State Sen. Jim Carlin (R-Woodbury) has plenty of ideas to push entering the 2020 legislative session.
“This particular year, I probably have more proposals going in than I ever have before,” he said. “I think some of them are going to be pretty innovative and at least get some conversations started. So I’m very optimistic.”
Carlin was named the chair of the Senate Veteran Affairs committee. He did some research and found that the Veterans Trust Fund had about $30 million in it but on that $30 million, they’ve only realized a 2 percent return, which gave about $600,000 in discretionary spending towards home ownership assistance programs and helping veterans with special needs or challenges.
“I’ve asked them to contact the Treasurer’s office and look into how exactly that money is being invested,” he said. “Particularly in light of IPERS I think netting over 7 percent last year. If you’ve got $30 million to work with, you can certainly get a better return on investment than 2 percent.”
Carlin said if they could get anywhere near the IPERS level of return, it would triple the amount of spending they could offer in some veterans programs.
“One of the realities is we ran out of money for the home owners assistance program in May last year,” he said.
In addition, Carlin said recent news in the state of Iowa, he is going to propose allowing family members to have some form of video monitoring in nursing homes.
“If a family member wanted to check in on their mom or dad in a nursing home, it would allow them to do that,” he said. “In light of some of the things we’ve seen come out in the news, I think it’s reasonable. I think it also provides something of a safeguard to ensure that people are taken care of properly.”
He has a criminal justice reform bill for inmates who are serving out life sentences because they were co-conspirators in the commission of a felony crime, and during the commission of that felony crime, one of their co-conspirators murdered somebody.
“There are people in Iowa’s prison system right now who are serving out life sentences because they were co-conspirators in the commission of a felony crime and during the commission of that felony crime one of their co-conspirators murdered somebody without them ever thinking that would happen,” Carlin said. “I just think the punishment ought to fit the crime.”
Carlin does a book club at a prison in Iowa where he’s met some people serving life sentences.
“You hear some of their stories and they’re serving out life for a murder somebody else committed,” he said. “I’m not talking about robbing liquor stores where people know people are going to get killed or whatever. I’m not talking about that. “It’s a limited instance where there’s an unforeseen murder that could not have been anticipated and the inmate would serve out at least 25 years on their term before being given consideration for this.”
Corrections people and the warden would have to believe the individual is a good candidate for consideration of being on parole, Carlin said.
“Otherwise, the only way they’re going to get considered for early release is commutation from the Governor’s office,” he said.
Iowa ranks second to last nationally in breastfeeding participation, Carlin said. He is interested in doing a breastfeeding initiative.
“Studies have shown that there is a reduction in children in the autism spectrum from breastfeeding,” he said. “That children who are breastfed are far more resistant to disease, their cognitive development numbers are better and their mental health is better.”
A potential solution, he said, needs to be done carefully.
“There are breastmilk sharing platforms out there,” he said. “Maine has a very well thought-out platform for the sharing of breast milk that meets the criteria necessary to ensure that the milk being shared is safe. This is already being talked about. It’s not something new, but the implications are so significant, we can’t ignore it. When you look at the incidence of mental health and autism in Iowa, and how those numbers have really gone up substantially, this might be one of those lynchpin issues that can correct at least some of those problems.”
Finally, he said the state should consider a sales tax credit for local food banks. Food banks in Sioux City provide 57,000 meals through backpack lunches every year, he said. In the state, it is millions. And that doesn’t include food provided for seniors, which are one of the highest participating demographics in food banks.
“They’re doing that much to serve our community, I think we could at the very least give them a sales tax credit,” he said. “Obviously, the food doesn’t have sales tax, but the infrastructure — the forklifts, the pallets, the desks, the computers, the software — all those things have sales tax that could otherwise be used to buy food to serve. For a lot of kids, that’s what they get on the weekend. At least this way you know they’re going to get some food.”