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Statehouse News, September 24, 2014

September 24, 2014

Re-Vitalizing Rural Iowa
Iowa's Community Colleges Provides Good Economic Return
Help for First Time Farmers
High School Students Encouraged to Apply to be Legislative Pages
Crime Victim Assistance Division Receives Praise from House Oversight Committee
Cannabidiol Committee Makes Recommendations to Take Next Steps
Individual Disaster Assistance Available
Updates with the Iowa Department of Transportation
University of Iowa Opens Diabetes Research Center

Re-Vitalizing Rural Iowa

Over the last 50 years, many rural communities have experienced a significant decline in population. We all must work together to re-populate rural Iowa and capitalize on the strengths of rural communities to create good jobs and improve the quality of life.

Statistics show that students with access to broadband in their homes are 6-8% more likely to graduate. Expanding access to broadband and Wi-Fi for homes, schools, and businesses in under-served and un-served areas may not only be beneficial to students but also expand access to quality health care.

With rural Iowa facing a shortage of physicians and other health care professionals, many Iowans have difficulty accessing specialty care. More steps need to be taken to increase access to health care for rural Iowans directly or through technology.

Other ways to strengthen our rural areas include: ensuring 1st time farmers have the resources and support to be successful; making sure rural communities under 20,000 people get their share of state resources and have access to education and job training so every child has the opportunity to learn; repairing Iowa’s crumbling infrastructure, including roads and bridges; and encouraging more production and consumption of locally grown foods.

Iowa's Community Colleges Provides Good Economic Return

A new report shows community college career and technical education programs provide a good economic return for Iowans earning a degree. The "Iowa Community Colleges Education Outcomes Report" links employment and wage information with students who earned diplomas, certificates and associate degrees from Iowa’s community colleges from the 2010 to the 2012 fiscal years.

Among the report’s findings:

  • An overwhelming majority of community college students found employment within a year of graduation. For example, 99% of students who received an Associate of Applied Science in nursing were employed within a year and earned a median annual wage of $44,000.
  • The vast majority of Iowa community college students stayed in Iowa the first year after graduation (86%). More than half continued their education at an Iowa college, while more than 34% joined the workforce.
  • The two-year completion rate was 57% for students in diploma programs and 62% for students in certificate programs.

There are 123 community college campuses or centers around the state where Iowans can access education or job training. They work with local businesses to find out the skills employers need and then help train workers to fill those job openings. Community colleges have also partnered with over 200 local high schools so students can access training and skills before they graduate from high school.

Help for First Time Farmers

Iowans wanting to get into agriculture must overcome numerous hurdles. In order to keep Iowa’s agricultural economy strong, we must ensure that first time farmers have the resources and support they need to be successful.

In 2013, Iowa had 88,500 farms averaging 346 acres. According to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) statistics, the trend is that Iowa is losing farms while the size in acres is steadily increasing.

According to Iowa’s Beginning Farmer Center, the average age of farmers has been increasing and now two-thirds of Iowa farmers are over 50. They note this increase is a result of minimal incentives to encourage young farmers to enter into the profession and reluctance on the part of existing farmers to retire.

Also, high land prices are an issue for beginning farmers and those wanting to expand. The Beginning Farmer Center notes that the percent of farmland owned by people over the age of 65 is increasing and will likely continue to do so.

The Iowa Beginning Farmer Center is a joint effort of the Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and ISU Extension and Outreach, which deliver the Center’s programs and activities. Created in 1994 by the Iowa Legislature, the goal of the center is to provide resources to our next generation of farmers.

High School Students Encouraged to Apply to be Legislative Pages

The Iowa Legislature is looking for high school students to learn more about the legislative process by applying to serve as a Legislative Page in the Iowa House of Representatives for the 2015 Legislative Session.

Legislative Pages provide invaluable assistance to representatives and staff by running errands, delivering messages, and distributing bills and amendments. Pages also “staff” committee meetings and help the chairperson by handing out materials during the meetings. Pages will work with staff and representatives in the Iowa State Capitol building.

