Despite the freezing weather in Des Moines, it was a very successful week at the Capitol! This was the sixth week of the 2021 legislative session. The Senate passed several bills during the week, discussing a number of topics such as education funding, increasing flexibility of continuing education requirements, and the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Tuesday was an exciting day for me at the Capitol as there were a number of groups who were visiting. In the morning, I had some constituents from Vinton come visit me and I was able to give them a little tour of the Capitol. I also met with David from A.B.A.TE. (A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education), who was advocating for reducing crashes on our roadways. Then, it was Legislative FFA Day, so I had visitors from the English Valley and Vinton-Shellsburg School Districts. It was awesome meeting with all of them and hearing what great things they have done and learned through FFA. They were all given tours of the Capitol while they were here as well. I sure enjoyed their visit and I hope that they all did as well.
Thursday morning we were invited to an event Senator Chuck Grassley was also attending. I, along with some of my colleagues and Senator Grassley, received a tour of Eagle’s Catch in Ellsworth, Iowa. This is a business that produces high quality American seafood. It was a great experience getting a tour alongside some of my other fellow senators. Of course, it is always an honor to meet with Senator Chuck Grassley as well.
Like always, the rest of the week was spent in subcommittee and committee meetings. I was assigned chair of SF 350, which is the Barber Apprenticeship Bill I have talked about in past newsletters. This was exciting for me to be chair of as I was the one who requested the bill to be drafted. The subcommittee recommended passage of SF 350, so the Labor and Business Relations Committee will be the next step for this bill. I will be the one managing the bill in the committee meeting as well so I am excited for this next step!
Updating Iowa’s Bottle Bill
One of the topics that has come up again this year is the bottle bill. Iowa’s bottle bill program has been around since 1979 when it was implemented as a way to control the amount of litter throw in into roadside ditches. As a method to reduce litter, help clean up the environment, and fundraise for the community, the bottle bill is very popular. In the 1990s, recycling really took off in Iowa, with drop-off sites eventually progressing into the single-stream curbside recycling most communities have today. However, the bottle bill remains relevant, and for many years now, legislators at the Capitol have been working on ways to update the law in light of changes in recycling and consumer behavior over the last 40 years.
Since the start of the pandemic, many are also more cautious about germs and want to ensure a safe and sanitary method for redemption. People bringing unsanitary bottles and cans to grocery stores where we buy our food runs contrary to efforts to improve public health.
Over the years there have been many ideas about modernizing the bottle bill, or even whether to repeal it altogether because of the increase in recycling. This year is no different. There are many stakeholders in this program and any proposed legislation dealing with the bottle bill. The pandemic and problems with redemption has given some renewed motivation for the issue, and the discussion on which of several proposals is best for the state continues.
Outside the Legislature
While I was home last weekend, I took a tour of the Brooklyn Opera House in Poweshiek county. I was stunned by the beauty of it and loved getting to know a little bit more about what it is. I was informed that the Brooklyn Opera House is operated by Brooklyn Community Development, a non-profit established in 2018 to focus on the renovation of the Brooklyn Opera House and operation of the Michael J. Manatt Community Center. The Brooklyn Opera House has the ability to host live theater, concerts, business meetings, speakers, and movie theater events. I always love touring the amazing places in District 38 and the Brooklyn Opera House did not disappoint! If you are interested in attending an event there, please go check out https://www.brooklynoperahouse.com/.