Legislative Update 2/23/2017

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Quote of the Week

Voting is the most precious right of every citizen, and we have a moral obligation to ensure the integrity of our voting process.
~ Hillary Clinton

Legislative Update


As we approach the first funnel of the session, it’s worth taking a look at some bills that are still in pipeline.  This list is not purposefully exclusive, nor totally inclusive, but it contains some of the items that have had a look already and should be interesting to you.

Election Integrity
Iowans should have confidence in their elections.  Measures like voter verification give Iowans assurance that our election system is fair and clean.    Secretary of State Pate has proposed a number of election modernizations, as well as voter verification, that are currently going through the committee process.  This bill will make it “easier to vote, harder to cheat, and nobody is turned away from the poll.  The bill gives Iowans what 69% already want (according to the Des Moines Register poll conducted this week) and the only thing it suppresses are long lines and ineligible voters from voting. 

School Funding Flexibility
House Republicans are committed to providing flexibility to locally elected school boards by loosening funding restrictions and allowing for more local decision making.  Several school districts have a significant amount of funds sitting in accounts that go unused because they are limited to specific purposes.
No school district is the same, and they each face their own unique challenges and opportunities.  We should loosen funding strings and allow schools to spend some of these funds in the way that meets students’ needs and fits their individual districts best.

Combating Opioid Addiction
Over the last decade, addiction to opioids has become an epidemic across the country, and is slowly making its way to Iowa.  Last session the House and Senate passed legislation to increase access to opioid antagonist drugs, such as Narcan, which can help prevent an overdose.  The House has introduced a number of bills which will build on last year’s efforts and protect Iowans struggling with addiction.

Smaller, Smarter Government
As Governor Branstad pointed out at the beginning of this session, Iowa has too many state boards and commissions.  This creates additional bureaucracies that lead to inefficient government.  The Governor has proposed House Study Bill 138 to reduce the number of these panels, ensuring a more streamlined, cost-effective state government.  This bill will likely undergo changes during the committee process.

Protecting Iowans from Dangerous Synthetic Drugs
For years, House Republicans have worked to prevent deadly synthetic drugs from getting into the hands of Iowa’s kids.  In the past, legislative Democrats have chosen to play games with this legislation, refusing to take action on such a critical issue.  House File 296 will keep deadly synthetic drugs off the streets, while also making it easier to prosecute sellers of those drugs.

Representative John H. Wills

Legislative Priorities 


House Republicans are committed to these principles to produce a balanced and sustainable state budget:

  1. We will spend less than the state collects;
  2. We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs;
  3. We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and
  4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa’s taxpayers.
The House Republican position on government spending is reasonable, sustainable and based on simple common-sense budgeting principles.

2017 Legislative Forums

February 25 – 8:00am – Eggs & Issues – Forster Community Center, 404 Main St, Rock Rapids
February 25 – 10:30am – Eggs & Issues – Sibley Library, 406 9th Street, Sibley
March 11 – 11:30am – IGL Forum – Spirit Lake City Council Chamber, 1803 Hill Ave., Spirit Lake
March 25 – 8:00am – Eggs & Issues – Forster Community Center, 404 Main St, Rock Rapids

News from Around the District

Influenza season in full swing

Last week started as usual for Central Lyon eighth grader, Morgan Robinson. School work, time with friends, basketball games. But by Wednesday, Morgan was quarantined in her bedroom after being diagnosed with influenza A. “Her symptoms started with an itchy throat so at first I thought she had strep,” explained Morgan’s mom, Teresa. Following the sore throat, Morgan began exhibiting a cough, sneezing, chest congestion and high fever followed two days later by body aches. “When she started having body aches and going down hill quick, I thought I’d better make her an appointment,” said Teresa. “I got her in right away so we could hopefully try to keep it away from the rest of the family.”

Morgan was asked to wear a mask if she walked through the house and spent the remainder of the week at home, just two of several keys to preventing the spread of the illness.

Influenza — the flu — is an infection of the nose, throat, and lungs caused by influenza viruses which spread mainly by droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.

“Influenza A is running rampant right now,” said Melissa Stillson, Health Services of Lyon County administrator.

“There’s a lot of stuff out there right now,” said Mel DeJong, who serves as the school nurse at all three public schools in the county. “We’ve got some stomach flu, some different viruses, some upper respiratory illnesses and influenza, so it’s really a variety of things,” she said. Students are coming in to the nurse’s office with headaches, fevers and sore throats most commonly, which is typical for this time of year.

And while DeJong says there are sick kids at school year ’round, Health Services of Lyon County wants parents and the community to remember some key measures to help prevent the spread of any illnesses, but most importantly influenza. Recently, letters were sent to parents of school-age children, to daycares and to churches. “We’re just reinforcing if you have a fever and you don’t feel good, you need to stay home because you’re only making yourself worse and you’re increasing the risk to other people,” said Stillson.

There are other measures that should be taken to protect against the flu as well. “We encourage people to always be proactiveand wash their hands often, drink plenty of water, and get an appropriate amount of rest,” said Stillson.

She said it’s also not too late to get the flu vaccination. “We’re hearing of people with influenza missing seven to 10 days of school or work for those who didn’t get the flu shot,” said Stillson. “Some of them have ended up being hospitalized and needing IV fluids. Older folks have needed to be hospitalized and on oxygen because they can’t breathe.”

Although getting a flu shot does not guarantee the nasty virus will stay away, it does provide benefit for those who come down with the flu. “I hear a lot of questions and see the comments, and I understand the frustration — ‘why do you even get the flu vaccine if you’re still going to get influenza’?” Stillson expressed. “Number one, the vaccine doesn’t guarantee 100 percent you won’t get the flu. Number two, if you do, it will decrease the complications you would get from the flu. It’s better to be vaccinated.”

