Iowa Statehouse News

And now for a quick break from all-Trump-all-the-time media coverage.

It’s a good idea to subscribe to your legislator’s newsletter. This is from Mary Mascher, State Representative, Iowa House District 86.

September 25, 2019

Great Iowa Treasure Hunt; Do You Have Unclaimed Money?
Demand Remains High for New Blackout License Plates
Iowa Moves Forward on School Bus Seat Belts
Grants Available to Expand Broadband Access
Flood Mitigation Board Approves New Assistance
Public Hearings Set on Use of Seclusion Rooms in Schools
Waterfowl Hunting Changes


Great Iowa Treasure Hunt; Do You Have Unclaimed Money?

Every year, there are millions of dollars turned into the State Treasurer’s office as lost or abandoned property. This property comes in the form of safe deposit box items, dormant financial accounts, unclaimed utility refunds, uncashed checks, and stock certificates and dividends.

The State Treasurer’s office becomes the holder of these assets until the missing owner can be found. Owners are located through mailings, publications, and listings that are displayed at the Iowa State Fair. There is no time limit to file a claim, and there is no fee assessed once the property or money has been returned the owner.

To date, the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt program has returned over $267 million in unclaimed property to more than 592,000 people since Treasurer Fitzgerald created it in 1983.

To see if you have unclaimed property or money visit: https://greatiowatreasurehunt.gov.


Demand Remains High for New Blackout License Plates

With nearly 20,000 plates sold since first becoming available July 1, the demand for Iowa’s new blackout license plates still remains high. The black and white plates, approved during the 2019 Legislative Session, sold quickly with most counties running out or running low in the initial month after their release.

Iowans are able to exchange any plates for non-personalized blackout license plates at local county treasurer’s offices, which saves the two- to three-week order processing time if the plates are ordered online or by mail. The new blackout license plates will not have the same letter/number combination as your current plates.

If you currently have a personalized plate and would like to switch your personalized message from that plate to the new blackout plate design, you will need to complete the mail in form found at https://iowadot.gov/mvd/vehicleregistration/vehicleregistration/plates/blackout.

The blackout plates are considered a specialty plate, so they are subject to an additional fee. The new plate will cost $35 for a non-personalized, alpha-numeric plate and an additional $25 (for a total of $60) for a personalized plate. An additional fee of $10 for non-personalized and $15 for personalized plates will be added to renewal registration fees.

Funds collected for the blackout plate will go to the Road Use Tax Fund, which funds state, county, and city road and bridge projects throughout Iowa.


Iowa Moves Forward on School Bus Seat Belts

A final approval was given that would require new school bus purchases starting October 2nd to be equipped with 3-point shoulder belts. Agreed to by the Iowa Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee, this new rule is aimed to reduce whiplash in a crash and also save lives in a roll-over situation while students are on a school bus.

The rules did not include a requirement for fire suppression systems, something that the National Transportation Safety Board concluded was a factor in the Oakland Iowa school bus crash that killed the driver and one student.

Crash test demonstration on school bus seat belts by the Iowa Public Transportation Association can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TJZe7Ost_A.

The multiple requirements include the following:

    • • School districts to document that bus evacuation drills are being done twice a year, as required by law.

• More safety equipment on buses, including 3-point shoulder belts, reflectors and an additional stop arm at the back of the bus to help prevent drivers from passing stopped buses.

• Inspections will include all school vehicles used to take students to and from activities. Currently smaller vehicles are used to transport a small group of students for an extracurricular activity. They often travel much greater distances to an event compared to a school bus, but yet are not currently inspected.

• Allowing school districts to increase school bus ride time (currently 75 min. one-way for high school and 60 min. for elementary) by 15 min. if they have a public hearing. The longer bus rides will likely affect elementary kids the greatest due to longer rides without a break.


Grants Available to Expand Broadband Access

Grants are now available to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas of the state. Applications will be accepted through October 18, 2019 and $5 million in total grant money is available.

