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Newspaper Archive of
N. Warren Town and County News
Norwalk, Iowa
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February 8, 2018     N. Warren Town and County News
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February 8, 2018
 

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Page Six N/Warren Town and County News Thursday, February 8, 2018 Senate News By State Senator Julian B. Garrett julian.garrett@legis.iowa.gov Budget"Negotiations Continue Negotiations continue over the de-appropriations bill. With all the controversy over the cuts, you could be forgiven if you lose track of the fact that the cuts amount to substantially less than 1% of the total budget. Because of the fact we have decided not to cut K-12 education that makes up about 45% of our total budget, or Medicaid, the cuts amount to more than 1% for some other parts of the budget. We have chosen to prioritize the cuts rather than make across the board cuts, as Governor Culver did years ago when he made 10% across the board cuts. The solution to our budget problems is an increase in economic growth. There are signs that the economy nationally and in Iowa may grow at a faster rate than it has been. Restraining the Supreme Court I have filed Senate File 2153, a bill requiring at least five justices of the Supreme Court of Iowa to concur, to hold a law unconstitutional. At present, only four justices need to be in concurrence. Currently when the Senate and the House pass a law and the Governor signs it, if somebody claims it is unconstitutional in a court case, it only takes four judges to override the House, the Senate, the Governor and the three other justices."There are a number of cases where by a 4-3 decision, the Court has essentially amended the Constitution. This bill simply increases the number of justices required to rule a law unconstitutional, and protects the will of the people as expressed through their elected legislators and the Governor. A number of these cases involve "search and seizure" issues, and cases involving minimum sentences of juveniles who have committed felonies, including murder. I don't have room to discuss these cases in detail here, but the effect in general is to enhance the rights of those accused of crimes, to an even greater extent than has the U. S. Supreme Court, at the expense of law enforcement, The Stateof Nebraska has had a similar provision in its constitution for a number of years, and that is where I got the idea. The bill is co-sponsored by 20 other Republican Senators. Economy Growing We continue get good news on the economy. According to USA Today, there was an increase of 200,000 jobs in January. Wages increased by 2.9% compared to one year ago, the best increase since 2009. Many employers are giving their employees bonuses in addition to the wage increases. The unemployment rate is at 4.1%, the lowest since 2009. (It's even lower in Iowa.) As always please feel free to contact me with your ideas or concerns. National Plan for Vacation Day The Iowa Tourism Office has joined destination marketing organizations from around the country to mark National Plan for Vacation Day, an annual celebration that calls on people to plan their 2018 getaways. The Iowa Tourism Office also released the 2018 version of the Iowa Travel Guide, the state's official travel guide that inspires potential travelers with thousands of Iowa vacation ideas. Last year, more than half (53 percent) of Iowans left vacation days unused, according to research by Project: Time Off, a part of the U.S. Travel Association. Those 6.1 million unused vacation days represent $1.1 billion of untapped economic benefit to the state of Iowa. Additional research also found that employees who plan and take vacations are happier with their company and job, relationships, and physical health and well-being. "The vacation that's planned is the vacation that happens," said Shawna Lode, Manager of the Iowa Tourism Office. "Going on vacation doesn't mean going on an airplane. We're encouraging Iowans to commit to traveling their home state to discover the places and people that make us unique." The 2018 Iowa Travel Guide includes 130 pages dedicated to showcasing Iowa's authentic and unexpected destinations, including Iowa's best spots for donuts, kid-friendly museums, must-shop Main Streets, an Iowa baseball road trip, Iowa-made products and the artisans who create them, and much more. The free guide can be ordered online at traveliowa.com or by phone at 1-800-345-IOWA. Legislative Newsletter Stan Gustafson Iowa House Representative District 25 School Funding: House Republicans have continually made K-12 education funding a top priority for the state. While other areas of the state budget have seen reductions in recent years, House Republicans have protected schools from any cuts during this time. A recent report said Iowa is fourth best in the nation in funding increases. These investments are paying off as Iowa leads the country in high school graduation rates and student's ACT scores are among the best in the nation. Supplemental State Aid: This session, House Republicans are proposing to increase supplemental state aid to schools by $32 million. This additional funding will bring annual investment in K-12 education to more than $3.2 billion. This represents almost 45% of the state's budget. Since coming into the majority in 2011, funding for schools is up $765 million, a 31% increase over that time. Funding has increased almost $1,000 per student in that time. In a classroom of 25 students that represents $25,000 in additional funding that can be used for new textbooks, higher pay for the best teachers, or other necessities that improve student's educational experience. Additionally, there are 2,363 more full- time teachers in Iowa classrooms and the student- to-teacher ratio of 13.5 is lower than the 2011. House Republicans' proven track record of supporting K-12 schools is strong. We