The Iowa House Chief Clerk’s office will be accepting applications until Friday, October 3, 2014. Guidelines to the program:

  • Must be 16 years of age by January 12, 2015
  • Work hours are Monday 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; normally no work on Fridays
  • Some nights will be later when the Legislature adjourns after 4:45 p.m.
  • Applications are accepted for the Senate, House, or Legislative Services Agency
  • Uniforms are provided
  • Living arrangements are unsupervised and must be found on your own
  • Students are responsible for transportation to and from the State Capitol
  • This is a paid position. Some excused absences may be permitted
  • Student is expected to be able to handle any school responsibilities
  • Parental permission is required to participate in this program

Applications must be filled out at https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/lsaReports/pageInfo/PageApplication.pdf and returned to the Iowa House at Chief Clerk’s Office, Iowa House of Representatives, Statehouse, Des Moines, IA 50319. For more information call (515) 281-5383 or email megan.van.wyk@legis.iowa.gov.

Crime Victim Assistance Division Receives Praise from House Oversight Committee

The House Government Oversight Committee met to hear from the Crime Victim Assistance Division (CVAD) of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. At the meeting, representatives from CVAD discussed how their division oversees both state and federal grants that are awarded to social service programs. And specifically, social service programs that provide services to victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse as well as prevention.

These programs must apply to CVAD for the grant money and then the programs are reimbursed on a monthly basis. Beginning with fiscal year 2015 (July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015) CVAD is requiring the programs to use uniform reimbursement forms, receive prior authorization from both their supervisor/director and CVAD for out-of-state travel, and reimburse only at the state mileage rate. Because each program is autonomous from CVAD, they each have their own board of directors which provides oversight to their program and makes decisions regarding policies such as travel and pay for each employee.

Members of the House Oversight Committee responded favorably after learning of the new requirements that began with FY 2015, and congratulated CVAD for their successful transition to a regionalization approach in providing services. CVAD reported that with this new regionalization model, plus the increased funding in state aid, they have been able to fund 130 additional advocates across the state. This new approach is able to provide mobile advocacy and wrap-around services for victims. More sexual assault victims are receiving services because the programs are in key entry points such as college campuses.

Cannabidiol Committee Makes Recommendations to Take Next Steps

On September 11, the Legislature’s Cannabidiol Implementation Study Committee met and heard testimony from state agencies regarding the adoption and implementation of administrative rules, and from medical professionals and family members of patients with intractable epilepsy. The charge of the committee was to monitor the implementation of the legislation, consider whether the new law is helping the people that it is supposed to be helping, and review the University of Iowa’s research study.

The legislation that passed into law, Senate File 2630, decriminalized the possession of cannabidiol oil that contains up to 3% of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) for patients that have been diagnosed with intractable epilepsy, and their caregivers. These persons are limited to no more than 32 ounces of the cannabidiol (CBD) in their possession and they must, in coordination with an Iowa neurologist, apply to the Department of Public Health for approval to receive a CBD registration card. This CBD card will be printed by the Department of Transportation.

The Departments of Public Health and Transportation (DPH and DOT) testified that they are in the process of finalizing administrative rules which lay out the details regarding how a patient or their caregiver(s) can apply to DPH for the CBD card. The DPH testified that January 30, 2015, is a likely date as to when the departments will be ready to issue cards, but DPH stated they will be accepting applications before that date.

Family members of patients with intractable epilepsy testified that while Iowa’s legislation decriminalized the possession of the medicine, it didn’t address how patients would be able to obtain the medicine. According to information from the Epilepsy Foundation, 34 states have passed some form of medical cannabis legislation, but only Oregon allows for out-of-state residents to legally access the CBD. This creates a severe hardship for patients, who under Iowa law, would be allowed to possess the CBD. Medical professionals testified that it is hard to speak about dosage amounts because the CBD would need to come from a regulated producer that has also undergone doubleblind testing. Numerous caregivers and concerned citizens asked that the Legislature consider taking the next step and provide oversight for the growth and distribution of CBD.

