By Sarah Watson
With less than a month left of Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds’ first legislative session in the state’s highest office, she touted key legislative accomplishments as Iowans called for action on a variety of issues.
Reynolds spoke at the Coralville Hy-Vee as part of her 99-county tour following her delivery of the Condition of the State address in January. She praised the state’s expansion of education opportunities and mental-health reform before fielding passionate questions about school safety and gun control.
Iowa ready for workforce development
Reynolds signed a workforce-development bill Tuesday aimed at expanding formal job-training opportunities after high school.
House File 2458, dubbed the Future Ready Iowa Act, aims to ensure 70 percent of Iowans receive formal training past high school by 2025. It is one of two major bills that has received widespread bipartisan support, passing unanimously through both chambers of the state Legislature.
“We’re making sure that they’re prepared for the jobs of tomorrow and that they are competitive in a global knowledge economy,” Reynolds said. “So while we talk about [education] continuing to be a priority, we do have to be careful that we’re not measuring the quality of education by sheer number of dollars that we are putting into it, because if we are not focused on preparing our young people for the future, then we are failing.”
The plan calls for a registered apprenticeship-development program, volunteer-mentoring program, summer youth-intern program, summer postsecondary courses for high-schoolers, employer-innovation fund, and skilled-workforce grants and scholarships.
Impassioned discussion on gun reform
Phoebe Chapnick-Sorokin, a City High student and member of Students Against School Shootings, asked Reynolds about keeping students safe in schools.
“We talked about getting more funding for K-12 schools, but there is something else that is in our learning environment, and that is the fear of getting shot,” Chapnick-Sorokin said to an outburst of clapping and cheering from those in attendance.
Reynolds’ response: The issue requires a holistic solution.
She put forth ideas such as requiring more schools to implement and practice school-security plans in the event of an active shooter. A bill requiring security plans surfaced in the Legislature, but it failed to pass a previous funnel deadline.
The solutions Reynolds pointed to included an expanded children’s mental-health system and more interpersonal outreach by the entire community. The Legislature unanimously passed a sweeping mental-health-care reform that established crisis centers and lifted a cap on the number of beds in a facility, but Reynolds said a system for children was her next priority.
“There are laws on the books already that made people think they were safe, but they weren’t followed through on every single level,” she said. “We need to make sure we have background checks that are accurate and when they are accurate, we need to make sure they are communicated.”
Center for Worker Justice advocates for immigrants
Iowa City City Councilor Mazahir Salih, the first Sudanese immigrant to hold public office in the United States and a Center for Worker Justice cofounder, attended Reynolds’ visit with a group of people holding signs supporting immigrants and opposing a bill ready to be signed by the governor that would crack down on “sanctuary cities,” preventing communities from circumventing federal immigration laws.
Salih said she approached Reynolds to ask a question about the bill while holding a small sign supporting immigrants but was stopped by a man in the crowd unaffiliated with the Reynolds campaign.
The man declined to give The Daily Iowan his name.
“He grabbed me by the arm … and said, ‘No you cannot do that,’ ” Salih said. “I told him you are a citizen of this country, I am a citizen of this country, and we both have the right to ask our governor a question.”