Mental Health, Education Funding Remain Key Priorities

At the conclusion of my forum last Saturday in Ankeny, I was visiting with several attendees who shared their thoughts and concerns regarding mental health and education. These are two very important topics indeed and I am always appreciative of people sharing their insights and thoughts on an issue.

Mental health funding is an issue I have followed very closely this Legislative Session because it affects Polk County, Ankeny and many constituents personally. In the last couple weeks, I have received hundreds of emails, calls, and personal visits about this issue. Mental illness directly impacts the lives of many Iowans. It is important we continue to examine mental health funding on a regular basis because it affects so many ofour neighbors, friends, and family members. We were reminded of that impact last week with the tragedy that occurred in Bondurant.

I want to take a moment to applaud those representatives from AMOS and mental health advocates who are working diligently on this issue. They have spent countless hours visiting with me at my forums, coming to the Capitol to speak with me, and emailing me their thoughts and concerns.

My phone continues to ring about education issues whether it is about funding, contract negotiations, or providing school districts more flexibility on spending.

I am proud we held K-12 funding harmless from cuts in the 2017 budget, despite being put in a position to make significant cuts and adjustments to the current year’s budget.Just as important, we honored our commitment to allocate $40 million in new spending to K-12 education in next year’s budget.

Faced with a challenging budget, we have worked to help schools meet their financial obligations. This week we passed two bills – House File 564 and House File 565 – in the Iowa Senate which will allow school districts more flexibility in spending unspent and unobligated funds. By cutting the strings on these dollars, school boards and administrators will have greater flexibility in meeting the education needs of their students. After visiting with numerous school officials, these bills could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars for some school districts.

We concluded the 14th week of the 2017 Legislative Session Friday morning, and final adjournment is in sight. Back in January when we had to cut nearly $118 million from the current year budget, we elected to shorten this Legislative session from 110 to 100 days in order to help meet the budget shortfall. April 18th marks the 100th day of the session, and adjournment later next week is beginning to look like a reality.

I want to thank the thousands of people who emailed, called, and have come to speak with me personally at the Capitol for sharing your thoughts and concerns. It is truly an honor to represent you in the Iowa Senate.