January 19, 2018

    2018 Legislative Survey Results: Invest in Education and Jobs
    Wages Stagnate Despite Healthy Economy
    Condition of the Iowa National Guard
    Flu Deaths Increasing in Iowa
    Iowa Human Trafficking Summit

    2018 Legislative Survey Results: Invest in Education and Jobs

    A survey released this week by legislators found that investing in education and working Iowa families are the top priorities of Iowans. Of the Iowans who participated in the survey, an overwhelming 89% say public schools should be the top priority of lawmakers during the 2018 legislative session. They also agreed that Iowa should not divert $200 million from public schools to private schools and homeschools instead.

    The survey also indicated there is overwhelming support to help Iowa’s working families. This includes having the legislature work to raise wages for Iowa workers, continue to invest in Iowa’s renewable energy, and keeping college affordable and limiting student loan interest rates so students aren’t faced with massive debt.

    Other results from the survey include:

    • 90% say the legislature should end the GOP’s Medicaid privatization.
    • 92% said that lawmakers should not pass additional tax breaks for corporations in the 2018 session.
    • 95% say the legislature should expand and improve access to mental health services.
    • 94% dislike diverting funding from K-12 schools to help with water quality.
    • 93% of Iowans support keeping IPERS safe and secure for Iowa’s retirees.

    The survey was conducted to gather feedback from Iowans on their priorities for the 2018 legislative session.

    Wages Stagnate Despite Healthy Economy

    Despite Iowa’s healthy economy and low unemployment rate, wages for most working Iowans remain stagnant and have not kept up with rising costs in recent years.

    In 2016, Iowa’s median hourly wage was $16.04. When adjusted for inflation, that number has barely moved since 1979, when the median wage was $15.91. That lack of wage growth means that a typical employee working 40 hours per week would have seen a real increase of $270.40 over 37 years.

    While median wages are stagnant, Iowa’s income gap is widening. The bottom fifth of earners saw practically no growth in household income from 2006 to 2016. The poorest 20 percent saw household incomes increase less than one half of 1 percentage point.

    While the middle class struggles, the top 20 percent of Iowa households saw their average income shoot up 12 percent in real terms over the same period. For the richest Iowans, the top 5 percent of households, inflation-adjusted household incomes improved by 16 percent.

    Last session, Republican lawmakers passed legislation preventing local governments from raising wages and actually lowered wages for 65,000 working Iowans.

    Condition of the Iowa National Guard

    As part of his annual Condition of the Guard, the Adjutant General, Major General Orr spoke of the continued work of the Iowa National Guard. Approximately 19,000 soldiers and airmen from the Iowa National Guard have been mobilized around the globe since the start of Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom. Currently, there are approximately 800 members of the Iowa National Guard deployed around the world.

    Some of those members serving abroad are working in positions that have not been open to them before when the US Secretary of Defense announced that women in the army may serve in any position that they are qualified for, including combat roles. In Iowa, there are now women serving as combat engineers, cavalry and artillery personnel, positions that used to be exclusively staffed by their male counterparts.

    The Iowa National Guard also worked to strengthen the partnership with the Republic of Kosovo though the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. Over the past seven years, there have been more than 100 engagements between the Iowa government, private entities, and departments within Kosovo. This year, the government of Kosovo has established their first-ever consulate and trade office within the city of Des Moines. This partnership will continue to grow and be a great benefit for both the people of Iowa and the citizens of Kosovo.

    General Orr also stressed the complex and demanding environment we are living in. With almost every region in the world facing challenges, as well as the back-to-back natural disasters our country has recently faced, it is more important than ever to have a National Guard prepared to accomplish their three core missions-fighting America’s wars, building enduring partnerships at all government levels, and securing the homeland.

    Veterans Day on the Hill

    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 2018 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 expanding Veteran Treatment Courts and increasing the Military Property Tax Exemption from $1,852 to $3,700.

    Flu Deaths Increasing in Iowa

    Flu deaths have continued to rise in Iowa, with eight additional flu-related deaths being confirmed recently. Since October 1, 2017, there have been 14 flu-related deaths reported across the state, with the average age of the victims being 85 years old.

    The main flu strain this year is AH3N2, and this particular strain usually comes on suddenly and typically lasts two to seven days. Symptoms include headache, fever, sore throat, congestion and body aches. However, there is still time to get a flu shot. State Epidemiologist and IDPH Medical Director Dr. Patricia Quinlisk advised, “Getting vaccinated now will still offer protection from serious disease, hospitalization and death for most of the flu season.”

    The recent rise in flu deaths have highlighted the important work the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) does to keep our state healthy and informed. The IDPH not only helps to prevent epidemics and the spread of disease, they work to improve access to quality health care, provide addictive disorder prevention and treatment, and help with brain injury and cancer patients.

    Even with all the important work being done by the Department, the House Majority party recently introduced a bill to disband the Department and transfer their duties to the Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Department of Public Safety (DPS), entities which are already struggling with budget cuts. The bill has been referred to the Commerce Committee in the House, where it could eventually land on the Governor’s desk for her signature.

    Iowa Human Trafficking Summit

    The Victim Assistance Division of the Attorney General’s Office and the Department of Public Safety’s Office to Combat Human Trafficking are hosting the Iowa Human Trafficking Summit on April 18 and 19. The event will focus on increasing awareness and understanding all forms of trafficking, best practices for serving trafficking survivors, and multi-disciplinary response coordination.

    While the summit is open to the general public, it is an opportunity for those in professions such as law enforcement, medical professionals, social workers, and attorneys to obtain continuing education units (CEU’s) and continuing legal education credits (CLE’s).

    For more information about the summit, including registration, please visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/iowa-statewide-human-trafficking-summit-registration-41253562516.