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Expanding broadband has been discussed by legislators and the Governor even before we convened in January. With more and more Iowans working from home, and engaging in other activities from home, it has become more important than ever to try to give all Iowans access. The Senate has passed House File 848 that amends the broadband facility expansion grant program to allow the state to bring high speed broadband to more Iowans. Iowa is currently behind much of the rest of the nation in broadband accessibility. A goal is to expand broadband to underserved areas by matching taxpayer money with private funds to make expansion affordable. New minimum service speeds are established. Funding for the broadband expansion program will be provided in a budget bill. The bill now goes to the Governor for her signature.                                                          

Free Speech

We also passed House File 744 to protect free speech at universities and K-12 schools. The bill addresses concerns that we have heard from students at Iowa universities and schools. The bill prohibits retaliation against any member of the school district or university community, who files a complaint. It requires a disciplinary hearing if a faculty member intentionally restricts protected speech. It requires first amendment training for members of the campus community. The bill requires school boards to establish policies protecting all students and staff from violations of their free speech rights. A school district employee who violates the first amendment rights of a student, is subject to a hearing before the Board of Educational Examiners.

Tracking Rape Evidence Kits

I guided Senate File 451 through the Senate. It sets up an automated sex abuse evidence collection kit tracking system in the Attorney General’s Crime Victim Assistance Division. The bill allows victims, county attorneys, and other entities with custody of a test kit to track it. The kits will come from the State Criminalistics Lab, and health care providers will be required to use them. Providers, along with labs and law enforcement personnel, are required to document the locations of the kits within specific times. The kit will be coded, and is not to contain information that would identify the victim. A victim may request test results and track their kit anonymously, and receive updates. Victims must be notified before the kit is disposed of. These are horrendous crimes and we need to do all we can to see that the perpetrators are successfully prosecuted. The bill passed unanimously.

Author: Julian Garrett