D.C. Dispatch: Iowa’s senators introduce bipartisan bills on foster care, meat packing

By: - August 5, 2022 3:23 pm

The U.S. Capitol building. (Photo by Matt H. Wade via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA)

 Iowa’s U.S. senators introduced bipartisan bills this week before the August recess addressing foster care and meat packing. Meanwhile, Iowa’s representatives addressed tenant protections for manufacturing housing, cybersecurity and additional funding for commercial trucker licensing programs. 

Grassley proposed updates to the foster care system

Sen. Chuck Grassley introduced bipartisan legislation to address the shortage of foster placement in America. 

The Data-Driven Foster Parent Recruitment and Retention Act creates new state requirements when recruiting, screening and aiding foster families. All foster parents and kinship parents will have consultations with state officials. States must develop data-driven plans to gauge progress and determine needed support for foster and adoptive families. 

States would collect and report information such as demographics, characteristics and capacities of foster households. This will allow families to provide feedback on the training and licensing programs from the state, as well as reasoning as to why placement is no longer available in a particular foster care setting.

The Department of Health and Human Services must produce a yearly report on the data collected by the state. 

“The child welfare system relies on trained, qualified foster parents stepping up to care for children in need,” Grassley said in a press release. “But too often, the system fails to support these families. Our bipartisan legislation works to ensure foster parents are supported and listened to. Additionally, it requires states to use data to make recruitment efforts more targeted and effective. By making these necessary improvements, we can help more foster youth experience stable, loving placements and eventually have permanency.”

Ernst proposes amendments to meat packing regulations

Sen. Joni Ernst introduced legislation alongside New Mexico Democrat Sen. Ben Ray Luján to reduce regulation and encourage investment in small meat packing operations. Livestock auction markets cannot operate or finance packing plants or meat marketing businesses under current law. The Expanding Local Meat Processing Act would eliminate these regulations, which Ernst said are unnecessary barriers for the livestock industry.

The bipartisan act garnered support from the Iowa and U.S. Cattlemen’s Association, Livestock Marketing Association and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

“Allowing livestock auction owners to invest in local and regional meat packers will expedite the safe processing of meat, increase competition within the industry, and, ultimately, lower meat costs for consumers,” Ernst said in a press release.

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Iowa sees funding for truck-driving programs

Hawkeye Community College will receive $132,400 to expand programs for commercial driver’s licenses, Rep. Ashley Hinson announced Wednesday. 

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Operator Safety Training Grant was included in the 2022 appropriations package. Hinson is a part of the subcommittee to determine funds for the Department of Transportation.

“As our country faces a broken supply chain and a truck driver shortage, it is essential we prioritize licensing and encourage more truck drivers to get on the road,” Hinson said, according to a press release. “This program will help build our trucking workforce to get products on the store shelves faster and reduce costs for families. I will continue fighting to bring federal resources back to Iowa.”

Axne asks for greater protections for manufacturing housing residents

Rep. Cindy Axne joined in on a letter to the Federal Housing Finance Agency requesting heightened tenant protections for people living in manufactured housing.

In the letter, 17 members of Congress requested long-term leases for manufactured housing communities (MHC) to prevent frequent rent increases. It also demanded residents have the option to purchase the property while providing public disclosure of tenant sites covered by leasing protections.

Overseen by Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were chartered by the federal government to establish affordable mortgage funds to create manufacturing housing communities. 

Outside investors across the county are buying manufacturing housing communities using this government-sponsored enterprise financing and “proceeding to significantly increase rents, add fees, or push residents out to replace existing units with new higher-cost homes,” members of Congress wrote in the letter. “We ask that you better support MHC residents and ensure the Enterprises are not simply financing investment firms’ efforts to buy properties and extract maximum profit from those who have less.”

Miller-Meeks talks cybersecurity practices

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks hosted a roundtable with members of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to discuss protection measures against foreign malware.

Directors from the agency recommended backing up data, updating software regularly and using multifactor authentication. Miller-Meeks said she encourages everyone to do their research on the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency’s tips related to data protection.

“Hackers and foreign adversaries, such as China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, frequently look towards the United States for weaknesses that can be exploited and increasingly find them through internet connectivity,” Miller-Meeks said in a press release. “When cyber attacks occur, personal data and confidential information are targets that put Americans and the United States at risk.”

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Kate Kealey
Kate Kealey

Katherine Kealey is a senior majoring in journalism and political science at Iowa State University. Before interning at the Iowa Capital Dispatch, she interned at the Carroll Times Herald. She will serve as the editor-in-chief of the Iowa State Daily in the fall.

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