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Legislators discuss key issues in virtual Council Bluffs Chamber event

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 19:17:30-05

With the Iowa Legislature in session, there are a lot of key issues that need to be addressed like access to broadband, childcare and school choice. The Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a virtual legislative event with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Ia. (KMTV) - Lawmakers are open about a "new normal" in the State Capitol. So far, Democratic State Rep. Charlie McConkey is disappointed at the way the legislature has unfolded.

"I'm really disappointed how this session is starting out, we're spending our time on abortion, guns, there's death penalty legislation out there that's drawing all the attention, I don't think it's going to go anywhere," McConkey said.

Still, legislators from both sides are answering tough questions about a bill that expands school choice in Iowa that just passed the Senate. Sen. Tom Shipley wants to clear up any misconceptions about the bill.

"There's not one child in Pottawattamie County that would qualify for a voucher, the only kids that are able to receive that and make use of that are in buildings where that building has been determined to be deficient by federal standards in their educational progress," Shipley said.

McConkey still does not fully support the legislation.

"Everybody I talk to that sends their kids to private school, they want the parochial education and I understand that, it's a good education but people I know, they understand they did it and they don't expect the taxpayers to pay for it," McConkey said.

Improving broadband access in rural areas is also a key issue.

"We need to see exactly what federal money we can use for the broadband expansion because we might as well use that money if it's available from the federal stimulus's package that have come out," Rep. Brent Siegrist said.

Another issue that came up is the lack of childcare options in Iowa. Representatives say there are bills that offer childcare assistance to families that make as much as $75,000 a year, tax credits for employees to set up childcare and rates that could be increased for childcare providers.

Still, as Iowans look to the future, legislators understand what's at stake as the world waits for an end to the pandemic.