January 20, 2017

    2017 Legislative Survey Results: Education and Working Families Top Priorities
    Legislature Honors Veterans at Statehouse
    College Savings Iowa-529 Plan
    Health Care Enrollment Deadline Nears
    DOT Winter Cost Calculator
    71% of High School Graduates Enroll in College within One Year
    Manure Applicator Training Available

    2017 Legislative Survey Results: Education and Working Families Top Priorities

    A survey released this week by legislators found that education and working Iowa families are the top priorities of Iowans.

    Of the Iowans who participated in the survey, an overwhelming 80% say public schools should be the top priority of lawmakers during the 2017 legislative session. The survey also indicated there is overwhelming support to help Iowa’s working families. This includes having the legislature work to keep college affordable at Iowa’s community colleges and state universities, target state incentives toward small businesses, and take steps to help families with the high cost of child care.

    Other results from the survey include:

    • 83% support raising the minimum wage.
    • 90% say the legislature should provide stronger oversight over the Governor’s privatized Medicaid plan.
    • 91% support continuing to invest in renewable energy, and legislators should encourage more production of wind, solar and biofuels to create jobs.
    • 88% said that lawmakers should not pass additional tax breaks for corporations in the 2017 session.
    • 94% say the legislature should expand and improve access to mental health services.

    The survey was conducted to gather feedback from Iowans on their priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

    Legislature Honors Veterans at Statehouse

    On Wednesday, veterans and their families traveled to Des Moines for Veterans Day at the Capitol. Throughout the day, veterans met with legislators to discuss the priorities of the Veterans Coalition. The Veterans Coalition is a group of representatives from various veterans’ organizations across Iowa who work collectively to develop and advance policy ideas to assist veterans and their families.

    For the 2017 Legislative session, the Veterans Coalition will work to protect programs and agencies such as the Iowa Veterans Home, the Iowa Veterans Trust Fund, and the Military Home Ownership Program. The Coalition is also interested in allowing veterans with a 50% or greater service-connected disability to receive a veteran license plate with all fees and registration waived for one year.

    Finally, the Coalition will work towards increasing the Military Property Tax Exemption from $1,852 to $3,700. Throughout this year’s Legislative session, the Veterans Committees in the House and Senate will review the proposals that the Coalition brings forward.

    The Iowa Legislature will continue to work towards helping our veterans and making sure they get the care they deserve.

    College Savings Iowa-529 Plan

    In an effort to encourage more families and individuals to start saving for college, state officials are reminding Iowans to sign up for College Savings Iowa.

    Often called a 529 Plan, Iowans can start saving with a minimum investment of $25. These accounts are tax-deferred, and participants are able to deduct up to $3,239 per account per year on their adjusted gross income at the state level.

    At the federal level, participants can put in $70,000 per year per account without having to file for the federal gift tax. Enrollment into the program is free, but there is an annual fee of 0.20% assessed to each account. This means that for every $1,000 you contribute, you will have to pay $2.00 in fees per year. This year, the fees have been reduced for the 7th time in 10 years.

    This money does not need to be used at Iowa schools, but can be used at any eligible educational institution in the United States including technical, vocational, and graduate schools. It can even be used at schools abroad. Finally, an account can be transferred from one eligible family member to another if the original beneficiary chooses not to attend college.

    For more information regarding College Savings Iowa, please visit: https://www.collegesavingsiowa.com/content/home.html.

    Health Care Enrollment Deadline Nears

    Time is running out for Iowans who need health care or want to renew their health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace. The deadline to sign up for coverage in 2017 is the end of the month, January 31, 2017.

    Across the country, more than 8.8 million Americans have signed up since enrollment opened on November 1, 2016. Of that amount, more than 2.2 million are new enrollees. In Iowa, nearly 52,300 have signed up for health care.

    To learn about the plans and to estimate how much of a subsidy you may receive, visit www.healthcare.gov. Individuals may sign up for coverage after January 31, 2017 if they qualify for a special enrollment period by having a qualifying life event. The minimum penalty for not obtaining coverage for 2017 is $695 for an adult and $347.50 for a child depending on your household income.

    DOT Winter Cost Calculator

    If you have ever wondered how much it costs to keep Iowa’s state owned roads clear during winter weather, you may soon be able to find the answer. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) has unveiled a winter cost calculator for the public to track just how much it costs to keep our roads safe during the winter.

    While the snowplow drivers are visible to drivers on our roads, the general public rarely has access to the amount of labor that it takes to keep roads clear. The new tracker, which can be found here: Winter Cost Calculator, allows Iowans to look at how many pounds of salt is applied, labor and materials cost, and the amount of labor expected.

    Users will be able to get costs of specific roadways as well as information on the last time a snow plow passed through. Information is only available for roads that the state DOT maintains.

    Iowans can also track a snow plow and see what it is like behind the wheel on the following website: trackaplow.iowadot.gov.

    71% of High School Graduates Enroll in College within One Year

    A new report on the college readiness of Iowa students was released this week and found that 71% of high school graduates enrolled in college or a job training program within a year after graduation. The report comes as lawmakers begin work to grow Iowa’s skilled workforce.

    Iowa’s Postsecondary Readiness Report provides student enrollment in college and career training, postsecondary remedial course-taking rates, and postsecondary retention and completion rates that can be connected to every public high school in Iowa.

    Highlights of the report include:

    • 71.1% of Iowa high school graduates enrolled in college or training programs within one year of high school graduation.
    • 18.9% of those students took a remedial math class within one year of high school graduation.
    • 9.2% of those students took a remedial English class within one year of high school graduation.

    The Postsecondary Readiness Report is a collaboration between the Iowa Department of Education, Iowa Workforce Development and Iowa’s three state universities. It provides the percentage of students who enroll in college or career training as well as remedial courses in the first year after high school at Iowa community colleges or public universities.

    The report will be updated each year in the spring. The Postsecondary Readiness Report is located at http://educateiowa.gov/postsecondaryreadiness.

    Manure Applicator Training Available

    Confinement site manure applicators that want to become certified to land apply manure may now take training offered by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa State University. Once certified, an applicator can apply manure from totally roofed livestock facilities with more than 500 animal units if they do not charge fees.

    The workshops are offered at 63 locations around the state. The last workshop is February 28th. The video can also be viewed at the local extension office or online training can be completed. Anyone renewing their certification must complete training and pay any fees prior to March 1st to avoid late fees.

    Additional information is available at www.iowadnr.gov/manureapplicator.