January 10, 2014

It’s hard to believe the 2014 legislative session begins on Monday! It’s hard to believe it’s 2014!

I am looking forward to getting back to the Capitol and seeing colleagues, staff and friends. There is a lot of work to do to get the state moving in a more progressive direction. I am fired up to continue to push hard this year!

My priorities for the upcoming session will continue to focus on how we can help Iowa families and individuals that are struggling financially and having a hard time making ends meet. This week, as we mark the 50th anniversary of the so-called “War on Poverty,” it is pretty clear that the enemy of working people is an economic system that is stacked against them.

Low-wage jobs, stagnant incomes, lack of health care, lack of opportunity, declining union membership and non-existent pensions are increasingly making it harder for many Iowans to realize a secure and prosperous future. This assault on our middle class is bad for our children and puts our Democracy on shaky ground.

Believe it or not, public policy is our best tool to soften the harsh and relenting impact of an economic system that is tilted to benefit the minority. Here are a few specific policies I will be working on this session:

• Raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

• Expand quality all-day preschool so that EVERY Iowa four year old has a good start in school.

• Cut taxes and make them fairer for Iowa working families and middle class.

• Continue to improve our K-12 education system and freeze tuition at our public universities.

• Continue efforts to increase skill levels of Iowa workers.

• Cut corporate welfare.

Senator Tom Harkin delivered some very insightful remarks yesterday in the U.S. Senate on the anniversary of the “War of Poverty.” Here is a link to his remarks: www.harkin.senate.gov/press/release.cfm?i=349280

Please feel free to contact me on any issues of interest. My e-mail address at the Capitol is joe.bolkcom@legis.iowa.gov and the phone number at the Capitol is 515-281-3371.

On Tuesday, January 21, I will be attending my precinct caucus in Iowa City. Here is a link to the details for all the Johnson County precinct caucus times and locations: http://jcdems.org. I hope you will attend.

If you need to health care or know someone that does, here are some websites and phone numbers that can help:

• Visit the federal website: www.healthcare.gov

• Go to the Iowa Department of Human Services website at http://dhsservices.iowa.gov or call them at 1-855-889-7985.

• Call or visit the local Johnson County DHS Office. Here is a link to their contact information: www.dhs.state.ia.us/Consumers/Find_Help/County_Offices/johnson.html

I helped organize well-attended public meetings in Iowa City and Des Moines on creating a responsible, legal way to make cannabis available to Iowa patients. This photo was taken at the Des Moines Public Library. The large audience included community members, health care professionals and legislators.

In recent weeks, I’ve hosted discussions in Iowa City and Des Moines on Medical Cannabis in Iowa. The meetings featured a presentation by a Medical Cannabis expert, as well as patient and family stories. If this is a topic of interest to you, I encourage you to check out what participants had to say in the videos below.

Steven Jenison, M.D., is an Iowa-trained public health physician. He served as the first Medical Director and first Medical Advisory Board Chair to the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program. Dr. Jenison represented the New Mexico Department of Health during the legislative hearings that resulted in the creation of the State of New Mexico's medical marijuana program in 2007.

Here is a link to the Iowa City meeting discussing Medical Cannabis: http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?PGD=iowacity&eID=717

Here are links to the Des Moines meeting:

• Dr. Jenison describes how the New Mexico Medical Cannabis Program works: http://youtu.be/qYtxwPoAzwM

• Maria la France, a Des Moines-area mom whose child could be helped by Medical Cannabis: http://youtu.be/zIjCeheMbDE

• Logan Edwards, an Iowa veteran whose PTSD is eased by Medical Cannabis: http://youtu.be/sGxXfd48mBM

I will be working on a bipartisan effort to introduce legislation this session to create a program modeled after the program established in New Mexico.

Governor Branstad is considering a $30 million cut to mental health services in Iowa. Here is a link to a Des Moines Register article about this.

This is something the Governor will decide soon – and it is something he needs to hear about.

The Governor should not cut mental health services. Instead, we should expand mental health outreach, services and treatment in schools and in our communities so that all Iowans can get help when they need it.

Please write or call Governor Branstad’s office – and ask your friends and colleagues to write or call. Here is his contact information:

Governor Terry Branstad
State Capitol
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-5211 (work hours only)

Help your teen drive safely this winter

Winter driving can be daunting for young drivers facing slick, snowy roads for the first time. Help your teen prepare with these tips from the Iowa DOT:

• Practice braking and steering in a vacant parking lot, demonstrating stopping and maneuvering on dry and slick surfaces.

• Take gradual steps as you help your teen learn to handle different weather and road conditions.

• Reinforce the importance of maintaining plenty of space between vehicles.

• Make sure the vehicle’s windows, headlights and taillights are cleared of ice and snow, and that the vehicle is in top working order.

• Carry a winter survival kit in the vehicle. For ideas, watch the Iowa DOT’s winter preparedness video on YouTube at www.youtube.com/iowadot.

• Check on road conditions at http://511ia.org, and don’t take an unnecessary trip if the weather is bad.

New changes to make teen drivers safer

Motor vehicle crashes kill more teens than anything else. Changes to Iowa’s graduated driver’s license system that took effect January 1 will help keep our teen drivers and all Iowans safe on the roads. Highlights include:

1. More supervised drive time: Young drivers will be required to carry an instruction permit for 12 months, double the current six months, before they can apply for an intermediate license. That means they’ll have more time to learn from an experienced driver and get driving practice in all seasons. This law affects all teens seeking an intermediate license after Jan. 1, 2014.

2. Reduced distractions: The first six months of unsupervised driving is the most dangerous for teens. To reduce the risk, teens will be limited to one unrelated minor passenger during their first six months with an intermediate license. Parents can waive this restriction at the time the intermediate license is issued. This will apply to all intermediate licenses issued after Jan. 1, 2014.

The new law also limits students with a minor school license to one unrelated minor passenger when driving without adult supervision. This provision applies to all teens holding a minor school license, even if the license was issued before Jan. 1, 2014.

Essay contest celebrates women of character, courage & commitment

Through January 24, students in grades 6 through 9 are invited to submit essays for the annual Write Women Back into History Essay Contest. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.” Winning essayists will be awarded prizes and recognized in a ceremony at the State Capitol during Women’s History Month. Guidelines and entry forms can be found at www.women.iowa.gov/about_women/womens_history/essay_contest.html.

Students invited to apply for arts scholarship

Through February 3, Iowa high school seniors are invited to apply for the 2014 Iowa Scholarship for the Arts. Scholarships worth $1,500 go toward 2014-2015 tuition at Iowa colleges and universities for those majoring in dance, literature, music, theatre, folk and traditional arts, or visual art. Guidelines and application forms are available through the Iowa Arts Council at www.iowaartscouncil.org/funding/scholarship-for-the-arts.

Website matches veterans with Iowa jobs

A new website aims to recruit veterans and active duty service members for jobs in Iowa. Home Base Iowa (www.homebaseiowa.org) features job postings, links to job fairs, and up-to-date information about educational opportunities, National Guard recruiting, job training and more. This comprehensive source for job services will help veterans find jobs, explore career paths and make a smooth transition to civilian life.


How to Contact Me

Joe Bolkcom
728 2nd Avenue
Iowa City, IA 52245

About The Networker

The Networker provides brief summaries of some of the things that I am working on, the work of the General Assembly, and political perspectives on issues. I also use it to announce meetings and how to find useful information about state government.

Additional information

Senator Joe Bolkcom is an Assistant Majority Leader and chair of the Ways & Means Committee. He also serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, Environment & Energy Independence, Human Resources, and Natural Resources committees.