Last week, the Iowa Department of Economic Development awarded $35.4 million in HUD grants to communities across Iowa. The awards are based on the need, the benefit to low- and moderate-income persons and the commitment of local resources to the project. Projects in our area that received funding include:

• Andover: Water system installation, $87,000.

• Clinton: Sanitary sewer collection improvements, $400,000.

• Clinton: Child care center construction, $600,000.

• Clinton (New Directions Housing): New construction of 10 units for transitional housing, $500,000.

• Clinton (Skyline Center Service Enriched Housing): New construction of a Service Enriched program for 26 units for persons with disabilities, $727,844.

Many decisions lie ahead

With only six weeks of a 100-day legislative session to go, the Senate will be taking up some difficult issues. On Monday we will be debating the TouchPlay machine legislation. The eminent domain bill will be coming to the floor shortly, as will renewable fuels bills.

Also this coming week, all of the individual budget bills need to be worked on. The combined total is a little more than $5 billion.

We have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks.

Visitors at the Capitol

Visitors this week from the Rural Independent Telephone Associations included: Karen Watters and Judie Kleis from Baldwin-Nashville Telephone Co.; Roger Kilburg from Preston Telephone Co.; Terrance Noonan, James Larkin, Patricia Puetz, Richard Donovan, Larry Bartels and Rebecca Meggers from Bernard Telephone Co.; and Glenn Short and Tom Mullins from Lost Nation-Elwood Telephone Co.

Superintendents from Clinton County were here on Tuesday. They included Randy Clegg, Tom Parker, Mary Jo Hainstock and Jim Cox.

Dan Horwath from the Clinton Public Library was here on Wednesday for the Iowa Library Association reception.

Expanding access to early childhood programs

I’m working to build on last year’s efforts by providing more Iowa children with access to quality early childhood programs and health care. Gov. Vilsack has recommended increasing state funding for early childhood education. Another approach would provide grants that would be matched by community funds.

Whatever road we take, I remain committed to every Iowa child starting kindergarten ready to learn and reach their full potential. A good start can make all the difference in school and later in life.

The governor is right when he says, “State government works best when elected officials work together on the issues they agree upon. Educating and caring for our youngest citizens is an area where we have found consensus.”

Federal drug czar praises Iowa’s efforts

The nation’s drug czar recently visited the Iowa Statehouse to draw national attention to an Iowa success story. John Walters, the head of the White House Office of Drug Control, called Iowa’s anti-meth bill passed last year “an enormous gift to the country.”

I’m proud to have helped pass that law because it has been remarkably effective. Since it went into effect, we have seen a 75 percent reduction in the number of meth lab seizures; a 57 percent reduction in meth-related child abuse cases; and an 80 percent decline in offenses related to meth ingredients.

We must keep fighting the production and use of methamphetamine to make our communities and neighborhoods safer. Walters said Iowa’s law is a national and international model for fighting meth by more tightly controlling key ingredients used to make this highly addictive drug.

Public forums scheduled

• March 18, 9 a.m. at Bellevue City Hall.

• March 18: 10:30 a.m. at the Clinton Area Chamber of Commerce.

• March 18: noon at the DeWitt Community Center.

Roger Stewart, a Democrat from Preston, is a member of the Iowa Senate representing District 13.