A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest from Tuesday.
LATINO HERITAGE MONTH
Recognizing that Latinos have been a part of the Iowa since before statehood and the contributions they have made, Gov. Kim Reynolds has proclaimed Latino Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
Latinos enrich Iowa communities with cultural, educational and political influences, according to the proclamation, which adds that the month is an opportunity to learn about and celebrate the culture and traditions of Latinos.
SPECIAL ENFORCEMENT THURSDAY
The Iowa State Patrol says it will lead Iowa’s statewide Traffic Fatality Reduction Task Force on Thursday in an effort to reduce deaths on Iowa roadways. The initiative will be geared toward reducing speeding drivers during a time period that is one of the most deadly in the state according to the past 10 years of crash data.
Since the start of the pandemic, Iowa has seen a significant increase in drivers greatly exceeding the speed limit, putting everyone on the road in danger, the patrol said. Data on speeding violations from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2020, shows a 74 percent increase in drivers exceeding the speed limit by 25 mph or more. A total of 1,497 drivers were cited for speeds that exceeded 100 mph. Violations for these flagrant speeds increased 108 percent compared with the four-year average. Troopers routinely clocked speeds as high as 121 mph to 155 mph on roads throughout Iowa.
Law officers are trying to hold traffic fatalities under 300 lives for the first time since 1925. As of Tuesday, there had been 235 deaths on Iowa’s roadways. That’s 10 more fatalities than one year ago.
Iowans lost an estimated $20 million in annual benefits from its urban tree canopy that was damaged by the derecho in August 2020, according to the results of a recently completed survey conducted by the Iowa Department of Natural Resource.
The findings were included in a report that estimated that the storm damaged or destroyed nearly 4.5 million trees in Iowa communities. In Cedar Rapids, the city estimates more than 100,000 trees were damaged or destroyed.
The survey also looked at the damage to trees on rural lands and estimated that nearly 2.7 million trees were damaged or destroyed.
The derecho affected 27 counties along U.S. Highway 30 corridor primarily in central and east-central Iowa, damaging or destroying an estimated 7 million rural and urban trees along the way.
PRISON RECIDIVISM DOWN
Officials with the Iowa Department of Corrections on Tuesday announced a reduction in the three-year recidivism rate for fiscal 2021 of 38.7 percent — a level that was nine-tenths of 1 percent lower than the recidivism rate observed the previous fiscal year.
Iowa officials define recidivism as an individual’s return to prison within three years following a previous term of incarceration. Beth Skinner, state corrections director, said the agency has undertaken multiple efforts to reduce recidivism rates and the latest data indicates “these efforts are working to achieve our department’s unified goals to improve reentry and community safety.”
Among those strategies, the department has been prioritizing institutional and community-based treatment for high-risk individuals; utilizing evidence-based programs; increasing access to education and educational opportunities; building capacity within apprenticeship programs; and enhancing case management training, she said.
Iowa Workforce Development on Tuesday announced more than 25 workforce roundtables to be held across the state this fall in an effort to partner with business in addressing the state’s workforce shortage.
In conjunction with the roundtables, IWD will lead a support team to conduct workforce needs assessments for interested local employers on-site. Participating employers will then be provided information about relevant state programs along with dedicated points of contact.
Employers interested in hosting a workforce assessment can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The roundtables, beginning later this month and running through November, will take place at IowaWORKS field offices and community colleges throughout the state.
Each roundtable will provide information about available resources that help with hiring and retraining, collaborating with community and education partners, upskilling employees, and removing barriers such as child care concerns that sometimes can block Iowans from entering the workforce. Employers, business members and educators are encouraged to attend. There is no cost to attend.
STATE BROADBAND GRANTS
Gov. Kim Reynolds and the Office of the Chief Information Officer on Tuesday announced 39 recipients of $97.5 million in Empower Rural Iowa Broadband Grant Program funds.
State officials received 178 applications from broadband providers requesting nearing $300 million.
“Expanding broadband across our state continues to be a top priority,” the governor said. “It is clear by the sheer volume and scope of applications that the need is there.”
Due to the overwhelming amount of interest in this program, state officials said they will expedite a new grant opportunity using federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to build upon the $100 million in state funding. Details will be released in the near future.
-- Gazette Des Moines Bureau