April 15, 2016. House Republicans' Historic Education Funding Failure. I was proud to stand with teachers, kids, and parents this week by opposing a deal reached by House Republican leaders that will shortchange public schools next year. I believe it’s time for our public schools to be the top priority of the Iowa Legislature again.
I’ve talked with many teachers and administrators throughout Jasper County about the Republican proposal. There is serious concern from educators and parents in each of the school districts I represent. I share their concern and vote accordingly.
Years of stagnant state investment in our public schools by House Republicans have real consequences for our schools, including teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, outdated technology, and old textbooks for kids. For the last six years, Republicans have broken state law and put Iowa schools on the back burner. As a result, our public schools have received the lowest funding levels in Iowa history and, unfortunately, the deal approved by House Republicans this week is no different.
We’ve already heard from school leaders across the state about the impact of the Republican deal. In Davenport, they have to cut $5.5 million, which means closing a school and reducing at least 24 teachers and staff. In Cedar Rapids, they will eliminate 12 high school teachers, and Des Moines has already eliminated 70 positions due to budget uncertainty. Under the Republican deal, at least one in three Iowa school districts will be forced to raise property taxes to make up for inadequate state funding.
House Republicans were two years behind in setting basic funding for public schools, often called “State Supplemental Aid” or “Allowable Growth.” Democrats had approved 4% earlier in the session, and the House passed 2%, creating a conference committee formed to reach a resolution. While over 400 days late, the deal reached this week means schools will get just a 2.25% increase next year.
Many school leaders have already said the deal does not provide enough to keep up with rising costs.
While the issue is resolved for the upcoming school year, the school funding deadline has already passed for the 2017-2018 school year, and Republican leaders say they are unlikely to bring the bill up before adjourning for the year.
Republicans are quick to claim the state doesn’t have enough money to adequately invest in public schools this year, but the reality is the Republicans have ignored public schools to make room for over $750 million in corporate tax cuts the last several years. The bottom line is the Republican school-funding deal will reduce opportunities for 560,000 kids in Iowa public schools who don’t get a second chance at school.
Kelley@ the Capitol, March 4, 2016. Iowa reaches another renewable energy milestone. Iowa has long been a world leader in renewable energy, but we’ve just hit another major milestone – 31% of the electricity generated in Iowa comes from the wind. That’s the best in the nation and the first time any state has broken the 30% threshold.
This great news means our investment and focus on renewable energy over the last decade is paying off. Over $11 billion has been invested in wind farms and it supports 6,000 jobs here in Iowa, many of them in Jasper County, that can’t be shipped overseas. Landowners also benefit from millions of dollars in lease payments every year.
But it isn’t just wind. Iowa also is a world leader in production of both biodiesel and ethanol. A record 242 million gallons of biodiesel were produced last year at 12 facilities and the state produced 4 billion gallons of ethanol. According to a report issued last year, more than 22,000 jobs in Iowa were related to wind, solar, or biofuels.
I strongly support extending biofuel incentives which would provide certainty and stability for Iowa biofuel producers to continue to operate during this economically difficult time. While Iowa is the leading biodiesel-producing state in the nation, we must continue to see growth in the biofuel industries. Jobs, right here in Jasper County, depend on it. REG Newton is among Iowa’s 12 biodiesel plants. Iowa’s 12 Biodiesel plants have produced 242 million gallons of biodiesel.
The annual economic Impact is tremendous. These local biofuel producers spent $750 million on raw materials such as soybeans, animal fat, and other bio products suitable for production of fuel. This adds value to the crops and livestock produced by local, family farmers. This results in $471 million in GDP, 4,376 full-time jobs, and $286 million of household income.
Policies to support the biodiesel industry work for Jasper County. REG Newton supports;
Jobs: The 30 million gallon per year bio-refinery supports 28 full time jobs. The plant indirectly supports other jobs including: feedstock producers, transportation, equipment installers, and maintenance workers
On a national scale, biofuel provides energy security: Biodiesel is America’s advanced biofuel and supports fuel made at home, and promotes environmental stewardship by providing cleaner air and lower carbon products support the country’s environmental goals.
