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In-person learning, a racial profile ban, and more top Governor’s 2021 priorities

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DES MOINES, Iowa (KWWL) -- In a rare primetime address, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds shared her Condition of the State address Tuesday night.

The governor touched on a number of topics that were all prevalent at some point in 2020.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting all aspects of Iowans' lives, many were looking for more detailed vaccination plans from Reynolds, but what she shared were more so expectations.

"By the end of the week, everyone at the Iowa Veterans Home, our largest nursing facility in the state, will be vaccinated. And by January 25, all 90,000 nursing-home residents and staff will have received the vaccine," Reynolds said.

IDPH announced early Tuesday that they would begin Phase 1b vaccinations by February 1st.

Reynolds claimed that Iowa was one of the leading states in the nation when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine administration which is a bit overstated. According to the CDC data tracker, most of the country falls in the same category of a vaccination rate of more than 2,001 people per 100K. Several states lead Iowa in vaccination rates, leaving the Hawkeye state within the top 15.

KWWL reported Monday that the Governor was asking Iowans to weigh in on what they wanted to hear from her address. Upon further review, the polling seems to be part of early campaign efforts for Reynolds who is up for reelection next year.

IN-PERSON LEARNING

A sticking point for Reynolds throughout the pandemic has been prioritizing in-person learning for Iowa schools sometimes bringing tension between the state's top executive and larger school districts.

"We can’t wait any longer. Our kids can’t wait any longer," said Reynolds after asking the legislature to pass a bill that would give parents a choice for 100% in-person learning.

Reynolds call for legislation recieved resounding applause from those in chambers, which were reportedly mostly Republicans who seem to support the plan.

Democrats and lobbying groups have opposed more control from the legislature on this topic, fearing it could prevent school districts from making the best decisions for their individual situations.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORMS

After praising the men and women of law enforcement, Reynolds shared the criminal justice reforms she had been teasing over the last week.

We should never be afraid to talk about ways to improve policing, but there will be no talk of defunding the police here. Our men and women in blue will always have my respect, and I will always have their back.  

Gov. Kim Reynolds, Condition of the State 2021

Those reforms seem to focus on two things, a ban on racial profiling and harsher penalties for those who assault police officers. Reynolds specifically mentioned the Capitol Hill riots from January 6th.

"Violence and anarchy is not acceptable. Period." Reynolds said.

She went on to announce the push for a ban on racial profiling, which has come up in past legislative sessions. Last June, when the country was feeling the civil unrest prompted by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Iowa lawmakers passed the More Perfect Union Act which reportedly included a racial profiling ban at one point. Lawmakers failed to come to a compromise on that point.

MENTAL HEALTH & BROADBAND EXPANSION

Two of the other major highlights in Reynolds' speech were funding mental health and expanding Iowa's broadband. Both were priorities in past Condition of State addresses.

Reynolds announced she'd spend $30 million to expand mental health programs over the next two years. The funding will be divided in half with $15 million for each year.

A broadband expansion will take twice as long and cost more than 10 times the amount allocated for mental health.

"About a third of our counties are still broadband deserts, where high-speed internet is rarely offered. And for many Iowans, it’s just not affordable. Iowa also has the second lowest broadband speeds in the country," Reynolds said.

By 2025, Reynolds wants "affordable, high-speed" broadband internet in every part of Iowa. The project would cost $450 million, but Reynolds anticipates it'll bring in millions from private investment.

State Representative Ras Smith, Waterloo, shared a video in response to Reynolds prepared remarks. He criticized her on a number of topics including education.

"Any attempt at education savings accounts or vouchers only erodes the foundation that Iowa has built in its reputation for a strong public school system," Smith said.

Reynolds pushed for creating more educational savings accounts and giving parents a choice on schools. Smith fears it could isolate rural schools while also giving private schools a leg up.

You can read Reynolds' full speech here.

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Taylor Vessel

Multimedia Reporter

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