The Ragan Report

Around the district

 

• NIACC graduate recognized on opening day of session

     On the opening day of session, the Iowa Senate applauded the accomplishments of Donald Katterhenry, a graduate of North Iowa Area Community College. He was mentioned in the opening day address by the Senate Majority Leader when he discussed last year’s bipartisan investment in workforce training to grow Iowa’s middle class.

     Donald is from Mason City. Thanks to the GAP Tuition Program we funded last year, he earned his Commercial Driver’s License and is now employed by TMC Transportation. Business leaders say Iowa’s shortage of skilled workers is hampering growth and investment in Iowa. Don has shown what happens when we help Iowa workers gain valuable job skills. I hope her example will inspire all legislators to continue investing in Iowans.

• Local business receives award to reduce trash

     Armour-Eckrich Meats of Mason City will receive financial assistance through the DNR Solid Waste Alternatives Program (SWAP) to reduce the amount of solid waste generated and landfilled. The company has been awarded $19,218 to keep its organic waste from freezing prior to delivery to a local digester facility. Using the local digester keeps the organic material out of the landfill and protects the environment from methane emissions.

• Two local organizations receive arts grant

     The Iowa Arts Council has awarded funding to the Iowa Alliance for Arts Education in Hampton. The organization will receive $5,000 to put on an Arts Education Leadership Conference that will train future leaders for local school districts and professional fine arts organizations.

     In addition, Wright on the Park in Mason City will receive $2,175 for its Speakers' Bureau to present "Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School." This series will bring three presentations to Mason City to increase understanding and appreciation of Frank Lloyd Wright’s work as an art form, the music of William Wright and its impact on the developing artistry of his son Frank Lloyd Wright, and the work of John Howe, Taliesin Fellow, architect and head draftsman for Frank Lloyd Wright.

     Funding comes from the Iowa Legislature and the National Endowment for the Arts. The deadline for the next round of grants is February 3. Go to www.iowaartscouncil.org/funding/overview.shtmlfor more information.

Session should focus on growing Iowa’s middle class

     The 2014 legislative session gaveled in on January 13. This year, strengthening Iowa's middle class remains my top priority. We can do it by building on the many bipartisan successes of last year. We approved the largest tax cut in state history, froze university tuition, improved job-training opportunities and increased access to affordable health care. This year, I hope we'll take that same approach to funding for our local schools after several unpredictable years.

     Providing our children with a great education and expanding our middle class go hand in hand. The number of Iowa kids growing up in poverty is at a 50-year high, and our state’s childhood poverty rate is climbing faster than the national average. At the same time, the gap in student achievement between well-off and low-income students is also growing. We must make a strong investment in our local schools, but Iowa family incomes also need a boost. Increasing family incomes is good for the Iowa economy and helps our kids do their best in school. Last spring, we cut taxes on working families and expanded job-training efforts to prepare more parents for higher-skilled, better-paying work.

     Iowa's fiscal house in order, with record-high amounts in our reserve funds. That means this year we can modestly invest in schoolchildren, creating good jobs and ensuring Iowans can earn enough to provide for their families.

     In the weeks and months ahead, I'll be working on these priorities with the Governor, the House and my colleagues in the Senate. As we do, I want to know what your think. Often I hear the best ideas from the people in my district. If you have suggestions, please contact me.

Stay in touch in 2014

     With the Legislature back in session, I want to make sure you know what’s happening. There are many ways to follow the action. I’ll be sending out regular updates on the key issues we’re addressing from week-to-week in the Senate. I’ll also participate in local forums, where we’ll have a chance to talk face-to-face. There are several online resources to help you stay informed as well.

     I invite you to check out my Senate Web page at www.senate.iowa.gov/senator/ragan, and encourage you to share this site with others who might be interested in signing up for my newsletter, connecting with me on Facebook or checking out my Senate photos.

This session, I am serving as an Assistant Senate Majority Leader, chair of the Human Resources Committee and vice-chair of the Health & Human Services Budget Subcommittee. I am also a member of the Appropriations, Natural Resources & Environment, Rules & Administration and Veterans Affairs committees.

     Please feel free to e-mail me at amanda.ragan@legis.iowa.gov. I can also be reached through the Senate switchboard at 515-281-3371.