Brenda Vis, physician’s assistant at Sanford Clinic Rock Rapids agreed. “We are seeing some cases of those who did get the shot test positive but it’s likely their symptoms and the severity will be lessened.”

That’s one measure Stillson wants people to be most aware of. “The one thing I want people to understand is getting the vaccine decreases the severity and it decreases the risk of having severe consequences from this virus.”

If there are people who have not received the flu vaccine, public health is strongly encouraging them to get it. “It takes two weeks for your body to build up resistance to the influenza virus, so the sooner you get it the better,” said Stillson. “If you didn’t get the shot and you got influenza, you’re still recommended to get the vaccine after you’re healthy again.” She explained the continued risks. “There are four strains of influenza out there and just because you get one strain doesn’t mean you can’t get the others,” said Stillson. “So do you want to miss two or three days of school or work or potentially up to 30?” she asked. “There’s at least six weeks of flu season left. We’re just getting to the tip of the iceberg.”

Until the number of cases of influenza starts to subside, both Stillson and DeJong hope parents, caregivers and the community will remember one thing if they or their child is sick — STAY HOME. “A lot of people don’t know this, and I understand a lot of people work so it’s difficult to follow this protocol, but the protocol really is if your child has a fever, they need to be fever-free for 24 hours without Tylenol or ibuprofen on board, before they go back to school,” said DeJong. “The fever has to go away on its own,” added Stillson.

Environmental Protection & Natural Resources

Blizzard Watch Upgraded To Warning

All the ingredients are coming together for what could be one of the worse winter storms to affect us in several years. The National Weather Service has upgraded the blizzard watch to a blizzard warning which will be in effect from 6:00 pm this (Thurs.) evening into tomorrow (Fri.) evening. Jen Hacker is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls. She says conditions will greatly deteriorate overnight tonight (Thurs.) and through the day Friday.

"Through the late evening and overnight hours we're going to see some heavy snow develop across the area. Could even hear a clap of thunder or two mainly in areas south of the Spirit Lake area, down toward Spencer, Storm Lake. That will just enhance snowfall rates across the area. So we could see some pretty heavy snow at times across the area overnight tonight."

Hacker says a widespread swath of 8 to 12 inches of snow, possibly even more, will fall across a large part of the area, including the Iowa Great Lakes. And she says the storm will also pack some high wind.

"One other component with this system that we haven't seen in some recent ones is that we are going to see some strong winds develop late tonight and tomorrow, throughout the day, and even into tomorrow evening. Looking at northerly winds 25 to 35 mph with occasional gusts of around 45. So that's going to create some near zero visibilities with blizzard conditions across the area at times."


Tour of Our District

Freda Haffner Kettlehole

What appears to be a vast hillside prairie holds unseen potential. Enter the property through the small gate and set off along the worn footpath. (Be sure to stop and sign the visitor log. It's great to see the comments of the many people who visit the area.) As you crest the hill, be prepared for a great surprise!

Geological History

This kettle was created when an isolated, partially buried pocket of ice, melted slowly in place after the main ice sheet was gone. The steep sided bowl shaped depression has no surface drainage outlet; so the water level fluctuates in response to precipitation. The Little Sioux River, to the west, flowed beneath the stagnant glacial ice along this segment of its course.

Location Description

Vegetation within the kettle grows within distinct zones reflecting the changes in water conditions from wet at the bottom to dry at the top. In periods of very wet conditions, water may actually pool in the bottom of the kettle. Most years, Iris, New Jersey TeaSwamp Milkweed and Canada Anemone - among others (typical plants who prefer moisture), grow in the bottom of the kettle. The lower regions also provide space for frogs of all sorts and sizes! Watch them leaping out of your path or stand still and listen to their music from spring through midsummer!

Some midsummer plants on the slopes include a multitude of prairie grasses, Prairie cinquefoil, Silky aster, Lead plant and Culver's root.

Driving Directions and other Information

  • (1838 210th Street, Milford, IA.) From Milford, take Highway 86 west 2 miles. Veer off Highway 86 onto a gravel road (210th Street). Continue west for approximately 2 miles.

State of Iowa Fun Fact

West Okoboji is the deepest natural lake in the state. Its depth is 136 feet.

Tour of The Iowa State Capitol

Map of the Week

The map can be found here

Visitors of the Week

This week Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Michael O’Connor (Ocheyedan) and Mike Schuck (Ocheyedan).  O’Connor and Schuck were in Des Moines for the Iowa High School State Wrestling Tournament and stopped by the Capitol to visit with legislators.
Pictured here are Michael O’Connor (Ocheyedan), Rep. John Wills (Spirit Lake), and Mike Schuck (Ocheyedan).

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Dr. Alethea Stubbe, President of Northwest Iowa Community College. Dr. Stubbe was visiting the Capitol to talk with legislators about the value of community colleges.
Pictured here are Alethea Stubbe (Sheldon) and Rep. John Wills (Spirit Lake).

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with Mark Behner and Gary Tweedt who were visiting the Capitol to talk with legislators about Iowa's agriculture.
Pictured here are Gary Tweedt (Rock Rapids), Rep. John Wills (Spirit Lake), and Mark Behner (Sioux City).

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with members of the Iowa Bike Coalition in the State Capitol.  The group is from the Iowa Lakes Corridor area.  They were here to discuss bike safety.  

Rep. John Wills (R-Spirit Lake) met with the Director of Elderbridge Shelly Sindt (Fostoria)in the State Capitol.  

Pictured is Shelly Sindt (Fostoria) and Rep John H. Wills (Spirit Lake).  

Shelly Sindt (Fostoria)

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State Representative, John H. Wills
Governor, Terry Branstad
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