Greetings from the State House,
The Revenue Estimating Conference [REC] projected additional revenue growth in the current fiscal year and the next at its meeting on Friday (March 19). The three-person panel raised their forecast for General Fund revenue in Fiscal Year 2021 to $8.0789 billion, which is a growth rate of 1.9 percent. For the next budget year – FY 2022 – the REC raised state revenue to $8.3856 billion or 3.8 percent growth. In its review of the state’s economy, the panel said Iowa is “remarkably resilient” thanks to our largest sectors – ag, manufacturing, and financial services –being less vulnerable to impact from the pandemic. The House and Senate will focus on the budget process in the coming weeks.
The Department of Human Services and Iowa Workforce Development worked together to strategically award $12,052,958 from the DHS Investing in Iowa’s Child Care funding program and $1,000,414 in Child Care Challenge grants to all eligible applicants throughout the state. Child Care Challenge grants support community projects to establish local childcare facilities, while the DHS funding provides support for equipment, personnel, training, and supplies for new or ongoing child care facilities. Sunflower Childcare Center, Decorah, Iowa DHS Award: $750,000 Child Care Challenge Award: $10,000 Total Award: $760,000 This project is to build a new childcare center that will increase existing childcare slots from 120 to 215 and replace an aging facility. The center serves Winneshiek County and they have 130 children on their waiting list with more parents calling almost daily who need childcare immediately. The center will meet a critical shortage in the area.
The state of Iowa has awarded 14 broadband providers with $15,542,302 in Empower Rural Iowa broadband grants made possible through Governor Reynolds allocation of federal CARES funding. These grants will impact 21 Iowa counties and more than 2,800 homes, schools, and businesses. Three of these grants were in NE Iowa. Alpine Communications was awarded $1,298,737.90 for expansion in Boardman and Highland Townships in Clayton County. Spring Grove Communications receives $592,279.60 and Allamakee Clayton Electric receives $4,584,200.45 to expand highspeed internet options north of Waukon in Allamakee County.
Debate in the House included several bills. I floor managed HF780 to clarify the definition of physician providing physical examination for child care staff and students. The bill will go on to the Senate for consideration. Significant debate happened on HF813 to provide a second option for formation of public charter schools. The bill lays out specific rules and guidelines to ensure charter schools adhere to public school guidelines such as standards of transparency, quality, oversight and admittance. The founders must show a community need and community support in order to create the public charter school. It requires public charter schools to admit all who apply. It requires public charter schools provide special education services. It requires public charter schools to be transparent, by adhering to Chapter 21 which is open meetings law where all board meetings are open to the public.
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