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Statehouse News, March 20, 2014

Guardianship: Last year, I wrote about a young boy who had been separated from the only home (his maternal grandparents) he had ever known when the Department of Human Services became involved in his case and declared him a child in need of assistance since both of his parents were substance abusers. Here is a link to the story: Ben’s story

Legislation that will allow for the current caregivers of a child will be given the option to seek legal guardianship at the dispositional hearing if the parents do not object and the parents agree to forego DHS services (i.e. parenting classes) has been sent to the governor for his signature. I see this as a way to keep children out of the system, provide consistency of care, and allow time for parents to overcome substance abuse, mental health issues and/or mature. If there is a willing/involved family member who is capable of caring for a child, the state should not interfere with this relationship.

Child Care Assistance:  A bill considered in the house this week would make it easier for parents to work and go to the school at the same time. Under current law, a working parent must earn 145% or less of the Federal Poverty Level and may only work OR go to school. These rigid requirements make it difficult for many families to qualify.

Democrats want to offer the program statewide, but Republicans want to expand child care assistance in just four of Iowa’s 99 counties. If hard-working parents want to work and attend school to get a better job, we should do all we can to help them. It shouldn’t matter where they live.

Branstad administration: An investigation by the Des Moines Register this week found the Branstad administration paid $300,000 in taxpayer money to keep settlements with state employees silent.  The Governor denied any knowledge of the situation and has now set up a workgroup that will meet in secret to review the situation. I will be supporting legislation to make it clear that state money is never to be used to hide secrets.

Other News:

  • An anti-bullying bill was approved by the Iowa Senate on a party line vote this week.  It’s unclear if House Republicans will kill the bill again this year like they did last year.
  • A bill to encourage more radon testing in schools has been approved by the both the House and Senate but differences must be ironed out before the bill gets sent to the Governor.
  • After the Kathryn Shepard kidnapping and murder last year, the House has approved stricter penalties for those who kidnap children.
  • Iowa’s high school graduation rate ticked up for the third consecutive year, to 89.68 percent.
  • Iowans with income below $58,000 can file their Iowa taxes for free this year. Go to www.iowa.gov/tax and click on eFile for Free.

Quote of the week: “In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours.”  — Mark Twain