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The fourth week of session was very busy with committee meetings and subcommittee meetings taking up much of the time. The “Funnel “ date of Feb. 21 is looming large in everyone’s mind, as bills must be out of committee by then to move forward.

I have the privilege of serving on the subcommittee for House File 607, the Future Ready Iowa bill (FRI). This bill makes changes to the Future Ready Iowa program that is aimed at increasing Iowa’s skilled workforce. With over 60,000 job openings in Iowa, our employers are in dire need of skilled workers in general. In 2018 the legislature passed the first Future Ready Iowa legislation with the goal for 70 percent of Iowa’s workforce to have education or training beyond high school by 2025. Our Community Colleges are a major part of this effort. The program is working well so far, and this bill intends to build on that success.

The subcommittee for this bill was held on Thursday of this week, we received feedback from the many organizations that have a stake in this program including businesses and educational institutions. One provision in the bill will add a requirement that Computer Science be part of K-12 education in elementary through high school. Currently, nearly two-thirds of our schools have Computer Science courses so the state is well underway, making this a graduation requirement will build on that progress. One concern raised in the subcommittee was whether we had the teaching capacity with knowledge of Computer Science to implement this requirement.

Other provisions in the bill expand the Apprenticeship Training Programs in FRI, creation of an Iowa Child Care Challenge Fund to assist in increasing the Child Care options for working parents, adds a Workforce Diploma Program to help adult Iowans that do not have a high school diploma achieve that goal and then go on to skilled training, and many other improvements to the FRI program. The bill passed the subcommittee with all three members signing off on it, and now goes to the full Commerce Committee.

House File 2203 was introduced this week and assigned a subcommittee to address the “cliff effect” in the child care assistance program. Currently, Iowans are limited in their ability to be successful. Parents receiving Child Care Assistance are actually discouraged to increase take-home pay and encouraged to remain on welfare. The state places a significant child care financial barrier in their way. House Republicans are committed to help Iowans stuck in welfare dependency by allowing them to accept raises or promotions at work due instead being pushed over the welfare cliff. The House Republican proposal extends the financial eligibility to those families receiving Child Care Assistance with a staggered increase in payment from the family to begin preparing them to pay for child care costs.

House File 2004 and its Senate companion SSB 3101, known as “Baylee’s Bill” in honor of Baylee Hess, that calls for Rumble Strips at rural intersections with US and State Highways, has passed the Transportation Committees in both chambers. I hope to bring this bill to the floor shortly after the funnel.

As always, I hope to see you here at the capitol during the session. This is a beautiful building and well worth the time to visit and tour it. I can also have my clerk take constituents up in the capitol dome and out into the cupola overlooking the city.

Author: Dean Fisher