My priority in the Legislature has been on ensuring Iowans have the tools they need to get ahead and working on policies that ensure economic security and economic opportunity for my constituents here in House District 38. As a member of the House Education Committee and Human Resources Committee, my focus has been on education and health care policy. It’s also important to me that we have transparency and accountability in state government, which is why I have prioritized constituent services and civic engagement in my first term. I hold office hours every Friday morning during the legislative session and weekend listening posts throughout the year. In the time of COVID, I have made virtual listening posts an option for my constituents to easily connect with me.
Elections should be about forward-thinking ideas and an agenda to improve the lives of every member of our community. I could discuss policy positions for hours, especially with all that we have going on in Iowa! Here are a few of my top priorities and what I hope to continue to work on.
Clean Water & Conservation
It’s past time to get real about the needs in our communities with a commitment to clean water, conservation, renewable energy, and infrastructure. Slowing and reversing the effects of climate change are not only necessary, but provide so many economic opportunities in the form of growing clean energy industries and high-paying jobs for Iowans. It’s also important to remember that clean water and conservation are not rural vs. urban issues; they are “all Iowa” issues and must be treated as such in the Legislature. I will continue to work for dedicated funding of the Natural Resources & Recreation Trust Fund, as passed by voters in 2010, in order to clean up our waterways, protect our land and wildlife habitat, and grow outdoor recreational opportunities. This will spur economic development as people choose to stay in or move to Iowa and seek us out as a vacation destination.
Economic Security & Economic Opportunity
What I have learned from my constituents in my first term is that all Iowans need policies that support a commitment to economic security and economic opportunity for all families. As a mom of twins, I understand the struggle families face when the reality of the high cost of childcare hits home. I’ve also felt the anxiety of using all of my unpaid time off while on bedrest before my children were born. Our labor force has changed with the majority of parents in the workforce. I will continue to work to find consensus on policies that make life easier for working families. In fact, I have been proud to vote for legislation to expand paid family medical leave, sick leave and affordable child care.
I also strongly support the restoration of collective bargaining rights, a system that was created with bipartisan support and worked well for 40 years, for our teachers and public employees.
Additionally, small businesses and entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our communities. I support economic development that focuses on ensuring small and medium-sized businesses have access to assistance from the state government in order to grow and thrive. I also believe we need to make sure more entrepreneurs, especially those of color, have easier access to capital to start a business and reinvest in their communities. It’s also critical that our vision of statewide economic development reflects the needs and strengths of each community. Fostering public-private partnerships in communities across the state provide opportunities to highlight what makes each city and town in Iowa unique. I am proud to serve on the Economic Growth Committee and the Economic Development Budget Subcommittee to focus on these efforts.
I am a long-time advocate for the rights of women to make our own reproductive health care decisions. These rights have been tested and under fire, especially over the last few years. In my first term, I wrote a bill to restore family planning funding to trusted providers across Iowa. I have also spoken out against cuts to sexuality education grants and an unconstitutional 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortion care. Reproductive health care decisions are intensely personal and all Iowans have the right to make these decisions for ourselves in consultation with our doctors, not politicians.
The privatization of Iowa’s Medicaid program continues to be a challenge for the most vulnerable Iowans. I have voted to remove Iowa’s long-term support services (LTSS) population away from the MCO’s and back under a state administered Medicaid program, which unfortunately was not supported by the majority party. We need to continue to work for a Medicaid program that is safe for patients, more reliable for providers, and more cost-effective for Iowa taxpayers.
As a mom of twins in fifth grade, I am passionate about supporting our schools and the amazing educators who work tirelessly to foster the growth of our kids. We must invest in our children and neighborhood schools by providing timely, adequate and equitable funding for public education. Funding levels over the last several years aren’t keeping up with the cost of inflation, requiring school districts to make drastic cuts, increase class sizes, or raise property taxes to make ends meet. Public education has been systematically underfunded and we must get back to the basics by prioritizing the single most important investment we can make for the future of our state. This is why I have voted for funding that is above the rate of inflation, which, unfortunately, has been voted down by the current majority party. I am also proud to have voted to increase funding for our English Language Learners (ELL). I will continue to work to ensure K-12 funding is a priority in the House again so that all our kids have equal access to opportunity.
I am proud to have focused on equity of funding in my first term. I was one of four Iowa House members to serve on the School Funding Formula Review Committee in 2019. Because of that work, I wrote a bill to form a working group to study the impact of poverty on the school funding formula and make recommendations to the Legislature on how we can make funding more equitable within and across school districts. The bill, HF 2370, was passed with strong bi-partisan support out of the Education Committee. Unfortunately, due to COVID, we ran out of time to get it to the House floor for a vote. I look forward to continuing this work in 2021.
My other focus has been on promoting the great work being done right here in House District 38. I was pleased to invite students from the Ankeny Schools’ Orbis program to give a presentation to the House Education Committee on project-based learning back in March. It is my hope that by promoting the creativity of our local school districts, we can inspire change and facilitate partnerships across the state that provide more opportunities for students in every corner of Iowa.
We also need to ensure that community colleges, like DMACC based here in Ankeny, have the resources they need to graduate even more students with the skills needed in our ever-changing workforce.
This is one of our greatest human services challenges and it continues to require heavy lifting on both short and long term solutions. Iowa ranks 50th in the nation when it comes to the number of available inpatient psychiatric beds, per percentage of population. Not only does Iowa not have enough beds, but we don’t have the right kind of beds for the patients who need them, which means people are stuck because there is nowhere else to go. Essentially, we have a continuum of care problem.
I was proud to vote to create a children’s mental health care structure in 2019, but it was just a first step. We still need to fund the system, as well as ensure a sustainable funding stream for our adult mental health system. Fundamentally, we need a long term funding fix because counties are getting to the point where they cannot fund core services or crisis situations; this is a monumental challenge right here in Polk County as our population increases but ability to raise funds for services remains stagnant. Additionally, we need to build the mental health workforce because there simply aren’t enough providers in Iowa. Some hospitals, including Broadlawns here in Polk County, have started psychiatry residency programs, which I fully support.