are on track to finalize school funding within the first 30 days of session, delivering on our promise to provide school boards and administrators with certainty as they begin planning their budgets. Transportation Support Fund: Many schools across the state face an unequal burden when it comes to transportation costs. This inequity is especially difficult in rural areas of the state where school districts are less condensed than their urban counterparts. This means higher costs to bus students to schools and less money in the classroom to teach our kids. House Republicans are proposing to create a Transportation Fund and invest $10 million to reduce district's transportation costs. This will relieve Some pressure on rural school budgets and free up dollars in their General Funds that they can then put to use for educational purposes. Additional Flexibility: Last session, House Republicans championed legislation to provide schools with unprecedented flexibility and control over their resources. This session, we will provide even more flexibility. House Republicans will continue to work closely with local school boards and administrators to provide flexibility, allowing resources to flow more freely to where they are most needed. We are putting forward legislation that continues to loosen the strings on existing funds that are intended for specific purposes. This will provide schools with more flexibility to put additional resources towards priorities they have that better meet the needs of their students, teachers, and parents. Investing in School Infrastructure: In 2008, the Legislature created the SAVE Fund to help schools make much-needed investments in crumbling school infrastructure. SAVE is set to expire in 2029, which is making it difficult for schools to secure financing for critical infrastructure projects. House Republicans will work to extend the SAVE Fund this session so schools can continue to make investments in their facilities and infrastructure. Some reforms may be made on how SAVE dollars can be used to prevent the construction of elaborate athletic facilities. More of the SAVE fund may also be dedicated to reducing property taxes for homeowners. Forum: Senator Garrett and I will be attending the Legislative Forum at the Jackson Building the fourth Saturday of the month at 9:00 a.m. The next Forum wi].l be February 24th at the Jackson Building in the Madison County Fairgrounds. I also attend the Norwalk City Town Hall Community Chat meeting the second Saturday of the month at 9:00 a.m. at City Hall. The next meeting is Saturday February 10th. Protect Yourself From Medicare Fraud By Jane Moore, Senior Medicare Patrol Coordinator Most medical providers who work with Medicare are honest; however, some aren't. Individuals, companies, or groups can carry out fraud schemes. Medicare fraud happens when Medicare is billed for services or supplies that you never received. Medicare fraud costs the program approximately $60,000,000,000 (BILLION!) every year, and we pay for it with higher health care costs and higher taxes. The Senior Medicare Patrol was established to help educate all of us on how we can help prevent fraud by detecting errors and potential fraud on our Medicare Summary Notices (Explanations of Benefits for those of us on Medicare Advantage plans). When I visit with people at the community centers, I bring Personal Healthcare Journals. These journals are great tools to use to write down dates you visited your doctor or when you received any services from health care providers. That way you have a written record and you can compare it to your Medicare Summary Notice when it arrives. If you do find what appears to be an error on your Medicare Summary Notice, your first step will be to contact the medical provider. If you don't get a satisfactory answer, don't hesitate to call Medicare at 1-800-MEDICARE. If you need help, the Iowa Senior Medicare Patrol is also available to help with finding answers: 1-800-423-2449. Before you call Medicare or the Iowa SMP, be ready with the following information: 1) provider's name and contact information; 2) the service or item you are questioning; 3) the date the service was supposedly provided; 4) the amount paid by Medicare; 5) the date on your Medicare Summary Notice; 6) your name and Medicare number; 7) the reason you think Medicare shouldn't have paid; 8) any other information you have about this claim. Also, don't forget to let Medicare and Social Security know your new address if you have moved recently. New Medicare cards will be sent out starting in April of 2018. Extra copies of the Norwalk paper can be purchased at Casey's, Kum & Go, Git-N-Go, and Fareway. Workshop on Farmland Values & Ownership After three consecutive declines since its 2013 peak, the average land value for all qualities of farmland saw its first increase. The 2017 Iowa State University Extension and Outreach's Land Value Survey shows the average value per acre at $7,326 for all qualities of land, which represents a 2% increase from November 2016. Farmland owners will learn about farmland values and ownership at an upcoming workshop at the Polk County ISU Extension office on Friday, February 16th in Altoona. Topics will include: Iowa Land Value Trends, by Wendong Zhang, ISU Assistant Professor of Economics; Iowa Water Quality Legislation Impact; Ag & Farmland Legal Update, by Kristine Tidgren, Legal Consultant, ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation; and Riding the Ag Cycles, by Steve Johnson, Farm Management Specialist, ISU Extension and Outreach. The workshop starts at 9:00 a.m. with doors opening at 8:30 a.m. at the Polk County ISU Extension Office, 1625 Adventureland Drive, Suite A, in Altoona. The workshop will last until 3:00 p.m. with a catered lunch. Pre-registration is required by Tuesday, February 13th. Contact the Polk County Extension office at 515- 957-5760 or kparker@iastate.edu to pre-register or to get more details, including cost of this event.