The General Assembly has reached its midterm for this year of the session. All bills that made it through the House Committees have been eligible for debate as of Monday.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives debated an unusually large volume of bills. Among them were:

n An act relating to obstruction in highways and providing penalties. This bill enhances public safety for those traveling the public roads and allows economical maintenance of highway right-of-ways.

n An act creating the Iowa proprietary tuition grant program and adding a member to represent proprietary institutions to the college aid commission. The only good part of this bill, in my opinion, is that the proprietary institutions will now have representation on the college aid commission.

This bill divides private institutions into two categories: Not-for-profit and for profit (proprietaries). The grants will be distributed to the students in for-profit institutions from the $5 million pot, and to the students in the not-for-profit institutions from the $45 million pot. When figured on a per student basis, the non-for-profits receive grants in excess of $4,000, while the for-profits receive $2,000.

This affects Ashford University students in a negative and very unfair way. My belief is that if students, regardless of the institution they attend, are eligible for grants, they should be allotted the same amount. I, and a handful of other Representatives, argued this point, but to no avail. The bill passed by an overwhelming majority of votes.

My greatest disappointment was that there was too much focus on the institutions and too little focus on the students.

Acts to approve older Iowans’ recommendations

• Increase the monthly allowance from $30 to $50 that nursing homes residents can keep for spending money. This can be used for laundry, hair cuts and similar personal needs.

• Nearly triples the total the Legislature must eventually deposit into the Senior Living Trust Fund, from $118 million to $300 million. This plan calls for taking a portion of each year’s state general fund ending balance and transferring it to the trust fund, where it will grow as an endowment to pay solely for programs serving Iowa’s seniors.

• Gives a judge the authority to immediately appoint a temporary conservator for a dependent adult if it appears that physical abuse or financial exploitation is causing serious harm and is an immediate concern. Another piece of legislation adds employees or operators of licensed substance abuse programs as persons who must report suspected dependent adult abuse when they perceive it while attending to a dependent adult as part of their professional duties.

Next week, the House plans to debate the education and Department of Human Services budget bills, and perhaps the TouchPlay machine bills. It will be a busy week with day-long debates.

Polly Bukta, a Democrat from Clinton, has been a member of the Iowa House of Representatives since 1997. She represents District 26, which covers part of Clinton County.