March 21, 2014

Week 9: revenge of the funnel
Visitors to the Capitol
Investment in student achievement must move forward
Ensuring childcare is affordable for working families
Fuel pump updates help Iowans with disabilities
Cracking down on texting while driving for safer roads
IC library enriches community
News you can use

This week, another legislative funnel arrived. A bill had to be voted out of at least one chamber and a committee in the opposite chamber to remain alive for the session. That made for a lot of committee work. In the Senate Ways & Means Committee, we approved SSB 3101, a bill to increase incentives for homeowners, farms and businesses to deploy solar energy systems. We also approved a bill (see the details below) to increase eligibility for more families to take advantage of the child and dependent tax credit. In addition, we are working to make the Child Care Assistance Program more useful to Iowa families. Here is a link to a report this week from the Iowa Policy Project on the need to make this program work more effectively.

Next week, the Senate Republicans will renew their attack on women’s health care services when they request a Senate debate on a bill banning telemedicine health care services. Here is a news story about this issue and their efforts.

Governor Branstad said this week there are too many “unintended consequences” to the creation of a medical cannabis program in Iowa. Here is a link to the story at Radio Iowa. Also, as expected, the Iowa Board of Pharmacy this week rejected a petition to reschedule marijuana and create a medical cannabis program. Here is a link to a Gazette story on their decision. They punted the issue back to the Legislature, where it most likely belongs. As long as we have a Governor that is opposed to medical cannabis, suffering Iowans will be forced to leave our state. It is time for a change!

I also spent time this week working with Senator Ragan and Senator Hatch on the Health & Human Services budget. Lots of hard decisions are ahead with how we ensure health and basic safety net services for our citizens. Work also continued on mental health redesign. I met with county mental health leaders and DHS to discuss on-going funding concerns. Governor Branstad’s administration is putting the financial screws to services for people with disabilities when more investment is needed. It’s time for a change.

I filed my nomination petition this week for re-election to another four-year term. There is no shortage of issues, and I remain energized to tackle them!

Jim Walters, Iowa City
John Lundell, Mayor, Coralville
Joe Lundell
Doug Gustafson, Kirkwood Community College: Iowa City
John Dawson, Kirkwood Community College: Iowa City
David Leshtz
Sondra Smith
Sorry if I missed you.

Saturday, March 29, 9:30 a.m.: Johnson County League of Women Voters Forum at the Coralville City Council Chambers.

Each year, the 100 Great Iowa Nurses program identifies outstanding nurses who show exceptional commitment to patients and the nursing profession. This year, 500 nurses were nominated from many sectors of health care, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, and school and office nurses.

Reviewers from around the state first evaluate the nominations. Final selection is determined by representatives of the Iowa Hospital Association, Iowa Nurses Association, Iowa Nurses Foundation and UI's College of Nursing. This year's 100 Great Iowa Nurses will be honored in a ceremony on May 4, the start of National Nurses Week. For more information, go to

Among the 2014 recipients being recognized for nursing achievements are:
• Martha Blondin, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
• Jennifer Ehrlich, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
• Ellyn Harris-Hesli, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics
• Bernice Morrison, Mercy Hospital - Iowa City
• Sharon Tucker, University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Bullying can devastate children, families and communities, with the effects potentially lasting into adulthood. That's why the Senate voted this week to strengthen our state's anti-bullying laws.

In 2007, the Legislature approved a bill that required school districts to have anti-bullying policies and to collect and report data on incidents of bullying and harassment. It was heralded as one of the best policies in the country at the time. It gave school districts the latitude to carry out the policy as they saw fit, as long as they reported their results to the state. That flexibility made for big reporting differences among school districts.

For example, Des Moines School District recorded 98 incidents of bullying in a one year. That same year, Davenport School District, which is half the size of Des Moines, recorded 642 incidents of bullying. According to the federal Government Accountability Office, four nationwide surveys show that up to 28 percent of students say they are bullied during a school year. However, in Iowa, school bullying reports show less than 2 percent of students have been bullied in any given year since the state passed its anti-bullying law in 2007.

Reports and investigations of bullying behavior increase when educators and students are trained and become more knowledgeable about bullying and harassment. That is supported by the results of Davenport's high-quality, evidence-based bullying prevention program.

Governor Branstad has pushed for expanded anti-bullying laws, including cracking down on cyberbullying. Senate File 2318 provides $1 million to establish an Office of Support & Analysis for Safe Schools to coordinate and implement efforts to prevent and respond to harassment and bullying. Competitive grants will promote high-quality bully prevention and positive school climate programs for the Iowa schools most in need.

This bill is a step toward improving safety for all Iowa kids.

