September 25, 2019

    Great Iowa Treasure Hunt; Do You Have Unclaimed Money?
    Demand Remains High for New Blackout License Plates
    Iowa Moves Forward on School Bus Seat Belts
    Grants Available to Expand Broadband Access
    Flood Mitigation Board Approves New Assistance
    Public Hearings Set on Use of Seclusion Rooms in Schools
    Waterfowl Hunting Changes

    Great Iowa Treasure Hunt; Do You Have Unclaimed Money?

    Every year, there are millions of dollars turned into the State Treasurer’s office as lost or abandoned property. This property comes in the form of safe deposit box items, dormant financial accounts, unclaimed utility refunds, uncashed checks, and stock certificates and dividends.

    The State Treasurer’s office becomes the holder of these assets until the missing owner can be found. Owners are located through mailings, publications, and listings that are displayed at the Iowa State Fair. There is no time limit to file a claim, and there is no fee assessed once the property or money has been returned the owner.

    To date, the Great Iowa Treasure Hunt program has returned over $267 million in unclaimed property to more than 592,000 people since Treasurer Fitzgerald created it in 1983.

    To see if you have unclaimed property or money visit: https://greatiowatreasurehunt.gov.

    Demand Remains High for New Blackout License Plates

    With nearly 20,000 plates sold since first becoming available July 1, the demand for Iowa’s new blackout license plates still remains high. The black and white plates, approved during the 2019 Legislative Session, sold quickly with most counties running out or running low in the initial month after their release.

    Iowans are able to exchange any plates for non-personalized blackout license plates at local county treasurer’s offices, which saves the two- to three-week order processing time if the plates are ordered online or by mail. The new blackout license plates will not have the same letter/number combination as your current plates.

    If you currently have a personalized plate and would like to switch your personalized message from that plate to the new blackout plate design, you will need to complete the mail in form found at https://iowadot.gov/mvd/vehicleregistration/vehicleregistration/plates/blackout.

    The blackout plates are considered a specialty plate, so they are subject to an additional fee. The new plate will cost $35 for a non-personalized, alpha-numeric plate and an additional $25 (for a total of $60) for a personalized plate. An additional fee of $10 for non-personalized and $15 for personalized plates will be added to renewal registration fees.

    Funds collected for the blackout plate will go to the Road Use Tax Fund, which funds state, county, and city road and bridge projects throughout Iowa.

    Iowa Moves Forward on School Bus Seat Belts

    A final approval was given that would require new school bus purchases starting October 2nd to be equipped with 3-point shoulder belts. Agreed to by the Iowa Legislature’s Administrative Rules Review Committee, this new rule is aimed to reduce whiplash in a crash and also save lives in a roll-over situation while students are on a school bus.

    The rules did not include a requirement for fire suppression systems, something that the National Transportation Safety Board concluded was a factor in the Oakland Iowa school bus crash that killed the driver and one student.

    Crash test demonstration on school bus seat belts by the Iowa Public Transportation Association can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9TJZe7Ost_A.

    The multiple requirements include the following:

      • School districts to document that bus evacuation drills are being done twice a year, as required by law.

      • More safety equipment on buses, including 3-point shoulder belts, reflectors and an additional stop arm at the back of the bus to help prevent drivers from passing stopped buses.

      • Inspections will include all school vehicles used to take students to and from activities. Currently smaller vehicles are used to transport a small group of students for an extracurricular activity. They often travel much greater distances to an event compared to a school bus, but yet are not currently inspected.

      • Allowing school districts to increase school bus ride time (currently 75 min. one-way for high school and 60 min. for elementary) by 15 min. if they have a public hearing. The longer bus rides will likely affect elementary kids the greatest due to longer rides without a break.

    Grants Available to Expand Broadband Access

    Grants are now available to expand high-speed internet access to underserved areas of the state. Applications will be accepted through October 18, 2019 and $5 million in total grant money is available.

    Up to 15% of project costs for broadband expansion into Targeted Service Areas are available. Private selector service providers or public sector entities are eligible for the grants. New maps for eligible areas were recently released by the Office of the Chief Information Officer.

