By Rep. Sharon Steckman
D- House District 59
I was recently honored to help kick off Black History Month which occurs each year for the entire month of February. Representatives are asked to prepare and present a short speech honoring a black person, usually someone who has a connection to Iowa. I was pleased to honor George Washington Carver on February 1st. This date was also recently designated as “George Washington Carver Day” in Iowa, so it was a great way to begin the month!
The son of a slave, Carver graduated high school in Kansas and was accepted to Highland University, also in Kansas. However, when he arrived and the University realized he was black, he was rejected, even though he had a scholarship for good grades. Thankfully, he found his way to Iowa and attended both Simpson College and Iowa State University. At Iowa State he was the first African-American to earn his Bachelor’s Degree in the United States. Carver went on to develop 300 products from peanuts; 118 from sweet potatoes; and created the crop rotation method. A true American hero!
Last November the Revenue Department and the Governor’s office discovered a mistake of over $127 million. If not corrected this would cause property taxes to increase significantly. However, local governments were not informed of this mistake until January. This week in the House, SF181 was passed and will go to the Governor for her signature. It will put the burden on local governing bodies to figure out how to cut close to 3% from their budgets. Many will have to decertify their budgets and start over; this will potentially affect funding to emergency and essential services.
I felt because this is a State mistake, the State should pay. Therefore, I voted for an amendment that would reimburse local governing bodies using the State’s Taxpayer Relief Fund which currently has over $1billion and will be close to $3 billion in two years. What better use of this fund that give taxpayers relief? Unfortunately, the amendment did not pass.
HF 144 concerning Rural Emergency Hospitals is making its way through the process of becoming a reality in Iowa. Due to national legislation created and funded by the Biden administration, a licensing system is being developed to provide for establishing these facilities in currently operating rural hospitals. Iowa has been losing rural hospitals for years due, in part to the underfunding of healthcare. Currently, we are in danger of losing twenty-two rural hospitals. Under HF144 they can be designated as REH’s (Rural Emergency Hospitals) and will receive a 5% increase in their Medicare reimbursement rates, plus a monthly reimbursement. I believe this new funding will help keep our rural hospitals open and serving the people who live in those areas.
This week has been hectic with subcommittee meetings popping up suddenly – often without the required 24-hour notice. As Ranking member of the Education Committee, I need to be aware of each subcommittee scheduled for each bill as well as which minority party member has been assigned to each bill. Tracking all of that – plus other committees take me away from my desk in the House. I want to apologize to anyone who may have visited the Capitol but was not able to connect within me. I do look forward to welcoming all of my constituents to the House!
FORUM: MCPL Room, 10-11:30am
SATURDAY, FEB. 25