February 21, 2024

AEA proposal has no momentum

Union County representatives Sen. Tom Shipley and Rep. Devon Wood both told the audience Saturday at Creston’s first legislative coffee of the session Gov. Kim Reynolds’ proposal of remodeling the Area Education Agency concept has no interest in either legislative body.

To start the legislative session last month, Reynolds explained her idea of restructuring the public education offices motivated by test results of special education students that were not meeting her goals.

“It did not pass subcommittee,” Wood, a Republican from New Market, told the people. “It will not be moving forward. That proposal was dead in the house.”

Reynolds’ plan quickly got attention including AEA staff members were holding informative meetings explaining their work and what could happen under the new structure. One of the those meetings was held in Creston. Part of Reynolds plan included how school districts could hire the needed help on their own rather than rely on the staff within the AEA as there are nine regional offices in the state.

“It’s not moving anywhere,” Shipley, a Republican from Adams County, said about the proposal in the Senate. He said he has heard from several school superintendents and former AEA employees about their co

ncerns.

Wood and Shipley said the discussions did reveal some operational questions with AEA, but said those are nowhere near what Reynolds has in mind to do with the offices. Neither went into further detail.

The two also commented on recent proposal from the Senate to drastically change funding for municipal libraries, not requiring city councils and county supervisors to provide funding as has historically been done.

“Why,” Shipley asked. “I don’t understand the rationale. It’s a waste of time,” he said.

Wood said she knows of similar sentiments in the House.

Those two were the bigger issues during the hour-long meeting at the Senior Meal Site.

Shipley took a moment to honor the life and career of Bill Northey, Iowa’s former secretary of agriculture whose death was announced last week. Northey had taken a position at the federal level in the same department.

Shipley said there is discussion among Iowa lawmakers about securing and increasing the indemnity fund with grain elevators that have severe financial problems and close and can’t pay farmers for the value of their stored grain.

He said there are specific cases in Iowa where the elevator was for a specialized grain, but those losses took a majority of the available funds. He doesn’t want farmers to be troubled should a traditional elevator have problems.

“Larger grain elevators don’t want credit contracts,” he said. The example he used was a farmer selling his grain in December but does not want the payment until March.

“There’s billions of dollars hung up on pieces of paper,” he said.

He expects the indemnity issue to make it through funnel week, the issues that survive committees and be acted upon by the House and Senate.

Shipley said there is discussion of making it a felony if someone breaks a no-contact order. He said Iowa law enforcement officers have too many domestic violence calls and putting more strength in a no-contact order call may help.

“It’s a very serious issue,” he said.

Shipley said there are ongoing discussions with railroad companies in Iowa about infrastructure improvement and crossing safety. He knows of trains that are stopped and have blocked railroad crossings for extended periods of time. He added he knows the importance of the railroad industry in Iowa.

“I love railroads as they are vital to the economy,” he said. “But they can be better neighbors.”

Wood said she is working on improvements to radio systems for law enforcement agencies. She said Taylor County, where she is from, has issues with its system as deputies may have to drive while on duty to other areas to get better reception. She knows of four other counties with similar challenges.

Wood also said there is still discussion about improving public teacher pay. Reynolds had proposed a first-year teacher start at $50,000 and one with 12 years experience be at $62,000. Wood said she is in favor of increasing teacher pay but there are teachers with certain endorsements which also need considered in the proposal.

“The teacher pay is not dead,” she said.

Shipley and Wood are two of Union County’s four representatives. Rep. Ray Sorensen and Sen. Amy Sinclair’s respective districts include northern and eastern townships in the county. The next legislative coffee is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, March 16.

John Van Nostrand

JOHN VAN NOSTRAND

An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.