Reducing the number of Iowans who live in inadequate housing is the mission of Habitat for Humanity Iowa. I spoke with Mark Patton about making homeownership a reality for Iowa’s low-income families.

The Senate Ways & Means Committee recently approved two bills that will help expand Iowa's middle class by creating good jobs in fields that improve our state's economy and quality of life.

The first builds on a state tax credit for installing solar energy systems that was enacted in 2012. This legislation set aside $1.5 million in tax credits annually for the installation of solar energy systems on homes, businesses and farms. In addition, it allowed Iowa to take advantage of a federal tax credit that also promoted installation of solar energy systems.

The program has been popular. Last year, businesses and homeowners claimed nearly all of the tax credits, and certificates were issued for more than $685,000 in state tax credits in the first two months of this year. The surge in installations has created jobs for solar energy installers and technicians to service the systems.

The success of these tax credits is proof that solar energy works in Iowa and helps meet our energy needs. SF 2340 would increase the tax credits to $4.5 million to meet Iowans' demand for solar energy. This boost will help create more jobs for the installation and maintenance of hundreds of additional solar projects each year.

The second bill would provide more help for fixing up abandoned buildings and blighted areas, which can be an eyesore and a drag on property values. Abandoned buildings provide zero jobs, but a redeveloped building can house new businesses that boost local economic activity.

Redevelopment Tax Credits provide an incentive to redevelop environmentally challenged areas and blighted properties. These can be costly projects, but redevelopment increases the property's value as well as that of neighboring properties.

SF 2339 would expand Iowa's Redevelopment Tax Credit Program by making public buildings eligible for the tax credits. That means abandoned schools could be more affordably redeveloped. The bill also makes the tax credits refundable for nonprofit, tax-exempt organizations.

The foundation of Iowa’s economy and way of life is rooted in our abundant resources, both natural and cultural. Our rich soils, plentiful water and other assets make Iowa a great place for agriculture and manufacturing. They also offer residents a good quality of life.

Preservation of our resources is vital to Iowa's future. In 1989, the Legislature created the Resource Enhancement & Protection (REAP) program. REAP looks after Iowa’s natural resources and cultural history through land and habitat protection, state and local park improvements, soil and water quality projects, and funding for conservation, cultural and historical organizations.

Over 25 years, REAP has supported 14,535 projects in all 99 counties. Investment of $263 million in state funds has leveraged two to three times as much in private, local and federal money to improve our state. REAP projects fall into seven categories: State Open Spaces, City Parks and Opens Spaces, Soil and Water Conservation, County Conservation, Land Management, Historical Resources, and Roadside Vegetation.

This year, the Legislature should continue Iowa's commitment to REAP with funding that reflects the value of this successful program.

Among the many REAP efforts are the Historical Resource Development Program and Country School Grants. Through April 25, these programs are accepting applications. The Historical Resource Development Program offers grants to preserve, conserve, interpret and educate the public about Iowa's historic built environment, museum collections and documentary materials, such as diaries, letters, photographs and newspapers.

The Country School Program provides grants for the preservation and maintenance of Iowa’s one and two-room country schools. The money can also go toward interpreting the history of country schools or for educational activities taking place at country schools.

Complete details about the grants and application materials are available at or by calling the State Historical Society at 515-281-4228. Learn more about REAP at

All Iowans should be protected from identity theft, including children and dependent adults.

The Iowa Senate approved House File 2368 to help prevent identity theft of kids and other vulnerable Iowans, giving them the same protections as independent adults.

In 2008, the Legislature voted to allow Iowans to tell the three major credit reporting agencies to put a freeze on sharing their credit reports. A credit freeze prevents third parties from accessing your credit reports without your approval. Most businesses will not issue you a credit card or make a loan without first checking your credit history through a credit-reporting agency. So, when someone gets ahold of your name and Social Security Number and tries to open an account, a freeze on your credit reports prohibits your identify from being stolen.

Unfortunately, the credit reporting companies have not allowed parents or guardians to put a security freeze on their dependents' credit reports. Consequently, children have become victims of identity theft when thieves obtain their names and Social Security Numbers.

House File 2368 closes the loophole in the law and allows parents to tell the credit reporting agencies to place a security freeze on their children’s credit reports and allows guardians of vulnerable individuals to do the same.

On St. Patrick’s Day, the Iowa Senate was hosted the Honorable Michelle Mulherin of the Irish Parliament. She spoke about the history of the day in her home country. Her sister, Grace Mulherin, gave the opening prayer to start the day’s session.

Unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, are aircraft that can be flown remotely. They can go places that planes and helicopters can't and are able to gather valuable information without endangering human lives.

Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration is working on rules to safely integrate drones into U.S. airspace. Insurance companies, agribusiness, news agencies, law enforcement and others look forward to using drones as a valuable tool in their work.