It’s an honor to serve as your State Representative. If you have questions or comments, or are in need of assistance with state agencies, call me at home, 641-521-9260 or email@example.com. Let’s keep working together to make Jasper County a great place to live, work, and raise a family. Our comeback belongs to all of us.
Kelly@the Capital. February 26, 2016. Mid-Session Update. We’ve officially reached the mid-point of the 2016 legislative session. After last week’s heavy committee work to keep bills eligible for the year, our work has shifted to floor debate so bills can get sent over to the Senate for consideration.
Most of the bills approved this week were non-controversial and dealt with a host of technical issues related to local governments, agriculture and small businesses or LLC’s. I worked hard to pass a bill to modernize agricultural land-lease agreements. This bill and most passed this week with near unanimous bi-partisan support. However, I’m disappointed we didn’t take any action this week on the two key issues we face this year related to public school funding and Medicaid privatization.
The link between parental substance abuse and child maltreatment is well-documented and undeniable. Children whose parents abuse drugs are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to be neglected than children from a home without drug addiction. There are decades of research that suggest children who grow up in homes with drug addiction are more likely to experience issues concerning safety, health, development, and future success. We also know that often addiction clouds the decisions a parent makes concerning the well-being of their child. That is why it is important to have a safety net in place to ensure the needs of Drug Endangered Children are being met.
Under current Iowa law, if a concerned citizen called Iowa's Child Abuse Hotline regarding a child living in a home with a single parent whom they suspected was using heroin, Department of Human Services (DHS) is unable to fully investigate the allegation. DHS cannot contact law enforcement to see if the parent or the home is being investigated for illegal drug activity, DHS cannot require the parent or the child be tested for illegal drugs, and DHS cannot require the child be seen by a health care provider. This type of case coordination is only allowed when the allegation involves parental methamphetamine use and the child under six years old, or if there is an allegation that illegal drugs are being sold from the home. Because children who are exposed to a parent's heroin or cocaine abuse are in just as much danger as those exposed to meth, we must change the law in order to have necessary information to make a determination of the child's safety.
This is why I support the current efforts in the Iowa Legislature to provide the tools necessary to accurately assess the safety of Drug Endangered Children. House File 2206, would allow for a child abuse assessment on all cases involving Drug Endangered Children. Unfortunately, the bill did not survive the funnel process because the majority parties, Republicans in the House, and Democrats in the Senate, didn’t approve it. However, I’ll continue to advocate for protection of Drug Endangered Children. I am working to find solutions. There are simply too many Iowa children at risk to allow this issue to remain unaddressed for another year.
The Jasper County Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Team, comprised of professionals from various disciplines who are involved in the protection of children, brought this issue to my attention. I share their concern about the current state of the law and the barriers in protecting Drug Endangered Children. We all have a role in protecting Iowa's most vulnerable citizens, and as a State Representative I do all I can to make a difference in the lives of drug endangered, and all kids, in Jasper County and throughout Iowa.
Kelly@the Capital. February 19, 2016. The Governor’s plans to privatize Medicaid and divert funds from public schools. This week, the Legislature hit the first self-imposed deadline we use to narrow the number of bills still eligible for debate, called the funnel. While there are a few exceptions for tax and budget bills as well as official resolutions, any bill that has not cleared a House or Senate Committee this week is dead for the year.
“Funnel week” is one of the busiest of legislative session. I was designated as ‘ranking member’ on 10 different subcommittees concerning a wide-range of bill topics such as; expanding use of carbon-monoxide detectors, agricultural land-lease agreements, improvements to laws requiring public meeting notices, and water-quality enhancement efforts among others. In addition, nearly 30 bills were up for consideration in the seven committees I serve on. Needless to say, the Capitol was a great place to be this week. It’s great to see good ideas move forward while bad ones get left behind.