Up to 15% of project costs for broadband expansion into Targeted Service Areas are available. Private selector service providers or public sector entities are eligible for the grants. New maps for eligible areas were recently released by the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

The grants are made available as part of the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program. Legislation expanding the Empower Rural Iowa grants was passed by the legislature this year on a bipartisan, unanimous vote, this year.

Additional information on the grant process and applications can be found at https://ocio.iowa.gov/notice-funding-availability-002. Updated maps showing targeted areas for the grant funding can be found at https://ocio.iowa.gov/broadband-availability-map-version-2.


Flood Mitigation Board Approves New Assistance

As the third round of flooding wreaks havoc on the western side of Iowa, the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board has approved $15 million to buy out homes damaged by the floods and repair levees. Some communities such as Hamburg, Hornick, and Pacific Junction received some state funds, but did not receive all the money it asked for.

Earlier this spring the Missouri River went over its banks and over levees, destroying homes and farm fields throughout western Iowa. Even though the board allocated $15 million, some projects and needs were not met, such as a project in Muscatine County as well as a levee project on the Missouri River.

Last Legislative Session, the Legislature created the Flood Recovery Fund under the control of the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board. The Flood Recovery Fund includes money appropriated from the General Assembly, as well as other money available to be developed in the fund. For a project to be eligible for funding, it has to support flood response, flood recovery, or flood mitigation activities.


Public Hearings Set on Use of Seclusion Rooms in Schools

Six meetings to gather public input on proposed revisions to rules regarding the use of seclusion rooms in schools will be held by the Iowa Department of Education (DE) from Sept. 24 through Oct. 3.

Proposed revisions to Iowa Administrative Code chapter 281-103 (“Chapter 103”) were voted down by the State Board of Education in August so that more feedback can be collected on some parts of the proposed rules, including seclusion room requirements, parent notification, and the term “serious physical injury.” The rewrite of the rules was requested by a petition filed by the ACLU and parents of children that were placed in seclusion rooms for an excessive amount of time.

The public input meetings will run from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dates and locations are as follows:

Tuesday, September 24
Green Hills Area Education Agency – Creston
Conference Room
257 Swan St., Creston

Wednesday, September 25
Heartland Area Education Agency – Johnston
Conference Room 152A,152B, and 152C
6500 Corporate Drive, Johnston

Thursday, September 26
Grant Wood Area Education Agency – Cedar Rapids
Winter/Spring Room
1120 33rd Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

Tuesday, October 1
Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency – Pocahontas
North and South Twin Lakes Conference Rooms
500 NE 6th St., Pocahontas

Wednesday, October 2
Central Rivers Area Education Agency – Cedar Falls
Conference Room B
1521 Technology Parkway, Cedar Falls

Thursday, October 3
Ottumwa Community School District
Media Center
812 Chester Ave, Ottumwa

For more information about the meetings, contact tana.mullen@iowa.gov. Written comments about the rules may be emailed to nicole.proesch@iowa.gov.


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2 Responses to Iowa Statehouse News

  1. C.A. says:

    That is very good news about buying out houses damaged by floods instead of offering repair/rebuild funding. It’s time to step up our removal of vulnerable structures and activities from flood plains. A river’s flood plain is part of the river and is called a flood plain because it, um, floods.

    And the flood plain is part of the river even though it isn’t always flooded. No one is dumb enough to say “I think we should allow the building of houses on the shoulders of highways because most of the time, the shoulders are empty and just sitting there.” And it’s time to take a much harder look at how much tax money we should spend to try to protect private farmland in flood plains, especially since we’re already heavily subsidizing crop insurance.

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  2. C.A. says:

    And if your own state legislator’s newsletter just depresses and/or enrages you (sympathies, I’ve been there), you might try also subscribing to a newsletter from a state legislator that will make you feel better, not worse. If you are green-minded,I recommend the newsletter of Chuck Isenhart.

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