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This was the fourth week of the legislative session. We continued our work on many important issues in subcommittee and committees, and also had some more floor debate.

One of the bills we discussed was Senate File 231, allowing a person holding a special minor’s driver’s license who resides on a farm or is working on a farm in Iowa to operate a motor vehicle between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. to help with farm work.

We all know Iowa is a rural state, and many teenagers either live on farms or work for farmers – many of you probably grew up helping out on a farm too. Currently, these teenagers can drive a tractor between farms but cannot drive a pickup between farms. This bill makes a common-sense update to this law. These operations are vital to our state’s economy, and this legislation is just one way we can help rural Iowa and make life a little bit easier for hard-working farmers and their families.

Another issue important to rural Iowa is increasing broadband access for all Iowans. This last year has shown us all just how crucial it is to increase access. We saw a number of things we do daily move online, whether it was work, school, or even doctor’s appointments.

A bill discussed this week, SSB 1089 proposed by Governor Reynolds, would amend the broadband facility expansion grant program administered by the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO). The goal is to both help promote investment in facilities that provide high-speed service and ensure it will not quickly be superseded by new technology.

The expansion and improvement of broadband service, particularly in rural and other underserved areas of Iowa, is a priority for the governor, as well as for Senate Republicans. Quality broadband connects are a critical economic development need in many parts of the state. Discussions on this bill have only just begun, and they will continue throughout this session as we work with everyone and talk about how to improve broadband access to rural Iowa.

Author: Tom Shipley