The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

February 22, 2014

Ensuring top priorities get attention

By Rita Hart
Special to the Herald

---- — Since all bills needed to be voted out of committee by Friday, my colleagues and I were scurrying to hold subcommittee meetings and working feverishly with staffers to draft amendments and work out the details of bills so that they could survive the session.

I worked on and voted on many bills in the committee process, but a few that I have found to be most compelling include a human trafficking bill (SSB3169), the broadband bill (SSB3119) and an anti-bullying bill (SSB3149).

I have heard from many constituents who are concerned about human trafficking in Iowa. We should all be concerned about this crime, as it may be the fastest growing and one of the most lucrative crimes that takes place here in our local communities. SSB3169 does not address all of those concerns, but it does do several things that I think are important:

• It imposes a new criminal surcharge on traffickers, and that money will be used to provide services and support to their victims;

• It specifies that the county attorney may refer any person under the age of 18 who has been arrested for prostitution to DHS as a child in need of assistance;

• It extends the statute of limitations for sexual exploitation of a minor; and

• It requires the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy to include in its annual report to the Legislature information regarding resources devoted to training, staffing and investigating human trafficking cases.

These stipulations are a good start to address this horrific crime against children.

The broadband bill is an Economic Growth study bill, which is an attempt to provide availability of high-speed Internet access and the infrastructure necessary to facilitate that access across the state.

SSB3119 defines unserved and underserved areas, allows the Iowa Telecommunications & Technology Commission to enter into a contract to provide access to the ICN network, establishes a loan program for telecommunications businesses in unserved or underserved areas, creates income and property tax incentives, and incentivizes employers to place Iowa students into STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) internships.

Making sure that all Iowa citizens have equal access to high-speed Internet is crucial to economic development.

SSB3149 tackles the bullying issue in our schools. The bill expands the definition of bullying in state policy to specifically include electronic and social networking media. The bill requires a school district to adopt specific procedures regarding investigation of actions that produce a negative school impact for a student, regardless of whether it occurs on or off school property.

Our children deserve to go to school free to learn in a safe environment.

These are only three of many, many bills that passed through committee this week. Please let me know your thoughts on these bills and any other legislation under considered this session. You can access these bills at www.legis.iowa.gov.

You can also contact me at (563) 210-1252.

Senator Rita Hart represents Clinton County and northern Scott County in the Iowa Senate.