    The grants are made available as part of the Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program. Legislation expanding the Empower Rural Iowa grants was passed by the legislature this year on a bipartisan, unanimous vote, this year.

    Additional information on the grant process and applications can be found at https://ocio.iowa.gov/notice-funding-availability-002. Updated maps showing targeted areas for the grant funding can be found at https://ocio.iowa.gov/broadband-availability-map-version-2.

    Flood Mitigation Board Approves New Assistance

    As the third round of flooding wreaks havoc on the western side of Iowa, the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board has approved $15 million to buy out homes damaged by the floods and repair levees. Some communities such as Hamburg, Hornick, and Pacific Junction received some state funds, but did not receive all the money it asked for.

    Earlier this spring the Missouri River went over its banks and over levees, destroying homes and farm fields throughout western Iowa. Even though the board allocated $15 million, some projects and needs were not met, such as a project in Muscatine County as well as a levee project on the Missouri River.

    Last Legislative Session, the Legislature created the Flood Recovery Fund under the control of the Iowa Flood Mitigation Board. The Flood Recovery Fund includes money appropriated from the General Assembly, as well as other money available to be developed in the fund. For a project to be eligible for funding, it has to support flood response, flood recovery, or flood mitigation activities.

    Public Hearings Set on Use of Seclusion Rooms in Schools

    Six meetings to gather public input on proposed revisions to rules regarding the use of seclusion rooms in schools will be held by the Iowa Department of Education (DE) from Sept. 24 through Oct. 3.

    Proposed revisions to Iowa Administrative Code chapter 281-103 (“Chapter 103”) were voted down by the State Board of Education in August so that more feedback can be collected on some parts of the proposed rules, including seclusion room requirements, parent notification, and the term “serious physical injury.” The rewrite of the rules was requested by a petition filed by the ACLU and parents of children that were placed in seclusion rooms for an excessive amount of time.

    The public input meetings will run from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dates and locations are as follows:

      Tuesday, September 24
      Green Hills Area Education Agency - Creston
      Conference Room
      257 Swan St., Creston

      Wednesday, September 25
      Heartland Area Education Agency - Johnston
      Conference Room 152A,152B, and 152C
      6500 Corporate Drive, Johnston

      Thursday, September 26
      Grant Wood Area Education Agency – Cedar Rapids
      Winter/Spring Room
      1120 33rd Ave. SW, Cedar Rapids

      Tuesday, October 1
      Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency - Pocahontas
      North and South Twin Lakes Conference Rooms
      500 NE 6th St., Pocahontas

      Wednesday, October 2
      Central Rivers Area Education Agency – Cedar Falls
      Conference Room B
      1521 Technology Parkway, Cedar Falls

      Thursday, October 3
      Ottumwa Community School District
      Media Center
      812 Chester Ave, Ottumwa

    For more information about the meetings, contact tana.mullen@iowa.gov. Written comments about the rules may be emailed to nicole.proesch@iowa.gov.

    Waterfowl Hunting Changes

    Every five years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allows Iowa to modify the hunting zones for waterfowl hunting. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is in the process of changing the zones for hunting seasons in 2021-2025. In order to receive feedback from the public on the proposed changes, the DNR is hosting forums around the state. Forums are open to everyone and the DNR will use feedback in making any changes before the zones are officially submitted to the Natural Resources Commission for their review.

    Meetings are from 6p.m. – 8p.m. at these locations:

      • Oct. 14, Three Mile Lake Lodge, near Afton
      • Oct. 15, Washington County Conservation Education Center, near Ainsworth
      • Oct. 17, Oelwein Community Plaza, in Oelwein
      • Oct. 22, Story County Conservation Center, McFarland Park, near Ames
      • Oct. 23, Alta Community Center, in Alta

    r requirements for online instructors. Schools and private providers are also prohibited from providing incentives or rebates for parents to enroll in online education, and the DE Director is required to maintain a list of approved private providers.