A roundup of legislative and Capitol news items of interest for Tuesday, April 23, 2019:
ASK THE STATE OF IOWA: Iowa is expanding its communication channels and services to include Google Home, Amazon Echo and a chatbot. The technology will enable Iowans to ask their smartphone or Google/Amazon digital assistant questions about state government events and services.
“Iowans are seeking state government services that are compatible with the 21st century, technologically-driven economy,” Reynolds said during her weekly news conference Tuesday. “Today’s announcement furthers our efforts to be more innovative to better serve their needs. That’s why we’ll continue exploring additional ways that Iowans can access vital information at their fingertips.”
Iowa is the first Midwest state and sixth in the nation to integrate this user-friendly technology. Ask the State of Iowa helps Iowans with smartphones and voice devices find answers to their most common questions of the various state agencies.
The Google and Amazon Skills were developed for the state of Iowa by Webspec Design and the state is using the LogMeIn Bold360 chatbot product on Iowa.gov and many agency websites.
For instructions and information on how to download Alexa and Google, reference the following links: Downloading Google Assistant or Google Home from Playstore and Downloading Alexa from the Playstore.
LAND SALES: A proposal to prohibit private organizations from using a state operated, low-interest loan program when purchasing land passed the Senate a second time and heads to the governor's desk.
Supporters of the proposal say individuals or groups who use loans financed by the state revolving fund have an unfair advantage over farmers in land auctions and that the legislation would level the playing field.
Opponents express concern the proposal would hamper the efforts of environmental groups to buy land for conservation purposes.
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The Senate previously passed SF 548, but had to vote on it again after it was amended during debate in the House. The amendment cleared a path for organizations to use the state revolving loan fund for narrow purchases of land for water quality projects.
Since it was approved Tuesday by the Senate on a 33-17 vote, it officially head's next to the governor's desk.
HISTORICAL BUILDING: Gov. Kim Reynolds is backing legislative plans to look at relocating the State Historical Building to the Iowa State Fairgrounds.
State officials have been looking at what to do with the building that needs and estimated $50 million in repairs.
There are significant needs in the 32-year-old building “that need to be addressed so that we can make sure we can protect the artifacts that are there,” Reynolds said. While a 10-member panel of lawmakers, representatives of the Department of Cultural Affairs and the fair board consider the possibility of the move, “we want to make sure we are maintaining the building” and protecting the historical materials stored there. Legislators have approved a $500,000 budget for the search.
A 2016 report to the Legislature by architects and construction firms said the Historical Building shortcoming included a “failing building envelope with no vapor barrier, exposed pipes above exhibits and collection storage, unsealed concrete ceilings, water leaks, a faulty internal drainage system, failing exterior granite and an outdated heating and cooling system that needs to be replaced in its entirety.”
“The department’s ability to serve as a cultural institution is in jeopardy due to building flaws, maintenance and oversized structure,” according to the report.
State officials “have been working on trying to do something with that for the last seven years,” Reynolds said. “This is really something that has been discussed for quite some time.”