However, drone technology with sight and sound-recording ability is causing concerns among citizens about potential misuse and an invasion of privacy. Will some unscrupulous individuals use small, quiet drones to spy on others? To address these concerns, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to amend and pass legislation recently approved by the Iowa House.

House File 2289 will ensure that if someone uses a drone to trespass on another’s privacy in his or her home, the drone user can be charged with criminal trespass. In addition, law enforcement must obtain a warrant to use information in court that was gathered through use of a drone.

This legislation will not interfere with hobbyists who enjoy model planes or any legitimate business use.

Many outstanding women have helped shape Iowa and continue to help improve the quality of life in our state. To recognize and honor them and to provide examples for tomorrow’s female leaders, the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women established the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame in 1975. Through April 1, they are seeking nominations for the Hall of Fame and for the Cristine Wilson Medal for Equality and Justice. For more information or to download a nomination form, go to


Johnson County Financial Literacy Fair
On April 1 and 2, 8th graders will participate in a Johnson County Financial Literacy Fair at the Coralville Public Library! In class, students have selected a career and determined salary/taxes. They’ll come to the fair to face the reality of monthly bills for necessities (transportation, insurance, food, etc.) and extras (where it really adds up!). At the end, they’ll meet one-on-one with a financial counselor to discuss their choices!

We are looking for volunteers to help at the booths. Would you like to join the fun? We’d love to have you or a team of folks from your organization join in the fun. No experience necessary! We’ll train you the ½ hour before students arrive.

If you (or your team) would like to volunteer, register at

April 1, 2014 - 8:30am – noon
North Central Jr. High
Regina Middle School

April 1, 2014 - 11:45am - 2:00pm
Clear Creek-Amana Middle School
Lone Tree Middle School

April 2, 2014 - 8:30am – noon
North Cedar Middle School
North West Junior High
Solon Middle School
West Branch Middle School

I.D. Action Grant
ID Action is offering grant funds to local advocacy groups that have a plan to take action in their community. Activities and initiatives of grant recipients must be nonpartisan and encourage individuals with disabilities to vote in the 2014 primary or general elections, raise awareness and educate elected officials and/or candidates on disability-related issue. To apply, download the ID Action Vote Grant Guidelines and an ID Action Vote Grant Application. Application deadline is April 1, no later than 4 p.m. via e-mail or 11 a.m. via personal delivery.

Job Opportunity
The University of Iowa Press seeks a Managing Editor to direct manuscript editorial, proofreading, and indexing stages of all books published by the University of Iowa Press including: planning, organizing, writing and editing content to assure accuracy and maintain scholarly book publishing standards.

The University of Iowa Press is a small but vital member of the AAUP. The press publishes 40-45 books a year in the areas of poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, natural history, fan studies, food studies, literary criticism, theatre history, the public humanities, book studies, and regional studies.

Competitive salary with fringe benefits. Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. Applicant credentials subject to verification. To see a full job description and to apply for this position, go to, Requisition #64052.The University of Iowa is an Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Employer.


Submit nominations for Healthy Iowa Awards
Through April 4, nominations are being accepted for the Healthy Iowa Awards. This is a chance to recognize the achievements of cities, schools, businesses, individuals, colleges and universities in advancing well-being. The awards are sponsored by the Healthiest State Initiative and the Iowa Department of Public Health. For more information and nomination forms, go to

Increase your disaster preparedness
Communities are better prepared to withstand an emergency and recover more quickly when everyone is involved. Nearly 70 percent of Americans have not participated in a preparedness drill or exercise, according to a FEMA.

America’s PrepareAthon can help. It is a community-based campaign to increase emergency preparedness at the grassroots level. The first PrepareAthon national day of action is April 30. It will focus on preparing organizations and individuals for tornadoes, flooding and more. It's a great opportunity to discuss, practice and train for the hazards your area faces.

To learn more about America’s PrepareAthon and disaster readiness, go to

Plan your Iowa sightseeing
As the temperatures warm up, it's time to think about what you might like to do and see around Iowa. The most popular Iowa destinations are historical attractions, museums, scenic byways, outdoor recreation and shopping.

The latest edition of the Iowa Travel Guide will inspire you to explore all Iowa has to offer. The free guide is available through and is a great companion to the website. It features nearly 800 attractions, 200 bed and breakfasts, 500 campgrounds/cabins and 600 hotels.

Tourism in Iowa generates more than $7.6 billion a year and employs 64,400 people statewide. According to the 2013 Iowa Welcome Center Survey Report, the amount travelers are spending in Iowa is on the rise. Tourism is providing a boost to local economies as visitors take more trips and spend more on lodging, entertainment, transportation, food and shopping.

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.