSB 586 changes that to just 17 years old. This gives 17-year-olds who are eligible to participate in the caucuses the ability to register to vote while at the caucus. Studies show that individuals who vote at a young age are much more likely to be more politically informed, to vote in future elections and be involved in politics in the future. The bill also has other provisions which deal with a uniform start date for the mailing of absentee ballots as well as procedures in giving out absentee ballots at the commissioner’s office. This bill was passed out of the State Government Committee and will soon make it to the House floor.