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Iowa’s weather has taken a day out of the Legislature’s schedule.  As I write this on Wednesday afternoon (2/3), forecasts are predicting ice, snow and blizzard conditions for tomorrow.  As a result, committee meetings and subcommittee meetings are being canceled and legislators are heading home to get ahead of the storm. Des Moines forecasts indicate that if we don’t leave tonight we won’t be leaving until Friday at the earliest.

The focus this week was moving bills through subcommittees and committees.  Some minor legislation was approved on the floor on Tuesday.  In the Justice Systems Budget Committee, we heard the Department of Public Safety’s budget presentation on Tuesday and the Public Defender’s office on Wednesday.  I plan to continue to build manpower in the Highway Patrol and the Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI).  Lower trooper numbers continue to hamper highway safety efforts with traffic deaths remaining constant at around 335 per year and the number of excessive speed citations skyrocketing.  Tickets issued by the Highway Patrol for speed in excess of 100MPH were up over 76% last year, totaling over 1,100.  This figure does not count citations by sheriff’s departments and local police. The DCI is under ever-increasing pressure from drug trafficking, human trafficking, and cybercrime. The only solution is more manpower.

COVID has started to be a concern here in the House.

***The newsletter as published originally contained additional information that has since been retracted by Rep. Worthan.***

We are also dealing with a number of bills that were victims of last session’s early recess, due to COVID. There were numerous bills that were ready for floor action or had already passed the Senate and were awaiting action in the House when the Legislature recessed in early March.  Since this is a new General Assembly all these bills had to start over from scratch.  I am in the process of reviving the bill that I authored last year that would create a scheduled fine for impeding traffic by loitering in the far-left lane of a multi-lane highway.  Law enforcement officers that I have talked to believe that would be an excellent tool to improve traffic flow and safety on our interstates and other four lane thoroughfares.

Next week, we should be considering Supplemental State Aid to our K-12 schools along with some other measures to assist districts who have maintained in-person instruction through this school year.  Getting these issues off the table gives us a much clearer path to the remainder of the budget.  I anticipate finishing with budget requests from the departments in the Justice System budget by the end of the month and moving on to crafting a spending plan that uses our tax dollars wisely while meeting the needs of all Iowans.

Plans are still in the works for forums for this month and next.  When arrangements have been finalized we will get the word out as quickly as possible.

Author: Gary Worthan