The Courtney Report

Mark your calendars to join in local discussions of STEM .

Community conversations focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and economic development will take place in our area on October 8. All Iowans are invited to attend the hour-long, town hall style meetings. Here are the details:

•12:30 p.m. – Muscatine County STEM Community Conversation at Muscatine Community Schools Administrative Center, 2900 Mulberry Ave.

•3:30 p.m. – Des Moines County STEM Community Conversation at Greater Burlington Partnership’s Winegard Board Room, 610 N 4th St., Suite 200, Burlington.

The goal of the meetings is to get input on what priorities the STEM Advisory Council should focus on as the STEM initiative continues to build across Iowa. The Advisory Council is a public-private partnership that aims to create greater student achievement in science, technology, math and engineering and a stronger STEM workforce.

Local businesses celebrate anniversaries
Southeast Iowa has some long-standing companies that have played an important role in job creation, community development and economic growth over the years. A few in our Senate District are celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2012. Congratulations and a big thank you to:

•CVC Financial – 25 years

•Heartland Corrugated, Inc. – 25 years

•Joanne Plastics, Inc. – 25 years

•Miller Trucking – 25 years

•Rapp, EC Insurance Ltd. – 25 years

•Burlington Wilbert Vault Works, Inc. – 75 years

LEGISLATIVE REVIEW
Keeping state government accountable to Iowans
In a democracy, citizens deserve to know what government is doing and why.

The good news is that Iowans are among America’s most active citizens, with high levels of volunteerism and community involvement. We elect officials to work for us; we want a chance to offer input into government decisions; and we want to know how our tax dollars are spent.

Iowa ranked 7th last year in the nationwide, nonpartisan “State Integrity Investigation,” scoring well on laws dealing with openness and vulnerability to corruption (www.stateintegrity.org). Initiatives we approved during the 2012 session should push Iowa even higher in the rankings by ensuring state government works for you.

This year we built on Iowa’s strong foundation of open, transparent, accountable government by:

• Creating a searchable online database of the state budget so that you can get a look at how your tax dollars are invested to create jobs, improve student achievement and boost quality of life for Iowans throughout the state. (SF 2316)

• Requiring an ongoing, comprehensive review of all state department rules to eliminate those that are outdated, redundant, inconsistent or incompatible, and putting online a searchable database so that Iowans can see what rules are in place. (HF 2465)

• Giving Iowans better access to government information by creating the Iowa Public Information Board to address and resolve complaints related to our state’s open meetings and open records laws. (SF 430)

• Requiring funders of automated “robo-calls” to identify themselves so that Iowans know who is paying for campaign spending, and improving oversight to ensure campaigns are run fairly (SF 2236, SF 2313).

• Urging the U.S. Congress to regulate and restrict unlimited corporate campaign contributions that drown out the voices of living, breathing people. (SR 113)

• Increasing accountability and transparency when your tax dollars and property tax rates are affected by local economic develop projects funded by TIF (tax incremental financing). (HF 2460)

Expanding your right to be informed
About two-thirds of Iowans believe government should be more open in making records available and holding meetings, according to a poll released earlier this year by the Iowa Freedom of Information Council. The same percentage said the Legislature needed to create a board to enforce the public records and public meetings laws.

During the 2012 session, we took that input to heart. Legislators culminated six years of work with concerned Iowans, local governments and news organizations to create the Iowa Public Information Board. This nine-member panel will ensure government is more responsive and transparent than ever by giving Iowans better access to government information and public records.

The Iowa Public Information Board is already meeting and will be fully operational next summer. This Board will provide Iowans and government officials with an efficient and free method to address public information issues without requiring citizens to hire an attorney.

The Board will help government officials comply with Iowa’s open meetings and records laws, and help citizens who have questions or concerns about their rights. It will provide informal assistance, offer mediation and settlement, conduct formal investigations, determine when violations have occurred and levy penalties. What makes Iowa’s Public Information Board exceptional is that it is one of the few state agencies in the country that has the power to enforce laws.

I’ll keep an eye out to make sure the Board gets off to a good start. The Board will report to the Legislature on complaints, proceedings, investigations, hearings, decisions rendered and recommendations for improving public access to government information. To find out more about the Iowa Public Information Board, go here.

To learn about your right to information under the law, check out the Open Meetings, Open Records Handbook from the Iowa Freedom of Information Council.

NEWS YOU CAN USE
Seeking nominations for 2012 Iowa Nonprofit Awards
Iowa’s annual Nonprofit Awards recognize a variety of nonprofit organizations, professionals and volunteers for their efforts to help Iowa communities thrive. Nominations are accepted in several categories and are due September 28. (editor’s  note: the date has past. I am late in posting this newsletter. My apologies.) Winners will be recognized during the Iowa Nonprofit Summit to be held November 7-8 in Des Moines. For more about the Nonprofit Summit, go here.

Online hunter safety course now available on the go
Students who need to complete a hunter safety course to get their Iowa hunting license can now take the first step on their smart phone, tablet or laptop here. The new mobile-ready site features the same state-approved training taught in the classroom through realistic illustrations, interactive animations and a variety of hunter safety videos.

Studying at www.hunter-ed.com/iowa is free. Students who must be certified before buying a hunting license pay a one-time fee, which is due only if they pass the test. After passing the online portion of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources hunter education course, students will need to sign up for the required field day here.

Farm vehicles hauling heavy loads this harvest season
As Iowa’s annual harvest heads to market, the Governor has signed a proclamation allowing oversized and overweight loads of soybeans, corn, hay, straw, silage and stover on Iowa roads. The proclamation took effect on September 4 and expires after 60 days. The Iowa Department of Transportation will monitor the situation to ensure the public’s safety and facilitate the movement of harvest vehicles.

All drivers should use caution during this time. In 2011, Iowa saw a total of 198 crashes involving farm equipment, including seven fatalities and 15 major injuries. You can help keep crashes down this year by:

• Giving your full attention to the driving task.

• Putting additional space between your vehicle and those ahead.

• Being patient; do not assume the equipment operator can move aside to let you pass.

• Slowing down when you see the triangular-shaped, red and fluorescent orange slow-moving vehicle emblem.

Contact Tom
CAPITOL:
Iowa Statehouse
Des Moines, IA 50319
515-281-3371

HOME:
2609 Clearview Drive
Burlington, IA 52601
319-759-5334

tom.courtney@legis.iowa.gov

www.senate.iowa.gov/courtney

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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