The committee members voted to reclassify marijuana from a schedule I to a schedule II controlled substance. This reclassification would recognize that it has some medicinal value. The members also voted to have the Legislature further investigate the concerns regarding access, standardization, and legalization of CBD, as well as to develop a regulated program to produce, process, and dispense CBD without being taxed.

Individual Disaster Assistance Available

Recently, more counties were declared disaster areas due to storms earlier this month. The declaration makes residents affected by the storms within the affected counties eligible for state assistance.

Below is a list of most recent eligible counties and the dates that the applications for reimbursement are due.

  • Clarke County - Application deadline October 13
  • Union County - Application deadline October 31
  • Adair, Guthrie, Ringgold and Warren Counties - Application deadline November 3
  • Appanoose and Madison Counties – Application deadline November 6

Iowa’s Individual Assistance (IA) Program provides up to $5,000 in reimbursements for damage incurred for families whose income is at or below twice the federal poverty level. Grants are available for home or car repairs, replacement of clothing or food, and for the expense of temporary housing. Original receipts are required for those seeking reimbursement for actual expenses related to storm recovery. The program is administered by the Iowa Department of Human Services.

People can get the applications by visiting http://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs, or calling 1-866-434-4692, Monday through Friday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. Completed applications should be returned to the local Community Action Association, http://www.iowacommunityaction.org/community_resources/index.cfm.

In addition, if you are in need of disaster crisis counseling, please call the Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985 and find more information here: http://dhs.iowa.gov/disaster-assistance-programs. The hotline is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Updates with the Iowa Department of Transportation

Thanks to the Iowa Legislature’s increase in funding for recreational trails, the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) Commission is recommending $5.5 million in grants be awarded to 12 recreational trail projects throughout Iowa. One project will connect 200 miles of trails and completes a trail system that runs from Iowa City to Cedar Falls.

Other trail projects recommended include a trail in the Jewell and Ellsworth area, a trail from Pikes Peak Road to Guttenberg on the Mississippi River Trail, and money to restore the SW Fifth Jackson Street Bridge in Des Moines. The 12 projects will be voted for approval at the October meeting of the Transportation Commission.

Also at the September meeting, the Commission approved $4.6 million for the State Aviation Program. This includes projects at 21 airports throughout Iowa that provides funding for safety, planning, and airport development projects.

For commuters in the Iowa City to Cedar Rapids Corridor area, the DOT is looking for input. As part of a study to examine commuting throughout Linn, Johnson, Benton, Washington, Iowa, Jones, and Cedar Counties, the DOT is asking Iowans how far they commute to work, about their concerns with parking or fuel costs, and opinions on a service between the two cities. To complete the survey, go to http://smgs.us/3jt5, which will be open through October 12. The Iowa Commuter Transportation Study was a request by the Iowa Legislature.

University of Iowa Opens Diabetes Research Center

The University of Iowa has opened a cutting edge research center focused on diabetes. Housed in the new Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building, the Fraternal Order of Eagles Diabetes Research is poised to be on the forefront of diabetes research and to make significant advances in diabetes research in the next decade.

The center has assembled a dream team of diverse and talented scientists to work at the center. Their current research includes a study of a new hormone called FGF-21, which may be more potent than insulin in terms of improving blood glucose and metabolism. Also, it is known that one of the problems with diabetes is that the liver overproduces glucose. Through their studies, doctors at the center have identified a new protein in the liver that regulates that process.

According to the center's director, Dr. E Dale Abel, one in 12 Americans has diabetes, and one in five Americans is at high-risk of contracting diabetes. He says it is estimated that if trends continue in the next 20 years, 50 to 60 million people in America will develop diabetes or nearly one-third of the US population. The Iowa Department of Public Health has reported more cases of diabetes have been diagnosed in the state in recent years, mirroring national trends; the rate of diagnosed diabetes cases among adults in Iowa has doubled since 1991.

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