On the Hill with Klein
Debate continued this week as we passed several bills that move on to the Senate to be voted on or to the Governor’s desk to for a signature. I am proud to say that we got a lot of work done in this 10th week of the General Assembly.
On Wednesday, the Iowa House passed Senate File 2218, also known as Kadyn’s Law, which deals with school bus safety. The bill is in response to an incident last spring which took the life of 7-year-old Kadyn Halverson, who was hit and killed by a car while crossing the street to her school bus. Law enforcement was able to locate the driver and he was later convicted of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident. These convictions, however, cannot make up for the loss of such a young, innocent girl.
Senate File 2218, and its companion House File 2222, were drafted with input from the Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Safety, Kadyn’s family, and countless other groups involved in school bus safety. This final bill will have a lasting impact on the safety of our children on their way to and from school.
SF 2218 enhances the penalties for a violation of school bus safety laws. A school bus driver who does not operate the bus under current code is guilty of a simple misdemeanor, punishable as a scheduled violation, with a fine of $100. Drivers who violate the law by failing to stop when a school bus stop sign is deployed can be charged with a simple misdemeanor. A person who is a second or subsequent offender can be charged with a serious misdemeanor. Penalties are also increased for those who hit and injure or kill someone, while illegally passing a bus.
In addition to increased penalties, SF 2218 creates a study committee for school bus safety issues. The Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, and the Department of Public Safety will study the use of cameras mounted on school buses, the feasibility of requiring children to be picked up and dropped off on the side of the road where their home is located, and the possibility of including school bus safety as a priority in drivers training. These are all ideas that will be studied but not necessarily put into law.
Kadyn’s Law passed the House and Senate unanimously and Gov. Branstad has made it clear that he will sign this bill to protect Iowa’s children and create safer roads for everyone. I was one of three house members of the subcommittee on this bill and saw it progress through the process the whole way. This is a good bill and keeps our kids safe.
Another major bill passed this week which was House File 2380, the Education Reform bill. However, I could not offer my support on this bill. There are several things that could be changed or added to the bill which would aid in making schools better in Iowa.
The House bill now moves on to the Senate, who also has their own version of an education reform package. I believe the Senate will take this bill up soon, amend it, and send it back to the House, where the final compromises will occur.
In other news, Iowa continues to be a leader in creating and maintaining jobs. This week Iowa Workforce Development announced that Iowa’s unemployment rate dropped to 5.4 percent in the month of January, which is sixth best in the country, and the lowest the state rate has been since April of 2009. This is great news for the state. Although locally our county’s unemployment rate rose to 5.9 percent, the county continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in all of eastern Iowa.