The Courtney Report

Courtney Report
The 21st century economy needs workers with postsecondary credentials and the ability to adapt to changing business needs. Apprenticeship programs prepare thousands of workers to fit that bill every year.

Apprenticeships can help Iowans train in a trade, improve their skills and get better-paying work. They are a proven way to prepare employees for a variety of occupations through a combination of supervised on-the-job training and technical classroom studies.

It’s estimated that by 2018, 62 percent of all jobs in Iowa — that’s 1.1 million jobs — will require some training or education beyond high school. By investing in apprenticeships and job training, we can ensure local employers have the skilled workers they need, while helping Iowans qualify for more rewarding careers that can build a better life for their families.

Over the years, Iowa’s Apprenticeship Program has funded efforts to help Iowans boost their skills. In 2013, Iowa had 662 registered apprenticeship programs with more than 8,100 registered apprentices. Apprenticeships can lead to work in such industries as construction, manufacturing, transportation, telecommunications, information technology, biotechnology, retail, health care, utilities and more.
The Iowa Senate recently approved SF 2353 to improve the state’s Apprenticeship Program and increase funding to a total of $6 million for apprenticeships and specific worker training efforts at our community colleges. The amount of funding each business receives for the training they provide depends on the total number of businesses involved, the number of apprentices served and the hours of training.

To learn more about apprenticeship opportunities in Iowa for employers and individuals, go to www.iowaworkforce.org/apprenticeship.

HELP FOR IOWANS IN TIME OF NEED
A core Iowa value is taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. That’s why the Iowa Senate voted April 21 for a Health & Human Services Budget that will improve the safety and quality of life for Iowa seniors, children and others who look to us for help.

House File 2463
, as amended by the Senate, reverses Governor Branstad’s veto last year that stopped the hiring of two ombudsmen to protect the rights of seniors in nursing facilities. Iowa currently has only half the number of long-term care ombudsmen recommended in national best-practice standards.

Our Health & Human Services budget also provides state funding for local elder abuse support services for the first time. In addition, it will be easier for seniors to get the services needed to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving to expensive nursing facilities.

Every Iowan will benefit from a boost in funding to emergency medical service (EMS) providers. HF 2463 provides additional money for EMS training and an increase in the amount the state pays through the Medicaid program for local ambulance and other emergency services. Iowa’s rates are among the lowest in the country and significantly below those paid by private health insurance. Some Iowa communities will be in danger of losing EMS services if providers are unable to recoup their costs.

The Senate’s Health & Human Services Budget also helps children and at-risk Iowans by:

• Expanding childcare assistance to more parents who are working part time while getting professional training or continuing education.

• Improving the lives of children and adults by increasing at-home access to specialized health and support services.

• Reestablishing a State Training School at Toledo to provide necessary help and care for Iowa’s most troubled young girls.

• Protecting Iowa’s redesigned mental health services by fully funding state commitments.

The House and Senate have begun meeting to discuss differences in our proposals and negotiate a final Health & Human Services Budget that will best help those in need.


PROTECTING SENIORS FROM ABUSE & EXPLOITATION

Across the country, thousands of older Americans face abuse, neglect and exploitation every year. Many of these older victims are particularly vulnerable because they depend on others to help them with the most basic activities of daily living.

Senate Democrats have worked this session to establish a comprehensive system to prevent elder abuse, provide community support, offer legal options when intervention is necessary, and prosecute those who commit elder abuse. These items were included in SF 2239, which the Senate passed unanimously on March 4. When the Iowa House took up the bill, however, they removed elder abuse support and intervention services that would have been provided in local communities by the Aging & Disability Resource Centers.

Fortunately, there is still time to make progress. The Senate has now approved an amendment to SF 2239 that defines elder abuse and financial exploitation of an elder, allows victims of elder abuse to secure protective orders to stop the abuse, and authorizes criminal penalties for financial exploitation.