Some of the bills that are still alive this session include increasing penalties for identity theft, making it easier for Iowans serving in the military to vote, and giving kids additional protection from sexual predators.
While there was some progress this week, I’m deeply concerned that there was no action this week on the two biggest issues facing us this year – stopping the Governor’s plan to privatize Medicaid and setting basic funding for public schools. With the privatization deadline just two weeks away and school funding already two years behind, there’s no time to waste.
Last month, Governor Branstad outlined a plan to divert $4.7 billion from public schools to water quality. Since that time, the plan has been met with skepticism from school leaders, environmental groups, and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. While we all agree action must be taken to improve water quality, Iowa would not be in this position if the mechanisms in place to address water quality issues had been funded properly in the first place. That includes $16.2 million vetoed by the Governor for water quality just two years ago and repeated attempts by House Democrats over the last five years to make additional investments in water quality that were turned back by Republicans.
The Republican plan does not provide any significant monies to water quality improvement for at least seven years and it’s likely this plan will need to be put back to the people in 2049 in order to continue. Republicans are presenting Iowans with a false choice by saying water quality has to come at the expense of our public schools. After years of stagnant state funding and constant delays, this is just the latest attempt to divert hundreds of millions of dollars from public schools to other programs.
As the session progresses, as always, if you have ideas on how we can make Jasper County a great place to live, work, and raise a family, or if you need assistance with state agencies, call me at home 641-521-9260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Jasper County’s comeback belongs to all of us.
Kelly@the Capital. February 12, 2016. It’s a busy time at the State Capitol as we are close to ‘funnel week.’ In order to survive, all bills must pass through a committee by the end of next week in order to stay eligible for floor debate.
The urgency of funnel week, unfortunately, hasn’t motivated Iowa House Republicans to put kids first and act on school funding. Our school funding law says we set K-12 school funding two years in advance so schools have time to plan and to guarantee it’s the top budget priority. It forces the Legislature to consider education funding first and then fill in the rest of the state budget later.
Successful public schools are critical, and I’m staying in touch with teachers, administrators, parents, and, most importantly, students during this school funding crisis. I want to hear your thoughts and concerns so feel free to call me anytime at 641-521-9260 or email to email@example.com.
On Wednesday of this week, I was visited at the Capitol by a dedicated, sincere, and committed group of Jasper County voters working hard to protect nearly 15,000 adult dogs in more than 200 commercial breeding facilities throughout the state, three of which are in Jasper County. I’m proud of the work these local men and women are doing and stand firmly in their corner by supporting the Puppy Mill Bill. Iowa is the 2nd largest offender for puppy mills in the country.
Most puppies sold commercially, direct to the public or through pet stores, are born in breeding kennels with cramped, crude, filthy conditions referred to as puppy mills. With little regard for their basic health needs, adult dogs, used for breeding, spend their lives in these conditions resulting in serious physical and psychological disorders that affect both the adult dogs and their pups.
While reviewing inspection documents, I’ve seen horrible images of adult dogs in tiny, rusted-wire cages leaving little room to move. The filthy pets sleep on weeks’ worth of excrement that is matted into their hair. The dogs are clearly diseased, malnourished, abused, and neglected. Often, these dogs are exposed to extreme temperatures but never exposed to light, natural or artificial, living their entire lives in darkness. I’ve heard stories about dogs too old to breed, taken out of their rusted-wire cage and shot. Can you imagine?
What does the Puppy Mill Bill do? Iowa’s puppy mills typically keep between 50 and 250 adult dogs. The state’s largest puppy mill has more than 1,500 dogs on site!
If a puppy mill has to be closed, the county is responsible for boarding, treating and/or euthanizing the rescued animals. This is a serious financial burden and euthanizing is an unacceptable option.
