Iowa senators focus on ‘drug paraphernalia,’ safe injection sites
The US Senate passed a bill this week to keep government open while longer-term spending negotiations continue. Iowa senators and representatives, meanwhile, focused on policies related to illegal drug use, inflation and foreign policy in Taiwan and Ukraine.
The government does not shut down (for at least three more weeks)
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to fund the government for three more weeks as negotiators reach agreement on a program for the full year.
Senator Chuck Grassley and Senator Joni Ernst, both Republicans, voted against the bill.
Passage of the bill has been delayed by a debate over federal “harm reduction kits” — supplies provided to drug addicts to prevent the spread of disease. Some Republican senators claimed the kits would include glass crack pipes. Department of Health and Human Services officials said federal funds would not be used to purchase or distribute pipes.
Just in case, Grassley and Ernst co-sponsored a bill to prevent the use of federal funds for “drug paraphernalia.” They also signed a letter condemning a possible opening of safe injection sites, arguing that the centers lead to “an increase in crime, discarded needles and social unrest”.
Advocates for the centers say they would prevent overdose deaths.
In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses.
Inflation: Axne convenes task force, Ernst focuses on diapers
Rep. Cindy Axne and a group of Democrats have convened an inflation task force tasked with finding solutions to U.S. inflation.
“I am proud to help launch this critical group of lawmakers who will focus on fighting inflation, strengthening American industries, lowering prices for our workers and their families, and building a stronger economy. and more resilient in the years and decades to come,” Axne said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Ernst signed a bipartisan bill to address rising diaper prices. The proposal would allow Americans to use flexible spending accounts or health savings accounts on disposable diapers.
“Having access to a clean diaper is a basic and absolutely essential necessity for every Iowa parent with a newborn or toddler, but with skyrocketing costs under record inflation, far too many families today face difficult choices,” said Ernst.
Republicans in Iowa have continued to criticize President Joe Biden’s policy priorities, which they say have contributed to rising inflation.
Pres Biden is ‘dishonest’ in blaming inflation on supply chains while ignoring role played by his $2 trillion partisan spending spree early in his term ‘Dishonest’ is not my word but it’s by Steven Rattner who served as Treasury Advisor to Pres Obama’s Department
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 17, 2022
Senators sign Russian deterrence proposal
Grassley and Ernst co-sponsored the NYET (Never Yielding Europe’s Territory) Act, which would provide resources to Ukraine and threaten additional sanctions against Russia.
“We must send a clear message to (Russian President Vladimir) Putin that a violent and totally unprovoked invasion will come at enormous costs for Russia,” Grassley said in a statement.
No Democrats are co-sponsoring the legislation, making its passage unlikely in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Leaders of both parties issued a statement on Tuesday reaffirming their support for Ukraine, even as a bipartisan bill on the issue has yet to come to fruition.
“Our troops stand ready to bolster the defenses of our Eastern European allies, and we stand ready to respond decisively to Russian efforts to undermine U.S. security at home and abroad,” reads the bipartisan statement.
Axne seeks rental assistance in Polk County
Axne hosted an event Thursday in Des Moines, calling on the Treasury Department to approve a $35 million transfer to fund a rental assistance program.
The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) distributed money to state and local governments to help renters during the COVID-19 pandemic. In Iowa, local governments were quick to distribute the funds, while the state was slower to distribute its largest allocation.
In January, the Treasury Department authorized the Iowa Finance Authority to transfer $30 million from the state allocation to Polk County. But an additional $35 million transfer from the Iowa Finance Authority to Polk County has yet to be approved.
“For more than a week now, residents of Polk County have been unable to apply for housing assistance funds, leaving my constituents in need and waiting for the Treasury to approve a transfer that both parties wish to perform,” Axne wrote in a letter to the Treasury Department.
House Republicans affirm support for Taiwan
Representatives Ashley Hinson, Randy Feenstra and Mariannette Miller-Meeks sent a letter to the Taiwanese ambassador, condemning China’s threats and reaffirming their support for Taiwan.
“To be clear: Posturing by bad actors, like Russia and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), will not discourage our unwavering support for Taiwan and democracy around the world,” the letter said.
Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a grant-supported network of news outlets and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Managing Editor Kathie Obradovich with any questions: [email protected] Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.
Download our apps today for all our latest coverage.
Get the latest news and weather straight to your inbox.