Bergan Report

By: News Release
Apr 14th, 2017

April 13, 2017

Greetings from the State House,

The work on policy bills is winding down. Several bills have been finalized during the past week. A number of bills previously passed by the House have had amendments added by the Senate. The House concurred on a number of these bills. I am sharing a summary of two bills adopted that address road safety.

Improving Road Safety for All Iowans

Ensuring that citizens are safe on Iowa’s roads and highways is something that’s important to all Iowans.

Iowa saw a major spike in the number of traffic fatalities last year and this year is keeping a similar pace. Two specific bills requested by law enforcement and passed this session will help make Iowa’s roads safer for drivers and passengers.

Texting and Driving

As technology has advanced over the years, the usage of phones while driving has become increasingly dangerous and distracting, in addition to all the other distractions that drivers deal with.

Senate File 234 will make our roads safer by strengthening our texting while driving law by making it a primary offense. This will allow law enforcement to pull over drivers who are texting, sending emails, browsing social media apps, or doing other distracting activities on their phones. Under current law, texting and driving is a secondary offense so law enforcement is unable to pull drivers over.

The bill allows drivers to continue to use their phone to make calls, use voice-to-text functions, or use GPS.

46 other states already have bans on texting while driving.

24/7 Sobriety Program

Drunk drivers on Iowa’s roads present an incredible danger to the Iowans.

Modeled after successful programs in other states, Senate File 444 implements the 24/7 Sobriety program as a way to combat drunk driving. By voluntarily opting in, participating counties will be able to require repeat offenders and first-time offenders (under certain conditions) to submit to twice daily drug and alcohol tests.

Requiring twice daily in-person drug and alcohol tests will hold offenders accountable and encourage them down the path of sobriety to end an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

After South Dakota implemented a similar program, drunk and drugged driving re-occurrences were dramatically reduced, saving lives and saving the state money in reduced court and jail costs.

Highlights of the budget

Investing in K-12 Schools

This budget plan fully funds the additional $40 million promised to K-12 schools earlier this session. It’s clear that K-12 education will be receiving the largest funding increase in all areas of government. Most areas will see budget reductions.

Supporting Iowa’s Workforce and Community Colleges

This budget plan makes an additional investment in Iowa’s community college system of $1.6 million. Local community colleges play a vital role in educating Iowa’s workforce all across the state. Schools work with community colleges to offer students college-level coursework, young people attend community colleges for affordable education, and businesses rely on community colleges for job and skills training. An additional $250,000 is being provided for STEM to build a stronger 21st century workforce.

Protecting Public Safety

The budget plan provides an additional $1 million to the Iowa State Patrol to hold an academy and hire more troopers. More troopers on Iowa’s highways will improve emergency times and providing a higher level of safety for motorists and passengers.

Ensuring Access to Justice

Iowa’s Judicial Branch will see no reductions in next year’s budgets. Ensuring that Iowans have access to the courts is one of the key functions of government.

This budget takes a responsible and thoughtful approach to spending in recognition that revenue may continue to come in less than anticipated.

This budget plan also makes an initial down payment of $20 million to repay the Cash Reserve account. House Republicans will be looking for ways to increase the down payment this year and will pass a plan to fully repay the Cash Reserve by the end of this two year General Assembly.

Work will continue with other budget sub-committees.

Very truly yours,

Representative Michael Bergan