This will build on protections approved earlier this session in the Uniform Power of Attorney Act, which has already been signed into law. According to Iowa AARP, it is the most important thing we can do to fight financial abuse of elders.

SF 2168 specifically addresses financial exploitation of Iowa seniors, which often occurs at the hands of family members or caretakers. Based on recommendations of Iowa’s Elder Abuse Task Force, the Iowa Uniform Power of Attorney Act will help prevent and detect power of attorney abuse.

Many seniors give a power of attorney to someone they trust so that person can make financial decisions on their behalf, including managing their money, paying their bills and purchasing necessities. Power of attorney is exercised responsibly among most Iowans. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence of unethical people who prey on vulnerable seniors, stealing from them and abusing their power.


MORE SUNSHINE NEEDED IN STATE GOVERNMENT

The Government Oversight Committee in the Senate has approved Senate Study Bill 3221, a thoughtful response to recent revelations of hush money payments in employee settlements, questionable hiring practices and the treatment of whistleblowers.

Bipartisan investigations have revealed serious shortcomings in state government accountability. Our goal is to craft a comprehensive response that gets to the root of what we’ve learned so far. SSB 3221 will:

• Ban secret settlements and hush money payments in all of state government.

• Expand protections for state employees and others who blow the whistle on wrongful activity.

• Require the State Auditor to investigate previous secret settlements.

• Prevent no-bid contracts on state jobs.

• Outlaw cronyism in hiring state employees.

• Mandate disclosure of state worker bonuses.

• Restrict, reform and establish due process in the use of the state “do-not-hire” database.

This legislation makes sense because our constituents are telling us that state government needs more sunshine, more accountability, more whistleblower protections and a solid rededication to clean government.

SENATE TAKES FIRST STEPS TO LIMIT USE OF DRONES
To address growing concerns by Iowans over the potential misuse of unmanned aerial vehicles — also known as drones — the Iowa Senate approved legislation to restrict their use by law enforcement agencies.

As amended, House File 2289 would protect the privacy of our citizens while providing law enforcement the tools necessary to gather evidence in a responsible manner. Specifically, the legislation would prohibit the use of drones by law enforcement for traffic enforcement. The bill does allow a law enforcement agency to use a drone to gather admissible evidence for a criminal or civil case only after securing a warrant or if its efforts are consistent with state and federal laws.

In addition, the legislation requires the Iowa Department of Public Safety to convene a group, including state and local entities, to determine whether the Iowa criminal code should be modified to regulate the use of drones, and to develop model guidelines for their use.


TACKLING UNDERAGE DRINKING IN IOWA

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, a good time to learn more about the dangers of underage drinking.

Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among youth nationally and in Iowa. Sixteen percent of eighth graders in Iowa report drinking alcohol before turning 13 years old, and more than one in four high school juniors have consumed alcohol in the last 30 days.

In 2012, more than 200 Iowans under the age of 18 were convicted of operating while intoxicated when they drove after drinking. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens. About a quarter of those accidents involve an underage drinking driver.

Teens that drink are more likely to:

• Die in a car crash

• Get pregnant

• Flunk out of school

• Be sexually assaulted

• Become an alcoholic later in life

• Commit suicide

To help tackle these concerns, the Legislature approved “social host” legislation this session.

Although it is currently illegal to provide alcohol to anyone under 21, it is not against the law to host a party for underage drinkers on your property if you don’t provide the alcohol. Many cities and counties have ordinances that prohibit hosting parties for underage drinkers, but state law has not prohibited it.

That’s why the Senate recently passed SF 2310, which sends a message that it is not OK for adults to host underage drinking parties. Adults who allow kids under 18 to consume or possess alcohol on their property will pay a $200 penalty for the first offense and a $500 penalty for a second or subsequent offense.

For parents who believe that teen drinking is inevitable, Mothers Against Drunk Driving has advice and resources that will help you talk to your children and grandchildren about the dangers of drinking. Learn more at www.madd.org/underage-drinking.

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

http://www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/courtney

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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