What can you do to help? Don’t unknowingly become part of the problem. Buy smart. If you purchase a puppy, insist on meeting the puppy’s parents and seeing their living conditions. Or, better yet, adopt. Visit your local animal rescue shelter and adopt an animal instead of buying.
If you’d be interested in joining a great group of local, Jasper County men and women working to protect pets from inhumane conditions, contact me and I will connect you to them. Or visit www.iafriends.org.
Kelly@the Capital. February 5, 2016. After Governor Branstad’s plan to privatize Medicaid for 560,000 Iowans was delayed until March, I’ve joined my colleagues in requesting federal officials either delay the plan again or reject it all together. That’s because the governor still isn’t ready for the transition.
I’m hearing from Iowans and health care providers from Jasper County and across the state about problems with implementation and transitioning to private care. I’m particularly disappointed in state officials who sent critical information about the transition that was not accessible to individuals with hearing and speech impairments.
After a series of delays, too many local providers (doctors, clinics, and hospitals) still haven’t signed up with the managed care organizations (MCO). That means Iowans don’t know which MCO can provide the best possible health care they need. Thousands of Iowans assigned to the WellCare MCO late last year are also facing uncertainty. While the state threw out the WellCare contract nearly two months ago, Branstad and state officials are just now assigning one of the other private companies to manage their care.
With more lawsuits and more confusion since the last delay, it is clear Branstad’s privatization plan still isn’t ready. Health care for seniors in nursing homes, children, and those with disabilities are on the line. We can’t afford to let vulnerable Iowans fall through the cracks. It’s time to stop the governor’s rush to privatize Medicaid.
While the eyes of the nation have been focused on Iowa’s Presidential Caucuses, another significant event took place as the first foreign consulate office in Iowa history opened in downtown Des Moines on January 29.
I was honored to join dignitaries including; the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kosovo Hashim Thaçi, Governor Branstad, US Senator Ernst, and representatives of Congressman Loebsack, at this historic event in downtown Des Moines.
A “Consulate Office” is similar to a foreign embassy, and deals primarily with international trade. The consulate office will be located on Court Avenue, and will be designated with the Kosovar flag.
Several hundred Iowan service men and women have been stationed in Kosovo over the last decade forming the first ties between the two regions. Kosovo has become one of Iowa’s most active international relationships with over 70 programs that link them with Iowa.
As a member of the Iowa House International Relations Committee, I recognize Kosovo’s strategic regional importance, as well as the benefits of cultural and economic exchange between Iowa and Kosovo. It was an honor to be a part of this historic consulate opening. Clearly, international trade is beneficial to the mid-west, and a good provider of jobs.
As an example, our committee was recently visited by the Consulate General of Canada Jamshed Merchant. Merchant oversees the Canadian Consulate Office in Minneapolis assisting in Midwest-Canadian trade. He delivered some impressive statistics:
From 2011-2013, annual two-way goods trade between this region and Canada averaged $36 billion, supporting an average of 376,000 jobs per year. Over the same period, Canadians made 7.5 million trips to these states and spent 1.9 billion dollars in the region.
Of particular note, Canada and Iowa are both leaders in responsible and sustainable North American energy production. Just as Iowa is well-known for successful efforts in wind-energy, the Canadian province directly to our North, Manitoba, is a leading generator and exporter of hydro-electric power. Much of Minnesota benefits from the clean, renewable energy generated by hydro-electric plants in Manitoba. While Canada is known for production of oil, it is also important to recognizing their efforts in hydro-electric and other renewable forms of energy.
Feel free to call me at home anytime at 641-521-9260 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I'm Running for Office to be Your Voice in the Iowa Statehouse
I believe we've made good progress in Iowa. But I believe there’s more we can do to help working families. I am committed to raising the minimum wage, helping families with the high cost of child care, and making public schools our top priority again.
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I'm Dan Kelley, a long-time resident of Jasper County. I serve in the Iowa House representing the 29th District. I am commited to being your voice in the Statehouse!
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