I'm not usually beating the drums for more spending, but we have quite a few schools, all fine educational institutions, that are having difficulty keeping up with high energy and transportation costs, among other things.
Figuring out a fair school aid formula is difficult, and someone always comes up short. It seems to me that schools should have more flexibility on how to pay for some of their infrastructure needs. Local school boards can make better choices than state bureaucrats -- or legislators.
Having mentioned school budget woes, the legislature is about ready to slap another unfunded mandate on local school districts. Cleverly disguised as a "Safe Kids" or "Safe Schools" bill, the so-called anti-bullying legislation passed the House this week.
It has already moved through the Senate, but must return there because the House made several minor changes. It will then go to the Governor who will proudly sign it. All schools will be required to adopt a bullying policy by September 1, 2007. "Bullying" is defined as "any conduct toward a student which is based on any actual or perceived trait or characteristic of the student which creates an objectively hostile school environment."
The bill then lists about 17 different "traits" including age, color, creed, race, religion, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, ancestry, political beliefs or family status. Why do we need a list of traits?
Republicans tried to make the bill good and workable by getting rid of the list and simply saying that all bullying is wrong. The majority party rejected this effort, which reinforces my belief that this is nothing more than the promotion of someone's gay-rights agenda.
This bill does nothing to protect students. It puts the onus on the school district and it is a stupid bill. However, it did pass, even though I voted no.
I had mentioned in a previous newsletter that there is an attempt to get rid of Iowa's Official English law. This legislation is on fast track and will no doubt make its way through the legislative process.
The Governor will proudly sign this one too. If you have an interest in this issue or any other issue, it may be in your best interest to contact the Governor's office to express your opinion.
A one dollar per pack increase in the cigarette tax has cleared a Senate Committee and will move forward. It is interesting that last week the Legislature came down hard on companies that offer car title loans because of the high percent of interest they charge.
A one dollar per pack hike in the cigarette tax means a 278% increase. We like to throw numbers around at the Capitol, mostly because there are plenty available.
A couple of weeks ago we approved an increase in the minimum wage -- about 42% more -- and now we are about to take that money away from a lot of people by increasing cigarette costs by 278%. Maybe when we raise the beer tax and gas tax, we can talk smaller amounts.
The Capitol Cafeteria is now charging a sales tax on meals. One of my Democrat friends asked why and I told him we had to do something to balance the Governor's budget. To my surprise he agreed with me noting we had a lot of work to do in that area.
You may reach me at the Capitol during the week by phoning me at 515-281-3221, at home on weekends at 712-434-5880, or fax me at 712-434-2012. You may write to me at the State Capitol, Des Moines, Iowa 50319. My home address is 6144 Y Avenue, Aurelia, Iowa 51005. If you have email, please contact me at email@example.com.