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 Statehouse News

Hello everyone in House District 82,

I’m writing this message to you on Wednesday evening, August 8th.  One year ago on Tuesday, August 8th you elected me to be your state representative.  I filled an open seat that was created when Curt Hanson passed away in June 2017.  It is a privilege to serve you.  It has been a very humbling experience.

Curt Hanson was my friend. While I was on the Fairfield School Board we often met and talked about how important public education is to the state of Iowa.  I would have to say that public education is my passion.  I’m a product of Iowa public education, I attended and graduated from English Valley in Keokuk County and then attended and graduated from Iowa State University.  My parent’s generation and my grandparent’s generation invested in my public education. 

I know all of us want to continue the legacy of good schools in Iowa. I think public education needs to be prioritized as the most important area of funding in Iowa’s state government.  In our House District 82 most school systems have stable to declining enrollment. Certified enrollment of a school district determines how much money can be spent.  For eight years there has been little to no growth of new money per student going to school districts across Iowa.  I will continue to be a strong voice in the next legislative session to bring school appropriations up to where they should be.

School transportation costs were addressed in the last session. Some school districts spend more money than others to transport their students to school.  Students in Davis County, Van Buren County and Jefferson County spend more time on a school bus than kids in urban areas.  This costs more money.  A bill passed that buys down transportation costs to the state average for districts with a large geographic footprint.  This legislation is only for one year.  I think this help should be permanent. 

I’ve been receiving constituent questions about the size of the deer herd in our area.  They seem to be everywhere.  I contacted the DNR about last years’ harvest.  Last fall hunters were successful in thinning the deer population in House District 82 by 6,046.  Van Buren County had 2794, Davis County had 1800 and Jefferson County had 1452 deer taken by resident and non-resident licensed hunters.  If you are a land owner and have a specific problem with the deer population we can reach out to the Depredation Program Biologist at the DNR for possible help.  The deer population can vary greatly from farm to farm and tends to also vary in local areas throughout the year.

Finally I would like you to know that I visited the Iowa Flood Center on the campus at the University of Iowa about the installation of weather stations in the three counties I represent.  We are currently in communication with the state climatologist and the Drought Monitor about using precipitation data from the weather stations.  The stations are state-of-the-art hydrologic sensors that measure precipitation, temperature, soil moisture and more.  They are powered by a solar panel.  They use cell phone technology for data transmission every 15 minutes.  Accurate and timely weather data is very important for all.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you in the Iowa House. I look forward to hearing from you.

State Representative Phil Miller

News from the Statehouse

Students Head Back to Classroom; Some Reforms Coming Next Year

As students return to the classroom starting on August 23rd this year, most local school budgets faced another year of belt tightening.  While state revenues grew by 4.9% over last year, Republican lawmakers increased state funding by just 1% this year, which is well below the cost of inflation.  This makes eight of the last nine years of record low K-12 funding approved by the current legislative leadership.

Districts this year with the highest transportation costs will be provided assistance, but not long-term funding.  Since some rural districts have a small number of students but geographically cover hundreds of square miles, they spend a large amount of their budget on transportation costs instead of in the classroom.  They will have to wait until next year for a possible long-term solution.

Many of the significant reforms passed this legislative session will also not be effective until next year as well.  This includes suicide prevention training, concussion protocols, and school emergency operation plans to address school safety.  Those trainings and protocols are not required to be in place until next school year.  

Despite low performing online pilot programs, the current Legislative leadership chose to expand online learning.  The bill allows any school district to provide online courses through a private provider.  Students are allowed to open enroll with no cap on the number of students, however, students and parents have until March 1, 2019 to open enroll to a different district for next school year. 

School Lunch Food Shaming

One bi-partisan piece of legislation going into effect this year was the elimination of school lunch “food shaming”.  Iowa became the ninth known state at the time to pass a law protecting children for being disciplined for not having sufficient funds in their school lunch accounts.   

Under the bill, the following actions are no longer being allowed as these actions humiliate or “shame” a student because they cannot pay for the meal, including the following; 1) Requiring the student to consume the meal at a table set aside for students who owe a meal debt; 2) Having a student discard a meal after it has been served; 3) Requiring a student to wear a wrist band, hand stamp, or other identifying marks, or do chores or work to pay for their meal;  and 4) Denying participation in afterschool program or other extracurricular activities.

Voting Restrictions in Limbo after Court Ruling  
Saying it interferes with Iowans’ right to vote, a district court put a hold on new controversial early voting restrictions and misleading advertising by the Iowa Secretary of State.

The court blocked provisions of the legislation that included shortening the early voting period and increased regulations on absentee ballot requests. Voters will still be asked to show an ID in the November election but are not required to have one in order to vote.

The district court ruled that the state’s argument of providing more integrity to Iowa’s election fell flat because it failed to prove the “threat” that these new regulations would have solved.  The case was brought to court by an Iowa State student and the League of United Latin American Citizens. The ruling by the District Court has been appealed by the Secretary of State and will be heard by the Iowa Supreme Court on August 9th.

In 2016 there was one case of voter impersonation fraud in Iowa, when a woman voted twice at the polls for then candidate Donald Trump and was caught. 

Read More News from the Statehouse

Trump Tariff Fight Escalates
College Tuition Rates Rise Again
Hunting and Fishing Licenses Increasing     
Iowa Continues to Crack Down on Drunk Driving      
First Iowan Dies from West Nile Virus in 2018    
Iowa #1 in Passing the High School Equivalency Test
Supreme Court Suggests Reforms to Access to Courts

Contact Representative Phil Miller

1009 Grand Ave
Iowa House of Representatives
Des Moines, IA 50319
902 S. Suncrest Drive
Fairfield, IA 52556
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