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Newsletter for Thursday, April 19
April 27, 2018

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Week 15 again was a week marked by behind the scenes work on budget bills and very little floor action. We anticipate that budget bills will be eligible for debate early next week.

Good news about Iowa continues to come forward.

The 2017 Statewide Laborshed Study by Iowa Workforce Development has been released. The study shows that the median annual salary increased by $4,000 to an average of $64,000 per year, and the median hourly wage increased by $1 to an average of $17 per hour.

No doubt that these increases are a result of our low unemployment rates and increased emphasis on training our workers for higher skill level jobs. Iowa is clearly on the right track.

On Tuesday we passed five of the House Budget bills out of the Appropriations committee.

These were the Transportation Operations Budget that distributes the Road Use Tax Fund to the Iowa Department of Transportation for state roads and to the counties and cities, the Judicial Branch Budget that funds our court system from the county clerks to the Supreme Court , the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, Department of Natural Resources and Environment First Fund budget, the Economic Development Department Budget, and the Justice Systems Budget.

I'd like to highlight two points from the Justice Systems budget that I found notable.

This budget bill funds our prisons and other public safety functions. Included in this bill was $1 million for a "Regional Housing Project" at one or two of our prisons.

This program will allow prisoners to gain on the job training by building affordable houses that can be sold and relocated to the home site. This type of training is essential to help reduce recidivism in our criminal population. As one prisoner in this program pointed out, after participating in a similar program that allowed the prisoners to build garden sheds, the conversation among this group shifted from discussing past crimes to discussing how best to build these sheds. Programs like this will go a long way towards giving these persons a better chance when released from prison and reduce crime.

Another item in the Justice Systems budget bill that struck me was a policy provision to prevent any of the appropriated funds from being used to distribute or make available sexually explicit material to an inmate (pornography).

Apparently it has been past practice in our prisons to allow prisoners to view pornography, which not only requires the pornography be purchased with tax payer dollars, but the materials must then be thoroughly reviewed to remove any violent content, and then each viewing by a prisoner the materials must be reviewed before and after to make sure that no images were kept by the prisoner.

Aside from the obvious issue of it being pornography, these images could be used as barter within the prison for other goods. These reviews tie up valuable staff that should be performing more essential tasks. I'm glad to be removing this ridiculous practice and expense from our prison system.

Tuesday marked the 100th day of our legislative session. State law limits the per diem pay for legislators to 100 days in the second year of a General Assembly, and also limits our clerks salaries to that same 100 days.

Therefore, on Tuesday my clerk, David Blom, finished his duties working for the people of District 72. David was a true asset and a pleasure to have by my side this session, he is an exceptionally intelligent and capable young man.

I received many compliments from my colleagues about what a sharp gentlemen he is. David is currently pursuing admission to a four year college, I wish him well in his endeavors.

As always, please feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.

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